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A site of ecological & historical importance in the heart of Staffordshire

Welcome to Dimmingsdale Valley (SSSI). A site of ecological & historical importance in the heart of Staffordshire.


At Dimmingsdale, Forestry England have turned an aristocrat’s dream into a delight for everyone. Magnificent drives built by the Earl of Shrewsbury have been incorporated in the Valley walk. Visitors to this North Staffordshire beauty spot can now stroll where fine carriages once carried gentry on pleasure trips. The rolling hills and dramatic sandstone outcrops make a visit to this woodland a delight at any time of the year.

Use the button below to access Dimmingsdale walks guides and activity guides. Keep scrolling to find out more about Dimmingsdale & what makes it special.

  • Dimmingsdale Walks


    Guides & Maps

  • Dimmingsdale’s History

Dimmingsdale is truly one of Staffordshire’s hidden gems. This enchanting and beautiful valley is a haven for walkers, nature lovers and those seeking tranquillity and spectacular scenery.

Forming part of the Churnet Valley in the Staffordshire Moorlands it is located between Alton and Oakamoor and is managed by Forestry England, in partnership with us here at the Ramblers Retreat.

Dimmingsdale’s beauty and tranquillity has been recognised by regional and national media – The Sunday Times stated Dimmingsdale was one of the most beautiful places to walk in winter, Midlands’s television stated it as one of the best places to view Autumnal colours and it regularly features in regional press as one of Staffordshire’s hidden gems. Affectionately known as “Little Switzerland” and “Fairy Glen” it was also described by a priest as “the closest place to heaven”.

Dimmingsdale: A Site of Special Scientific Interest

Dimmingsdale is a haven for wildlife. Its lakes, streams and rivers combine with a mix of broadleaf and spectacular Scots pines to provide the perfect habitat.

On the lakes you will see all different types of wild fowl –heron, kingfisher, moorhen, Canadian Geese; mallards to name but a few.

A little harder to see are the residents actually in the lakes – Crayfish, frogs, toads, newts, trout and a host of other insect and other invertebrates.

Spotted and Green Woodpecker can be heard echoing through the valley, buzzards soar above it and pied flycatchers, redstarts and the willow warbler are also residents of this tranquil place. It is also home to Tawny and Little Owls and many more common woodland birds.

The trees also provide shelter and protection for a host of mammals – badgers, foxes, hares, rabbits, grey squirrels, hedgehogs, stoats, and weasels. There have even been sightings of Muntjac deer and pine martins in the area!

The valley is also a perfect habitat for woodland flowers. In spring, the slopes are a carpet of bluebells, wood anemones and wood sorrel. In the summer, ferns, foxgloves and blackberries abound.

Earl’s Drive

Earl’s Drive is the main route through Dimmingsdale. Built by the Earl of Shrewsbury to allow his horse and carriage to travel through his private paradise, This gravelled route gives stunning views through the centre of the valley, overlooking lakes, streams and woodland. It’s the best way to get the full Dimmingsdale experience, with the majority of all other routes through the valley joining to this magnificent drive.

Churnet Valley Greenway

This historical railway line now provides a great route for ramblers, cyclists, horse riders and the occasional llama walker to access Oakamoor, Alton, Dimmingsdale & Denstone. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the old Churnet Canal that runs alongside the route as well as historical stations and railway bridges!

The Ranger SSSI

At the top of the valley is one of Staffordshire most important remaining ancient hill pastures, now classed as a site of Special Scientific Interest. Covered with heather, tough grasses and bilberry and interspersed with yellow tormentil and heath bedstraw. Special wetland plants, such as yellow bog asphodel and sphagnum mosses nestle in hollows beside the path.

This beautiful pasture attracts a plethora of insects – grasshoppers, hoverflies, bees, brown and large skipper butterflies are just a few of the pasture’s residents. The area simply shimmers in summer with insect life.

The Earl's Ponds

As part of Dimmingsdale’s transformation to a country paradise by the Earl of Shrewsbury, a series of fishing ponds were created within the valley by damming the stream. After the collapse of the Earl’s estate, the ponds were taken over by nature and still are home to a plethora of fauna today. These ponds form the centre of the forest trail today. In the lakes, you can find crayfish, frogs, toads, newts, trout and a host of other insect and other invertebrates.


The Chained Oak

Within the valley is a large, extremely old Oak tree smothered with chains. Legend has it that in the 1830’s a beggar woman asked the Earl of Shrewsbury for some money. He refused and so she put a curse on him. For every branch that fell off this magnificent Oak, a member of the Earls family would die. Later a branch did fall off the tree and member of the Earls family died. Immediately the Earl of Shrewsbury had chains wrapped around the branches to stop any more branches falling off.


The Forest Code

To help us protect Dimmingsdale for future generations, we ask that all visitors stick to the forest code:

  • Stick to the paths and trails.
  • Guard against all risks of fire.
  • Protect and respect wildlife, plants and trees.
  • Keep dogs under control.
  • Take your litter home.
  • Make no unnecessary noise.
  • Take only memories away.

Thank You.

*Please note, BBQs, camping, overnight parking, campfires and smoking are not permitted in Dimmingsdale Valley, smoking is only allowed in the car parks.

Organising events in Dimmingsdale?

As Dimmingsdale is managed by Forestry England, events require authorisation. If you are organising a commercial, charity or personal event in Dimmingsdale, please email the local team with details of your request.

Car Park Hours:

Dimmingsdale car parks are open daily 8am-6pm, after which they are locked by Forestry England . Please note- car park hours change seasonally, please contact Forestry England for current hours.