Ooh we love a good cave. So, on the hottest day of the year so far and the first bank holiday, we decided it would be a fantastic idea to head out to the Peak District and source some caves we had seen on the old IG. The ones in question are situated in Dovedale, along the river Dove. Dovedale is famous for the stepping stones and shallow waters of the river, offering a marvellous view of the valleys around it as you paddle up and down the banks.
As we sat in the car in the sweltering heat waiting for a car park space to open up, I started to regret our decision to go out on one of the busiest days of the year. Thankfully, before my panic levels reached immeasurable proportions, we were granted a space on the field opposite the walk down to the river. The kids clocked the ice cream van and made me solemnly swear that lollies would be provided after our trek.
We took the path that many others were taking with their picnic baskets and sun chairs and ambled down onto the river. We bypassed the hut that sells yet more ice cream and maps of the area and walked on the left hand side to eventually come out to the stepping stones. From there the valleys open up and there are a few routes to take depending on where you want to go.
We followed the river along and kept our eyes peeled open for the caves that are supposed be hidden along side it in the overgrowth. The kids had brought their binoculars and were keeping a good lookout for whatever may interest them. God knows what Molly would have seen as she was actually using them backwards, but she insisted they were fine.
We took a right turn and started walking uphill along a thin path surrounded by brushes. We doubted we were going in the right direction but carried on further up to the tune of three children chanting for food. Eventually the path widened out so we found an area to whip out the picnic blanket and have a pit stop. On the menu were chicken wraps with popcorn and party rings. Very nutritious! After refuelling we decided to head back down to by the river and carry on along to find the caves, hopefully!
Ten minutes later we hit gold. On the right hand side of the river a little walkway revealed a huge bridge-like structure with advanced climbers hanging off the archway. We walked up and investigated a little further, while Finley had a melt down due to not being able to keep his balance properly. When the episode had been dealt with, we started climbing. The cave was quite hard to see but with a bit of effort and a hands and knees approach, we could see the mouth of the cave beckoning for us to explore. The climb up was very steep and I supported Molly while the boys ran on ahead. I needn’t have bothered as she drawled in her black country accent ‘oi’m foyine’! She would not let me touch a hair on her head as she navigated her way through boulders and spiky weeds and claimed her victory stance at the peak. This girl amazes me every day with her strength and determination.
The way down.
We descended after taking a break to cool down in the cavernous surroundings, which was definitely needed in the scorching heat of the bank holiday. We made our way back down, mostly on our bums as the decline was very steep. We took a right at the bottom and tried to hunt out other caves to explore and to take in more of the beautiful area we were in. A few more caves showed themselves to us, a little one with a tiny stream running into it, which Oliver underestimated the depth of!
We walked on a little bit more but as our water started to run out, we headed back in the direction we’d come from. Slowly the crowds started to appear again and a lovely couple stopped us and asked for us to take a picture. They returned the favour which was well received as a selfie can only get so much in a photo. Nobody needs to see nostrils up close all the time!
We crossed the river just past the stepping stones, and by gosh it was freezing! Our shoes were kept on due to the rocks underneath but we had a little paddle and felt a little more refreshed for it. This energized the kids and gave them a new burst of energy to make the walk back up and over the fields towards the car. And would they let me forget my promise? Oh no. Ice lollies were our reward of the day and they were eagerly devoured within seconds.
Dovedale is a beautiful piece of the peak district and I urge anybody to go and visit, even if it’s just to sit by the river and take in the surroundings.
The important bits: Car Park – £2, fairly pushchair friendly but may need a helping hand across the stones. Good for all ages I would say. A day out you can make as long or as short as you want. Postcode – DE6 2AY