Is Parkhouse Hill Britain’s best little hill? There is some stiff competition for this title; Loughrigg Fell with its beautiful misty morning views across Windermere has long been a favourite of mine, whilst north of the border Stac Pollaidh, or Stac Polly as it is affectionately known, lays a pretty strong claim to this title. With some things in life little is often better and hills are no different, especially when you don’t have the time or the daylight for an epic 8 hour adventure. There are loads of great little hills across these isles that we can nip up to blow off some cobwebs on the way home from work, clear our minds when we need some respite from life’s troubles, or simply to get a much needed mountain fix.
I discovered Parkhouse Hill last year and it’s slowly becoming my new favourite little hill. I say discovered – it’s been there for about 350 millions years – but I mean that it is new to me. The White Peak area of the Peak District is not been somewhere I had ventured too often on my hill walking outings until last year but I’ve been back several times since, and mainly because of Parkhouse Hill, and its equally appealing neighbour Chrome Hill.
Both hills are limestone reef knolls, formed as atolls when they were on the bed or a tropical sea all those years ago, and because of their geological features they have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. My interest is not so much geological – there is only so much geology chat that I can fit into one life time (apologies to any reading geologists, you do a grand job but let’s keep it light) – but it is in form and whether or not I can climb up it.
For such a little hill Parkhouse Hill just looks so epic. It is the Matterhorn’s mini-me; similar in shape with its steep sided peak reaching up higher than it should, but covered in green grass and seemingly dropped into the rolling dales of the Derbyshire countryside. The drops on the north side are severe enough. It’s not quite the north face of the Eiger but you certainly don’t want to wander too close to that edge.
You are up it no time, it’s a brisk 10-15 minutes from the base to the top but it is not without difficulties. It is very steep. If you approach from the west then the first obvious route you will see involves a short scramble up a well worn gully, although if you continue around that western edge and onto its north-side you will find a worn grass path that will take you on a more dignified route to the top. The easiest route of all is from the east side which involves a gentler walk up the ridge on that side to the rocky outcrop on its peak.
There are a couple of different starting points for walking in this area. Glutton Bridge is closest to Parkhouse Hill and there are some parking spots on verges on the main road, but a better bet is to head to Hollinsclough where there is a parking bay near the red telephone box outside Home Farm. There are lots of different routes that you can link up make the walk as long as you want, and take in some of the other hills such as Hitter Hill, High Edge, and High Wheeldon which can be accessed easily from the village of Longnor.
My preferred route is a circular route from Hollinsclough, up on to Parkhouse Hill, before heading to Chrome Hill, Tor Rock, over to the limestone pathway near High Edge, down to Booth Farm, and back to the starting point via a last up and over on Hollins Hill which offers great views across to Chrome Hill.
The views at the top of Parkhouse Hill are fabulous and there is a great contrast with the flat farmer’s fields below you and the sheep grazing therein. Standing at the top you feel like you have conquered some alpine peak, but you only started your ascent a short time before. Your eye is drawn to the west and the larger Chrome Hill. It’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing as Parkhouse Hill but it’s similar in shape with some pretty steep sided drops on its north east side.
The walk up to Chrome Hill is gentler than Parkhouse Hill but it’s still testing enough to fire your heart rate up, particular the section after the beautiful sycamore tree that leads you to its peak.
There is a sweet spot somewhere between the tree and the top where you need to turn around for the best view of Parkhouse Hill. From this angle, it looks like a sleeping dinosaur or stegosaurus, particularly if you have started your walk early on on a chilly day and there is some early morning mist lingering about. There is some fun to be had on Chrome Hill, exploring the limestone knolls and ridges after its peak and the little archway, before heading past Tor Rock and to the rest of the route.
There are lots of other great routes to explore in the White Peak, and the Peak District in general. It is such a beautiful and accessible place. However, I don’t think I’ll find a hill that I like more than Parkhouse Hill. It’s my new favourite little hill. Which one is yours?