Three Shires Head

Spurred on by the previous week’s ascent of Chrome Hill I had set about planning another day of plodding about with the boys in the same corner of the Peak District. I’d done this particular route on my own last year and was keen to return to the Panniers Pool at Three Shires Head just South West of Buxton. It’s a real beauty spot secreted at the junction of two valley streams complete with waterfalls and deep plunge pools. As last years visit was on a searingly hot day it had been a pleasure to jump straight in to the neck deep pool to cool off and do a few short lengths, today however was not looking so tropical. Toby (6) and Rufus (2) had spent the previous day coming back from London in an M1 tailback for six hours so I was preparing for a resistance to do anything that involved effort and sitting in a car. To butter them up I made pancakes for breakfast, packed a small bag and we were off.

Under grey skies we drove from Nottingham to Buxton and left the car parked down by Derbyshire Bridge. The next time I come here I’d be keen to explore Goyt’s Moss, which sits across the valley from Shining Tor and seems on map to be fairly void of roads, tracks and civilisation in general. We ventured out from Derbyshire Bridge upwards along the stony track which gave good views across the rolling moors to the North. Toby had launched into his standard snack interrogations which consisted of non-stop questions of ‘when are we eating?’, ‘when is it 5 minutes?’, ‘is it 5 minutes yet?’.

The first hour of walking is always a challenge with young kids, it seems to be when most of the moaning and complaining occurs, if it continued I’m not sure I’d bother. As usual after that initial hour, something changed, they picked up their pace and brightened their moods and really started to enjoy themselves.

We crossed the A57 to meet the appropriately named Axe Edge Moor (it looks like an Axe Edge) where we continued our steady climb, leaving the hum of the traffic further behind us.

We had the moors to ourselves and settled down for the first of many picnics, fruit and sandwiches were pushed aside to make way for cakes and Wispas (my choice). Once refreshed they bounced across the moors like a couple of hobbits.

Another small road crossed and we continued South past Cheeks Hill and towards Orchard Common. A steady flow of fruit pastilles helped sustain the pace. At this stage, the route joined a hard track that sat alongside the valley stream that runs down to Three Shires Head, it was easy walking and all downhill in the good sense.

A mishmash of footpaths and bridleways intersect each other at Blackclough and the map starts to look very busy, to get to Panniers Pool it’s a case of following the water downhill and letting the stream lead the way.

We heard the gush of the waterfalls before we saw them and the noise made for a worthy build up. We soon found ourselves seated amongst small stone bridges and deep bubbling pools of ice cold water. It’s a beautiful spot to be in, I’ll have to come back and spend the night sometime as I can’t imagine many places more perfect to wake up in. It felt far too cold for a swim today and the clouds ahead were looking more and more ominous.

We could have stayed down by the pools all day but we didn’t have the luxury of time and I was overtly aware of the journey back to the car being a punishing uphill slog that would take the best part of three hours. Rufus, his legs having given up, was given a piggy back from this point as his legs had given up, meanwhile Toby the trooper made his own way.

The return journey followed the other stream that fed the pool, the ground was on the squelchy side and in parts very boggy causing some wet feet. A minor crisis occurred when Toby lost his footing and landed arse first in bog of reed grass and jet black slimy mud, the valley became filled with inconsolable wails and shrieks of distress. Thinking on my feet, I made the offer of a new magazine when we got back to Buxton and he soon perked up, if that hadn’t worked I think we might still be sat there.

A steep climb brought us to the A54, a left turn that should have been a right turn left us wandering over some access land over Danethorn Hollow instead of a clearer path over Dane Bower (the hill not the singer). Fortunately this was something of a happy accident, the soft grassy hillside was a welcome break from rigid paths and we also saw our first frog of the day amongst some reeds, “Rog Rog Rog” was all Rufus said for the next few hours.

Signs of weariness were making themselves known so we took 10 minutes to flop on the grass and take in the view. Shining Tor was living up to its name in spite of the dull skies and we watched some parachutists lilt down to earth in the distance.

The last stretch involved an obligatory visit to the warmth of the Cat and Fiddle for some well earned drinks, mini cheddars and a proper sit down.  Our legs just about carried us down the quiet lane to Derbyshire bridge, by this time all three of us were absolutely done in. Rufus had started to drop off whilst I carried him on my shoulders, whilst Toby and I had started to make some serious plans to get fish and chips. Just for the record we went to the Union Jack chippy in Chesterfield which got the thumbs up from everyone.

We had been walking for just over 7 hours across some challenging terrain, probably a bit too much time and distance considering the ages, but it had given us some amazing views and a sense of satisfaction that you get when you do something you didn’t think you could. Toby said his favourite bit was “sitting in the pub”.


7 thoughts on “Three Shires Head

  1. Really enjoyed reading this. We walked part of the same route today and also finished up with fish and chips! What cute little boys and well done them for walking so far.

    1. Hey thanks Helen, it’s been a few years since I wrote that but we’ve been back for a few freezing dips since then. It’s a magic place isn’t it. Rufus is 6 next week and I think he was only two on that trip. Glad you enjoyed it

  2. Could you tell me the quickest, easiest way to get to the pools please? Where is the closest place to park? We have young children and some family with knee troubles so need to get there as easily as possible. Thanks

    1. Hi Kelly, there’s several footpaths that run south of the A54 that take you straight to the pools. I think the paths are pretty decent as well. My kids did them when they were 2 and 6. Try the path that leaves the road at grid ref 009 699 on the map. Send me an email if you can’t find that

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