Heritage

Dimmingsdale Valley, Staffordshire

Forming part of the Churnet Valley, Dimmingsdale is the reimagined vision of an aristocrat’s dream. Looked after by Forestry England and the Ramblers Retreat, it is a site of ecological and historical importance, as well as a haven for walkers and nature-lovers to enjoy throughout the year. 

One of Staffordshire’s best-kept secrets, Dimmingsdale Valley SSSI is located between Alton and Oakamoor, close to the Derbyshire border. One of the county’s most enchanting destinations for walks through forested swathes, it’s hard to imagine that the valley, which was part of the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Alton Towers Estate, once thrummed with industrial clatter. With workers harvesting and harnessing the area’s natural resources, the whole area was shaped by industry.

Playing a huge role in the smelting industries of the 15th and 16th Centuries, Dimmingsdale Valley was heavily used and exploited. Local metal ores were transported over from the Peak District for smelting, trees were felled for fuel and mills were powered by nearby streams. Although booming for many years, by the 19th Century the valley’s industries were in decline and Dimmingsdale became a picture of industrial decay, with disused mills, dammed pools and abandoned tracks. 

Although the natural beauty of the area had been ignored by his ancestors, the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury fell in love with the valley’s aesthetics as nature slowly reclaimed its spaces. Enchanted with the area’s rolling hills, sandstone outcrops, lakes, rivers and woodland, he made the Alton Towers Estate his permanent home and began transforming Dimmingsdale into his own personal Garden of Eden. The result? A magnificent sanctuary protecting both the area’s wildlife and history.

Preserving the work of the Earl and creating a space for everyone to enjoy, Forestry England has today established a series of trails throughout the valley. Restoring the Earl’s drive, bridges and ponds and undertaking various conservation projects, the valley has become a much-loved conservation and leisure area. Follow the valley’s set trails and stroll where carts once transported rock from the Peak District and fine carriages toured gentry around on pleasure trips.

With short and long walks for all abilities, you will definitely find yourself coming back for more. A great starting point, the Earl’s Drive, a short of walk that connects to the majority of the area’s other routes, is a gravelled trail that affords amazing views across the heart of the valley. The 4-mile Furnace Forest walk is also a real gem, as is the 2-mile Castle View walk. There are also long-distance routes which cut through the valley, including the Churnet Valley Trail and the Staffordshire Way.

There is a café at the Ramblers Retreat in the valley and dogs are welcome to enjoy the many walks. There's even a dog-friendly dining area where dog-friendly ice cream is served.

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