After having an excellent night's sleep and an invigorating shower, I was out of the house by 7.30am. It was freezing outside and it took a long time to defrost the car. It was a beautiful morning and the sun shone all day – lucky me! Last night I planned today with visits to Dovedale, Monsal Dale, Lathkill Dale at Over Haddon, Cromford Mills and Carsington Water and if I had time Snake Pass in the northern Peak District for Red Grouse (as recommended by Andy W.). However, I only managed to visit three of these places!
Dovedale & The Stepping Stones
I arrived at the Dovedale car park to find that it didn't open until 9am! Luckily the ticket man turned up just after 8.30am and let me in. £3.00 to park and the public toilets cost 20p (turnstile). I specifically wanted to visit here, as it was recommended to me for Dippers and I also wanted to see the 'Stepping Stones'. I was so glad I was the first person here, as it was chaos later with loads of people and out of control dogs. I saw so many birds here! As soon as I started the walk, I had masses of Redwings in the trees along with good numbers of Blackbirds, two Great-spotted Woodpeckers were in a tree close by, also two Green Woodpeckers, Robins, a Grey Wagtail and a Buzzard was calling overhead. The walk along the river to the stepping stones was beautiful, but I didn't seen any Dippers. The stepping stones were magical and quite easy to walk across – a very scenic spot. You then continue on through a 'squeeze' stile – any fatter and I wouldn't have got through! The river was now on my left – saw a Heron on route. I climbed up some stone steps, known as 'Lovers Leap' and then at a viewing point, had brilliant views of a Nuthatch, Treecreeper and a Goldcrest all at the same time! I didn't continue the walk, as I had a more reliable Dipper site to go to and I knew the day wouldn't last long. I re-traced my steps to the car park and was passed by loads of people and dogs. By the bridge just before the car park I had at least 100+ Siskins feeding in the Alder trees! Also had a Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren and Robins here.
Monsal Dale and Viaduct
I lost at least a valuable hour of light or possibly more, trying to find the Lees Bottom Car park (SK17 9UH) with my Sat nav, which basically doesn't exist, its actually called "White Lodge Car Park" which is just off the A6. I was very pleased to find that the parking machine (would have cost me £3.50) had been vandalised! From here you cross the road, go through a 'squeeze' stile and descend some tiny stone steps, follow the path down and climb over another stile and walk through the woodland with a cascading river on your right. Where the path splits, I kept to the right path which follows the River Wye. The path goes through Monsal Dale. I was so excited when I found my first Dipper of the day – bobbing up and down on a bright green covered stone amongst the cascades of rippling water! In all I found EIGHT Dippers!!! I was so pleased! They are so exciting to watch! As you can imagine, I took alot of photographs! I also had wonderful views of several pairs of Goosanders on the river and there were also Mallard, Teal and Little Grebes. I arrived at Monsal Dale Weir – a spectacular place! A dramatic triple cascade, tumbles down to the river below – I spent a good while here, taking pictures and videos. Eventually I reached a flat area of grassland with cows grazing and the backdrop is the Monsal Head Viaduct. I could have easily carried on, but the clock was ticking and I wanted to visit Lathkill Dale. I re-traced my steps. On route, some youngsters were being very silly and two of them had removed their shoes and socks and had walked across the top of the weir to be photographed! It looked so dangerous, one slip and they would have fallen over the edge and crashed at the bottom. I saw more Dippers on the way back – a beautiful walk. One thing that disappointed me today, was seeing little black dog poo bags strung up in bushes and trees – I thought that only happened in Norfolk!
Lathkill Dale, Over Haddon
Back at the White Lodge Car Park, it was now 3.15pm. My Sat nav informed me that it was way too late to go to Snake Pass, which is in the north Peak District and is a good place to see Red Grouse. It was too late in the day to go anywhere really, but still went to Lathkill Dale at Over Haddon. Because of the time and failing light, I didn't park in the designated car park, but headed down the steep single track tarmac road and got as close to the river as I could. I walked down to the river, which looked beautiful, but the light was awful now – it would have looked considerably better in the morning sunshine. Bumped into a local man, who advised me that I wouldn't see much now at this time of the day. I returned to my car and put the Premier Inn postcode into the Sat nav. I stopped on route to take a picture of the sunset with dry stone walls and sheep in the foreground. I arrived back at about 5.30pm.
I went to the Mundy Arms for my evening meal and was again extremely disappointed. I had a 'Gourmet Veggie Burger', served with 'skin on fries' (chips) and coleslaw and a garlic and cheddar ciabatta. When the meal was brought out, the coleslaw was minuscule and looked a very odd colour – when I tasted it, I was shocked to find it was warm, if not almost hot! The burger seemed to be the same as the 'nut roast' last night!!! Dry and not very nice chips and ditto with the ciabatta. Sent the meal back and the warm coleslaw was replaced with some cold coleslaw, but it tasted off to me, so I left it. In fact I left half my meal, which is rare for me. I decided not to bother with dessert, it wasn't worth the risk. When I went to the bar to pay, a very nice lady let me off my bill as an apology for both last night and tonight and admitted they had staffing problems. It was nice of her to do that, but they really need to get the food sorted out! Its a huge shame, as the pub is really pretty and well laid out, staff are nice, but the food is crap! It won't help returning customers to the Premier Inn (the two are linked).
After I left the pub, I popped into the Premier Inn reception to let them know about the awful food at the Mundy Arms and also to cancel my breakfast in the morning. I didn't want to have a rubbish breakfast too (I notice on Trip Advisor, that someone had a bad breakfast experience there a few days ago!). The receptionist very kindly gave me a small bottle of wine and a box of chocolates as an apology, which was very nice of her! Update: I noticed on Trip Advisor, that someone else has written a review for the same Saturday evening titled "Faulty Towers on a bad day".
I don't have time to go through any pictures as have to go to sleep now. Very early start in the morning. I leave here to attend a course in Derby and then drive home to King's Lynn at 4.30pm. HUGE thanks to all the wonderful Derbyshire birders (and from elsewhere), who have so kindly taken the time to email and advise me where to search for Dippers, much appreciated.
PICTURES AND VIDEOS TO BE ADDED THURSDAY EVENING