Into the valley of the Dove.
I have written previously on this site regarding the strange and as yet unexplained lights that have been seen in the Dovedale valley, a famous beauty spot in the county of Staffordshire visited by many people during the hours of daylight, however few venture there at night so any possible sightings of this phenomena would be rare.
I found the following information written by David Clarke at the website known as “At the Edge” at http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/peakland.htm
Although ghostlights figure strongly in folklore motifs, there are many interesting contemporary eyewitness accounts of their activities. Some of them come from people who see lights in a notorious area haunted by these phenomena but are unaware that others have seen lights there before. A young man called Oliver Rowlands contacted me back in 1994 to describe his encounters with lights which haunt the beautiful limestone valley of the River Dove at Dovedale in the White Peak. At the time he was unaware of Turner’s account and those of others I have collected from this area. Thousands of people visit this Staffordshire beauty spot during the summer to walk along the river, cross the stepping stones and scale Thorpe Cloud which towers above the valley. But how many are there after dark when, according to Mr Rowlands, strange lights dance above the river?
According to the account, the initial experience took place in March 1993 when Oliver was a final year student at Derby University, and living in Ecclesall, Staffordshire. One night, accompanied by a friend called Steve Ashall, he decided to go for a late night drive into the Derbyshire peaks after college. Stopping the car in the carpark at Dovedale they went for a walk by the river towards the well-known Stepping Stones. As they got closer to these stones, two ‘very bright white lights’ caught their attention. Both approximately the same size, they were perfectly round and lit up the surrounding area although they threw no beam at all. Making no noise, they danced in perfect symmetry, both following the other or one moving right as the other moved left. The pair estimated they were between 10 and 100 feet above the river and about double the width of the river away from them. ‘They were moving up and down in crazy patterns far too quickly for them to be the lights of a motorbike; anyway, there would be no chance of a vehicle of any type moving up and down the cliff so quickly or with such turns of speed,’ explained Oliver. ‘The experience, which lasted about three minutes, left us speechless. Then we started talking and questioned what it could be. There was something quite eerie about it. We eventually decided to turn towards the car again, and we too frightened to look back, but just kept walking and eventually broke into a run.’
The following day the pair met with ridicule when they told family and friends at college. But in September that year, Oliver returned with another college friend called Dean Atkins to the valley, this time at 7pm, just after darkness had fallen. They walked two miles past the Stepping Stones, climbed a hill beyond a chain of limestone caves and sat watching the valley from a point high above the river valley. ‘To be honest, I thought that to see such an occurrence once would seem a miracle, but twice?’, he writes. ‘But sure enough, one light (much larger than the previous one) made its appearance from trees to our left, looking back along the river, towards the car park. It seemed to rise, and wobble along before disappearing into the trees. This was below us and again we heard no sound. Later we saw another light, whilst on foot heading back towards the car. Again, it was a large sphere of light, white in appearance.’
At the end of his account, Oliver asks: ‘Can rivers or water emit strange gasses? And if so how can they dance and chase each other in perfect symmetry at speed. Are they ghosts or spirits? I don’t know, but if I could film them then perhaps the peculiar pattern to their dance can be unravelled to reveal some particular meaning, code or language. . .’
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On the 27th of January I decided to travel to Dovedale and see for myself whether there was any truth to the sightings of strange lights having been seen in this valley. I set off from Congleton in the late afternoon taking with me two flashlights with new batteries, a compass, mobile phone, tape recorder and digital camera.
I arrived at the car park at Dovedale at around 4.30-4.45 pm and had to park here as there was no other parking available, the road that continued on past the car park was restricted to any traffic, and as the car park closed at 7.30pm I was hampered by the amount of time I could spend in the valley as I had to make sure I returned to the car park for 7.30 otherwise my car would get locked in overnight.
I set off from the car park following the river Dove, luckily I crossed over on the footbridge so I was now entering the valley on the rigt hand side of the Dove, if I had followed the road on the left hand side of the river eventually it comes to a dead end and I would have been forced to cross over the river on the stepping stones where the first sighting of the lights took place, and as the river was flooded due to the amount of rain we had been experiencing lately the stepping stones were partially underwater.
When I had left the car park I had noticed there were three cars that were still parked there, and as I ventured further into the valley I passed three groups of people who were making their way back to the car park, they were probably wondering what I was doing heading further into the valley as the light was now beginning to fail.
After some time I reached a steep set of stone steps which took me high up on the side of the valley and fortunately away from the noise of the Dove as it travelled over many small waterfalls as it wended its way down the valley making it difficult to use the tape recorder due to the background noise.
It was at this point in my exploration of the valley when I had reached the highest point on the stone steps I had been climbing that I was able to view the high rock known as “Lovers Leap” the following information explains how it gained its name: The name Lover’s Leap came about following the story of a young woman, who on hearing that her young man had been killed in the Napolionic wars, climbed to the top of Lover’s Leap and threw herself off. Her billowing skirt caught in branches on her way down, and she was able to scramble to safety. On her return home, she received the news that her boy friend, far from having lost his life in the war, had recently arrived in England, and was returning to see her. The rock is 120ft in height and can be accessed by steps which were carved out by Italian prisoners of war during World War II.
Although the woman who threw herself off survived, have other deaths taken place here and could they be connected with the lights that have been seen close to this location?
I carried on walking descending the steps which once more brought me close to the side of the river, I had been travelling close to half an hour now and estimated that I was around two miles into the valley. I stopped at a gate across the path and checked the slight wind which was blowing from the NNW, the darkening sky was cloudy but thankfully it had remained dry although the path was wet and the river was high, signifying that it had rained heavily recently. I pressed onwards by this time it was now dark, however I did try to photograph the Lions head rock which was just about visible against the darkening sky. I continued walking and eventually came to Ilam Rock bridge, a small footbridge which crosses the Dove and leads to Stanhope, however after stopping at this spot for about 10 minutes I continued along the same path, signposted Milldale which led me away from the Dove which I now estimate to be around 50-60 yards away on my left. The valley at this point has opened up considerably, and due in part to the noise of the river having receded I was able to hear unusual noises which I was unfamiliar with. I had already heard owls as I had been walking along the valley, I would describe this noise as a long drawn out wailing noise coming from higher up the sides of the valley. I was not sure if it was some sort of animal making the sounds, all I can say was it was nothing I was familiar with.
I did wonder whether these lights that have been seen could in fact be what has described as earthlights :
Earth lights are a rare anomalous light phenomenon, mistaken throughout history as dragons, UFOs, and ball lightning before being recognised as a separate category. One leading theory is that they are produced by tectonic strain in minor fault lines, so that they are literally generated by the earth.
In America they’ve been called “spooklights” or “ghost lights” since at least the 1950s, but Persinger and Lafrenière were the first scientists to recognise the phenomenon, in the late 1970s. The lights were renamed and brought to wider public attention by Paul Devereux in 1982 with his publication “Earth Lights”.
They appear in many colours, shapes, and sizes, though the basketball-sized globular orange variety seems most common. Most sightings occur at night, when some lights can be seen from miles around. They’re reported to be able to move against the wind and reach extraordinary speeds. Their terrestrial nature means that though many sightings are sporadic, there are some locations where they appear relatively often. It’s through studying these hotspots, such as Hessdalen in Norway and the Engligh Pennines, that their characteristics become evident.
I however don’t feel that this explanation is an answer to what is being seen in the Dovedale valley as the type of rock which can be found here is mainly limestone and is not the type of rock where these earthlights are said to emanate from.
By this time I was far into the valley and was having to use one of the torches I had brought with me, I decided that I could travel no further otherwise I would be late returning to the car park and would face having to sleep the night in the car if they locked the gates. It would take me around an hour of walking in the pitch dark following the river to make it back to the car. If I return again I will park the car near the stepping stones so that I can spend longer in the valley in the hope of seeing something. I am not sure whether these lights occur regularly and there is no one in the valley to observe them, or whether they are a rare phenomena that only occur when conditions are just right. I hope to return again maybe later in the year in the hope of catching a glimpse of this unusual light phenomena.