Dark Peak Walks Book

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Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.

Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley

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This guidebook describes 40 walks in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. Ranging from short strolls to full-day adventures, they showcase the region’s unique character. Dramatic waterfalls, striking gritstone edges, heath and woodland are just some of the delights encountered, with many of the routes venturing off-path to explore hidden cloughs and valleys. Detailed route description is provided for 35 walks, accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and interesting facts about local points of interest, then a further five longer walks (of 25-45km) are summarised in the final section, including a classic circuit of the Kinder Scout skyline.

Taking in the high moors of Derwent, Bleaklow, Kinder and Howden, the walks reveal not only the area’s wild beauty but also some of its fascinating stories. 10,000 years of history lie waiting to be uncovered – from Neolithic burial mounds and Bronze Age cairns to remnants of the region’s more recent industrial past. This guide is a perfect companion to discovering the secrets of the Dark Peak and experiencing its magnificent landscape in all its glory.

 

Strange objects in the Peak District

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Sighting Pillar

Sighting Pillar near Upper Head Moss. Peak District National Park

If you follow my walks in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press eventually you will come across some weird objects. This is not uncommon on the Dark Peak moors of the Peak District National Park.

Aircraft wrecks abound, some wreckage such as the B29 on Bleaklow is extensive, others such as the Meteor in the Hagg Side plantation just a small pile of rusting metal.

There are the grouse butts and shooting cabins, some more elaborate than others. And occasionally you get strange wire compounds in the trees, used by the gamekeepers for rearing young.

One of the strangest sights are the towers, shafts and pillars associated with the tunnels that criss cross the Dark Peak.

On PB Walk 26 in Dark Peak Walks, Snailsden to Ramsden Clough there is a plethora of structures associated with the building of the tunnels. The shafts dug down to tunnel depth draw the line of the tunnel as it crosses beneath the moors. Often steam can be seen billowing out of the shaft and wafting its way across the moor. This lifts the spirits of avid steam rail fans in the hope that steam trains are once again running across the pennines. Alas it is not to be. The tunnels closed to trains 1981. It now serves as a massive conduit for National Grid power lines.

In the middle of the moor, seemingly at random is a concrete pillar with a strange rusting metal plate mounted on the top. It seems incongruous in this wild place, a man made object surrounded by wilderness. It is a sighting pillar made when the tunnels were being constructed. Used to mount a theodolite, it allowed the line of the tunnel construction to be checked to ensure it was running true to plan.

Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.

Buy the Book

Summer time in the Peak District

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Keeping cool on a summer walk in the Peak District National Park

Keeping cool on a summer walk in the Peak District National Park

I had a lovely little walk yesterday with Scout. We crossed from one side of a valley to another, from one gritstone edge to another, and in between we passed through time.

It was hot, hotter than I expected with the temperature continuing to rise well up to the afternoon zenith. We had skirted below a long low gritstone edge waving to a climber, a new learner, as he tried to workout a simple route. He was confident enough to turn around and wave to us, one of his companions, a girl, talked on a mobile phone, hands gesticulating as she fired off staccato monosyllables to the person on the other end of the line. Scout and I pressed on, wondering if there was anyone on the end of the belay line.

Finding our turning point we followed a wall west then turned south with the wall still on our left. Long grass spread out on the flat land between two slopes. Heather dotted the landscape and long thin fingers of trees marched out like walls of a corridor.

Being the hottest part of the day and a little worried about Scout I found some shade to stop in. Scout had other ideas and set up camp in the shade of the wall, so I moved there too. It was a good choice; soft grass to sit on, shade from a lone oak tree and a cool gritstone wall to lean against.

I got out our lunch and poured out water and tea. We both sat there quietly enjoying the shade and the soft grass. Two men walked by and did not even notice us just a few metres away. It occurred to me then that this is how you walk in summer, slow pace, find  shade, do not be afraid to stop and sit. We spent a whole hour there, nothing much happened, but I looked out at the grass and the trees and saw more as time went by.

Scout snoozed, glad of the rest, his ears flicking the odd insect away his eyes occasionally opening slightly to check that all was still well. I kicked off my shoes and had a look at the map, drank tea, leaned back against the cool wall and relaxed.

 

Chocolate Box Peak District

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I don’t really associate the Peak District National Park with the chocolate box type image so eponymous of places such as the Cotswolds, but turn a corner in Baslow in the White Peak and there they are.

Standing on Baslow Edge looking up to Curbar the eye gets drawn to the horizon and the Upper Derwent Vally with Derwent Edge clearly visible. Just below Baslow Edge are fields of wheat and barley, not something normally associated with the Peak but obviously a need exists.

Dropping down in to Baslow and over the tiny bridge then a right to walk into Chatsworth Park and there are cottages with thatched roofs with hanging eaves, just waiting for the photo-op and the man from the Derbyshire Clotted Cream Company to come along and slap the picture on a box.

Go through the kissing gate and its is straight into a fantasy land, created by Capability Brown. You always know when you are in park land just by looking at the position and height of the trees. For all it tries to be natural it still looks staged.

Black Hill – Peak District

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Black Hill Triangulation Pillar Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press

Black Hill Triangulation Pillar Peak District National Park

If you want a visual explanation of environmental damage, you could do no better than a walk up to Black Hill triangulation pillar in the north of the Dark Peak, Peak District National Park. This weekend take a walk; PB Walk 29, Dark Peak Walks 

The trig base sits a good metre above ground level. This is not for dramatic effect; the trig is in exactly the same place that the Ordnance Survey surveyors levelled it in 1945, it is the ground that has shifted.

The Manchester and Lancashire cotton mills dumped all their heavy metal laden fumes out on to the moors. This simply killed any plant life, turned the soil to solid acid and prevented any further growth. Wind scoured the surface, stripping away any roots systems and then the job was finished by rain, which washed away the peat, down into the valley below. Considering the base of the pillar was at ground level, looking around it is hard to imagine the amount of peat that has been removed.

Black Hill was famous of course for the hell of its peat bog, made all the more famous by Alfred Wainwright who got stuck in it, because he was good at walking up hard rock and bits of grass, but crap at walking across a peat moor. A quote from 1975 on trigpointuk puts it thus;

A mess. Stands in acres of peat on Black Hill’s summit. Visited during Pennine Way walk.

Today the trig pillar stands surrounded by cotton grass and a healthier moor, thanks to Moors for the Future and its work. It is no longer approached through a thigh squelching peat bog, but along stone slabs retrieved from the derelict cotton mills that spewed out the poison all those years ago.

The pillar now sits surrounded by a stone plinth, courtesy of the Pennine Way rangers from the Peak District National Park. The pillar still sits on its concrete base which extends down well below the peat to bedrock where the lower centre mark sits.

Black Hill in winter

Black Hill in summer

Moors for the Future

Trigpoint Walk

Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.

Buy the Book

 

Heather moorland – Peak District

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Typical Dark Peak heather moor. Peak District National Park

Typical Dark Peak heather moor. Peak District National Park

A mention recently about the difficulty of walking across heather moors in the Peak District at this time of year prompted me to dig out a photo of a typical moorland scene.

Common heather is the most widespread in the Dark Peak and has four stages of growth, pioneer, building, mature, and degenerate. Most moors are a patchwork of all four making a walk a bit of a logistical challenge. The easiest is pioneer, short in height its great for cleaning boots, see how polished they are when you have walked across a patch. Building heather is relatively easy but you need to start watching where you put your feet as the ground is starting to get covered and difficult to see. Mature is the hardest, thigh high, thick and with little movement, this is tiring walking. The ground has now disappeared so the chance of a twisted or broken ankle has increased dramatically. Degenerate is much the same but the height is getting lower as the weight of the plant is dragging it down.

If you look at building and mature heather there are fissures in the cover, these make for wonderful pathways and make it easy to walk across. A walk across a moor should not be a straight line, but rather a meander trying to keep to the low heather patches and the burnt areas, this makes it less tiring and lowers the opportunity for a Mountain Rescue callout.

Take time and enjoy the scenery as you zig zag your way down. Having tight laces, with the heel held well reduces the chance of a painful ankle twist. Watch out for holes too. The worst are where the peat has been eroded and a deep hole has formed, generally known as leg breakers. Keeping your pace slow and choosing where to place feet can avoid this. The golden rule is, if you cannot see where your foot is going to land, do not put it there. Occasionally you will Step on a grouse hidden in the heather, this is one of the true heart stopping experiences of the Dark Peak.

Boulder fields covered in heather and bracken are a nightmare and best avoided. They sap the energy increase the risk of injury and are basically unpleasant.

Walking across moors develops new skills. Picking a line across a heather moor to the objective without the walk sapping energy, breaking a leg, twisting an ankle and not gaining or losing height unnecessarily is a skill well worth developing. It is part of hill craft and the more experience gained leads to greater adventures.

 

 

Secret places of worship – Peak District

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Walk anywhere in the Peak District and you will find lots of markings made into the rock. Gritstone is a particular favourite as it has retained the marks over centuries whereas limestone has tended to lose its rock graffiti.

One of the most common marks to see out on the moor, well away from centres of population is the conjoined ‘V’ and ‘M’ often inverted and with a date. The letters denote the Virgin Mary and were a sign of catholic following, that was banned during the period. Except for a brief three year period in 1685 under King James II reign, practising catholicism was punishable by death.

The gate post above Marsden, pictured on the left has the date 1676 and it sits within the curtilage of a tudor farmhouse. The date on the stone at Stanedge Pole, pictured right is 1697, possibly, the pole sits within a few hundred meters of a known worship site for Catholics during this time.

 

Derbyshire Dales – Peak District

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I have started on the next book in the Cicerone Peak District trilogy. The second one, the first being Dark Peak Walks, covers the Ordnance Survey map OL24 East sheet and will be called White Peak Walks East. It still involves quite a bit of gritstone on the edges, with some peat as well. Heading towards the south and west limestone and pasture become dominant.

The White Peak has a marvellous collection of dales, carved out of the limestone by crystal clear streams. These run broadly west to east, taking water from the higher pasture land and feeding it through the dales into the Derwent which flows north west to south east.

Around the dales and the streams are the villages. Beautiful limestone built cottages and farms, settled by a people engaged in agriculture and mining. Families go back a long time in the White Peak, its old money unlike the new money of the Dark Peak shooting estates. White Peak was monastic, huge sheep farms used for producing wool to send out to Italy. The monks were the ones who really knew how to industrialise sheep farming, walk anywhere in the area and you walk on monastic land, farms with the word ‘Grange’ in the title were owned by the abbeys.

The land saw early enclosures around the villages and hamlets, you can tell the age by the shape of the fields, narrow and long close to the communities getting larger as subsequent enclosures moved up the sides of the dales.

Mining also played its part, right back to Roman times, lead had been mined in the area. The land is littered with mine shafts around villages that grew into small markets as money flowed in from the lead. Winster is an excellent example, and has  Moot Hall, where the Barmote Court sat to settle mining disputes. Amazingly the court still sits to this day.

Prosperity brought new buildings and and alterations to existing ones. A particular favourite for adornment was the local church. Many villages had a church that dated back to Norman times these were added to, built upon rebuilt. Then came money from wool and then from lead and the local gentry wanted to be remembered so added windows, fonts, a new altar. Then came the victorians who really did go to town re-styling the churches in their own image. What this leaves us with today is a wonderful historical record not just of the religious fervour of the village but also its economic history and the landed gentries entitlement.

The land is criss crossed with ancient footpaths and green lanes bounded by verges deep with wild life and bounded by lichen covered limestone walls. The fields are surrounded by walls hundreds of years old, punctured by squeeze stiles, that for todays walker may be a challenge. Often the walker will come across a dish shaped depression in a field, the dew ponds were placed there to collect water for livestock to drink, hundreds dot the landscape, many have fallen in to dis-repair, but some still survive. Hedgerows, centuries old outline the land and field strips surround small villages, a living record of a feudal system that provided for all. Meadows, a countryside form that almost died out, can be found in the White Peak. Lush with buttercups in spring the meadow adds a vivid splash of colour to the pastures.

It all makes for wonderful walking, following in the footsteps of human history.

 

 

Peak District Walk

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Fancy a good walk in the Peak District National Park this weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday look to be good for the weather.

PB Walk 7 out of the book Dark Peak Walks is a real beauty. A circular walk from Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge, it leads you down a stunning gorge filled with Scots Pines, dippers and the tumbling Wyming Brook.

On the way round there is much to see and spot, old mile posts on the original Sheffield to Manchester Road. Ordnance Survey benchmarks on random rocks around Stanage Edge. Two trig points, one, a pillar and the other a pole! Then the weird and wonderful water bowls carved into the Peak gritstone. The views will be amazing as will the experience.

You can buy Dark Peak Walks here

More about Wyming Brook

More about Stanage Edge

More about Grouse Water Bowls

 

 

Scout stage one training

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Scouts training is really coming on now. He is at stage one, where he begins the sequence of finding a body and then returning to tell me about it before taking me to the site.

It involves lots of repetition of different find sequences with no real limit on time that the whole training has to be completed by.

Unsurprisingly it is not a straight line progression with many steps forward and back. It’s me the handler that causes the steps back, through misreading Scouts actions and not being consistent in approach. One recent example has been a new trick Scout has learned when he is not sure if a body is out there waiting for him with his toy. He will do a little dance around my feet and bark continuously not moving off to search.  This is intermittent behaviour that has been hard to deal with.

After one particularly bad training session I was driving home despondent and upset thinking about why he exhibits this behaviour. It dawned on me that this is the same actions he portrays when I take him for a walk and have a game of ball throwing. Where we go there is a short length of path where we cannot throw the ball so he has to wait, getting more and more excited, dancing at my feet and barking. The same behaviour he expresses occasionally in training.

From that day we have not played ball on a walk and he has no more toys in the house, just a tug to naw on. So his only toy play is in training, which I hoped would increase his focus on body finding. The next session we also tried doing a find sequence run, then putting him back in the car, so that his only interaction with the ball toy was in training and with the body. He displayed no issues at all, no dancing, no barking, just great find behaviour, even quartering the area to catch the scent of the body.

Lesson learned. The handler needs to think about play and interaction outside of training times to prevent unwanted behaviour from becoming ingrained and affecting the find sequence.

 

Abbey Farm – Upper Derwent Valley

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Derwent Valley. dwr gwent. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park

Derwent Valley. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park

The island below Howden Dam in the Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park. Made from spoil out of the trench that the dam sits in, at low water in Derwent reservoir a small bridge can be walked across.

The bridge led to Abbey Farm, now below the island. A clue as to the owners of the area in past centuries is in the name. Abbey Farm was owned by the the monks of Welbeck Abbey, as was the nearby Abbey Grange the site of which today is beneath the waters near to the mouth of Abbey Brook. A chapel was situated just down from Abbey Brook, all owned by the monks who would pay visits annually to collect their tithes and make sure that the land was being used to its maximum potential.