The circuit of the Chew valley is the classic outing of this north-west corner of the Peak. The valley carved out of the grit by the Chew and Greenfield Brooks is spectacular, with precipitous sides capped with looming gritstone crags and now filled with three reservoirs - Dovestone, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield.
The route described is a good introduction to the delights of the Chew valley, with good views and a mixture of ground. It starts from the car park just below Dovestone reservoir - this is along a small side-road off the A635 just above Greenfield. From the car park walk around the south side of the reservoir, past the sailing club and then turn right to head off up the valley formed by Chew Brook.
View from Whimberry Rocks
The path follows a Water Board road which services Chew reservoir on the moor above, so it is easy but uninteresting walking. However, if you dislike walking on roads then there are alternatives - one is to turn uphill just before you cross Chew Brook and head up through Chew Piece Plantation until you meet a path which contours around the hillside near the top of the plantation. This meets the road well up the hill and makes a for more interesting route. Better still is to keep going uphill at the top of the plantation and follow Rams Clough on a steep climbers' path to reach Wimberry Rocks, which are perched high above you on the skyline. Then follow the edge round to the east to eventually arrive at the reservoir. This is much longer, but gives fine views and a more interesting approach.
A frozen Chew Reservoir
Whichever way you reach Chew Reservoir, walk along the dam northwards to the kink in the middle and then take a footpath which heads initially off north-west - ignoring the old Water Board track nearby just to the south of it. The path heads almost west for 300 metres and then curves round to face almost north, generally following the edge of a slight rise marked occasionally by groups of gritstone boulders. There is the odd cairn too, but this path is not easy to follow in bad weather or when there is snow on the ground.
After heading almost 500 metres northwards you reach the top of a small stream system (Charnel Clough) and a small cairn. The path turns north-east and heads up the rise in this direction for about 500 metres before reaching the top of another stream system which heads almost due north. It then follows this down to eventually emerge on the edge of the moor at Ashway Gap. However, a better alternative might be to diverge from the path at the top of Charnel Clough and follow the stream to the edge. Then continue northwards around the edge to Ashway Gap, a distance of about 2 kilometres. This is easier in poor visibility and gives better views when the visibility is good.
Ashway memorial cross
Ashway Gap is an impressive situation, perched high above the reservoirs with Ashway Brook tumbling down the cleft below. From here follow the edge north, passing the isolated lump of Ashway Stone and a heavily patched memorial cross, which commemorates James Platt, the MP for Oldham, who 'was killed here by an accidental discharge of his own gun' in 1857.
From the cross descend to an obvious shoulder in a north-north-west direction - this is Ashway Rocks. From here a good path backtracks south-west to descend towards Dovestone reservoir. Don't descend too far - when you are approximately half-way down the slope, contour south around the hillside to reach a small footbridge over a conduit which feeds water into the reservoir below.
From here a small but well-trodden footpath contours around the hillside in a south-westerly direction, reaching some fine positions beneath the cliffs which line the edge above. After crossing an area of landslip rubble you pass below Dove Stone Rocks, an area of intimidating rock-climbs, and then start a gradual descent on a quarry track to the fields below. Cross the field to the cinder track around the reservoir and follow it back to your starting point.