An 8-step guide to a perfect hike at Rudyard Lake
PUBLISHED: 10:44 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:50 28 August 2020
This easy-going perambulation of Rudyard Lake is a sneak into Staffordshire on the western fringe of the Peak District
Rudyard Lake soon comes into view. It was built in 1796 as a feeder reservoir to supply the Caldon Canal. On a clear day it appears like a giant blue puddle amongst the Staffordshire hills, far more reminiscent of a scene from the Lake District or some Scottish loch rather than a man-made reservoir in landlocked Staffordshire. There are normally a flotilla of small boats and buoys bobbing about on a gentle swell, often with kayaks and canoes cutting a knife-like wake through the glassy surface.
The lake is well known because of the famous journalist, poet, short story writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling who was born in Mumbai, India in 1865 but evidently named after a visit here by his parents in the early 1860s. An unusual choice perhaps to name their baby but it could have been worse had they visited nearby Tittesworth!
You will shortly arrive at the first stop or halt of the little railway which is named The Dam.
2. Continue to follow the track bed which appears like a long dark avenue sheltered by mature trees with a canopy of overhead branches. On the side of the lake to your left you may come across the occasional fisherman waiting for tight lines. Look across the water to see boathouses, chalets, holiday homes and select waterside houses on the opposite bank.
3. At the top end of the lake turn left onto a stretch of the Staffordshire Way, a clearly marked long distance trail, initially following an access road leading up to a farm.
You will pass what looks a bit like a mangrove swamp and wetlands where trees are richly encrusted with lichens and cloaked in moss, the area being a haven for songbirds and a sanctuary for nesting water fowl, small mammals and amphibians.
4. After crossing over a stile beside a cattle grid, walk through an area of open pasture where cattle often graze, then leave the tarmac drive at a marker post just before it heads uphill to the farm. Follow the footpath which soon arrives at Cliffe Park Hall which was built in 1811 in a Victorian Gothic style. It has a castellated roof and turrets like the set from some 1970s horror movie.
Currently in a sad state of decay and facing dereliction, the Hall has had a chequered history and a string of owners over the years including for a time the Youth Hostel Association when it was known as Rudyard Lake Hostel. It was described by someone staying in 1936 as being a great draughty barrack of a house with miles of echoing stone passages, no lighting except candles and only smoky little oil stoves to cook on.
5. Continue ahead along a tree-lined drive to pass a lodge building which is also designed in a gothic style. Beyond this are a raft of waterside properties, most overlooking the lake and with stunning views of the hills. However, the ‘Lady Of The Lake’ boathouse has been constructed one step lower with its foundations and base actually in the water, its access path being over an elevated walkway. The house was designed by William Larner Sugden of Leek and built in 1893. Rather aptly, the narrative poem ‘Lady of the Lake’ written by Sir Walter Scott includes the line ‘so wondrous wild, the whole might seem, the scenery of a fairy dream’.
6. After a right-hand bend in the road turn left to follow a footpath with fingerpost sign for the Staffordshire Way. Well-walked, this route winds around gardens and passes mature trees before eventually arriving on the outskirts of Rudyard Village, finally passing to the rear of a modern row of properties lining The Crescent.
7. Walk a short distance to the right and then head down a footpath with fingerpost sign to emerge at the dam wall where you may wish to take advantage of ‘comfort stop’ facilities and little café whilst drinking up the views.
Notice by the toilet block there is a curious wood carving of a tightrope walker with balancing pole perched on the top of a high tree stump. A nearby plaque advises that this was created to commemorate tightrope walks undertaken across Rudyard Lake by Carlos Trower in 1878 and later repeated by Chris Bull in 2016.
8. Cross the dam wall, taking advantage of far reaching views to the top of the lake almost two miles away and then turn right to retrace your steps and return to the station and car park.
Distance: 4 miles
Parking: By Rudyard Lake Steam Railway ST13 8PF
Terrain: 3 stiles. Easy to follow trail and paths. Close proximity to deep water. Livestock grazing in open pasture at top of Lake. Miniature railway operates along track to the east of the lake. Some roadway without pavement.
Refreshments: Platform 2 Café at RLSR station (open Friday/Saturday/Sunday), Rudyard Lake Café
Toilets: Opposite the Visitor Centre at Rudyard Lake
Map: O.S. Explorer OL24 – White Peak
Walk highlight: View of the lake from the dam wall with moored boats and pretty waterside properties
Description: This delightful waterside wander is easy walking. Snuggled into the Staffordshire hills, Rudyard is a tranquil delight with mature trees lining its shore. Autumn colours are a joy to see, especially when reflected on the surface of this deep dark man-made pond. You might also come across fascinating fungi, especially when walking on the woodland path.