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

Read what people say about Dark Peak Walks book

Buy a personalised, signed and gift wrapped copy of Dark Peak Walks from Wapentac

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.


Dove Stone – Peak District

Great Dove Stone Rocks, Dark Peak, Peak District National Park

Great Dove Stone Rocks, Dark Peak, Peak District National Park

I like the walk from Binn Green up to Great Dove Stone Rocks in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. It is relatively short with a quick steep ascent at the beginning that is rewarded soon after by some amazing views from the edge of Great Dove Stone Rocks.

There is a nice path that threads a way along the edge, no navigation required until reaching the Cairn on Fox Stone. Then drop down in front of the cairn to the reservoir track or carry on along the edge, crossing Bramley’s Cot and Dish Stone Moss to Chew Reservoir then a descent down the Chew road to Dove Stones. The latter requires a little navigation and the footpath can hard to find in places but it is not difficult.

There is a memorial plaque to Brian Toase and Tom Morton who lost their lives in 1972 whilst making a descent in the Dolomites. One of several memorials that dot the area.

Six to ten miles depending on how you wander with lots of interest.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.32 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.

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 here

Walk No. 22 Dark Peak Walks, Binn Green to Great Dove Stone Rock, Peak District National Park. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press

More on Dark Peak Walk No.31

Combs Edge – Peak District


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Combs Edge from Castle Naze

Combs Edge from Castle Naze, White Peak, Peak District National Park

Combs Edge from Castle Naze. Gritstone within the limestone country of the White Peak in the Peak District National Park.

It sits on the very edge of the national park boundary, to the left of the edge is outside the national park. What seems to be an odd exclusion from the park makes sense once you look at a map. A guiding principle in establishing national parks back in the 40’s and 50’s was the exclusion of major built up areas. Behind Castle Naze sits the towns of Buxton, Whaley Bridge and Chapel en le Frith, all major centers of habitation and commerce.

They point a barren finger in to the park boundary and at night can clearly be seen from space as a tentacle of light within the darkness of the national park. The Peak District National Park is the only national park in the world that can be seen from space at night.


Dark Peak Storms – Peak District


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Spring storm hitting Slippery Stones in the Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park

Spring storm passing over Slippery Stones

Saturday’s small storm passing over Slippery Stones.

I like a nice summer storm when out, I find them exhilarating. Now I pay more attention to what is happening around me on a walk I notice the stuff that literally flew over my head as a young man.

I notice the air now as the storm comes in, it becomes charged with energy, electricity I guess.  The best bit is colour. As the storm clouds move on in front of me the sunlight hits them and it bounces back onto the landscape. The greens become incredibly  vivid against the dark indigo of the sky and seem to have been photoshopped.

I once watched the rain work its way towards me. Great sheets of steel grey moving across the landscape in a vertical curtain that had a defined edge.

As the storm hits sheep remain unconcerned throughout the tumult, which was interesting, not even looking around to see why the trees are suddenly swaying.

I like how the storm goes through its phases. Black sky on the horizon. Then the wind, trees swaying, the noise of the wind whirring around. Then the rain, the odd spot at first, so I’m unclear whether I felt it, then more, then the deluge. Thunder overhead now and with luck the lightning cracking down, bright flashes so quick I am never sure they happened. Then the quiet. No sound, all still. Sometimes there is a back edge where the storm has a final throw, other times not.

After the storm has passed, everything seems fresh, as though it has just put the landscape on a quick wash.

Experiencing a storm, sitting one out and watching the display is a real joy.

Short Escapes – Peak District


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Short escapes into the Peak District National Park are within reach of anyone. All it takes is a few hours after work for a walk.

Alison and I started to escape at the end of our workday a few months ago. So far we have had short escapes in the Dark Peak to the reservoirs around Bradfield, Burbage Valley, Higger Tor, Carl Wark, Stanage Edge, and last night Owler Tor.

The plan is simple.

  1. Pick a night when there will be a fair chance of a nice sunset
  2. Somewhere within 30 minutes or so of home
  3. Nice food for tea, or supper if you are posh
  4. Make sure we have a view.

A close watch on the weather is always good, so looking at the forecast a few days in advance of a planned escape. The place to eat should be facing west for the sunset and not too far from where we are. Food, is simple tasty and what we have in the cupboards.

  1. Picnic or cooking kit
  2. Insulated jacket to put on if need be, plus a head torch in case.
  3. Camera
  4. Phone for uploading pics to Social Media

We cooked last night, on our new pans from Alpkit which worked really well. Come 19:30 the sun was dropping and the temp started to fall, so on with the jacket. Eat, drink tea and chat whilst watching the sun set. We took photos and uploaded some to twitter and Instagram, it’s amazing where you can get 4G these days. I kept switching the phone from airplane mode to conserve battery power.

And we chatted. Both of us had a few busy days, as well as dealing with the occasional bit of tough stuff along the way. It was a nice way to unwind. A really nice way. Alison talked about new ventures and projects, it was lovely to just sit and listen. A few people were around doing the same thing I guess. The best was a couple with four dogs who sat on the edge of Owler Tor looking out to the sunset. The dogs all sat in a line, all facing west making a connection. A part of my day that had me a smidgeon upset, became settled and was no longer important.

Pecsaetan – Ancient Peak District tribe


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Some thing for the weekend. How about stepping into a time in the Dark Peak, when the Peak District was not a district at all, it was the northern edge of territory for the Pesaetan tribe way back in the Anglo-Saxon era.

Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia

Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia

The boundary is still there today at Stanedge Pole which sits on the boundary of the old Northumbria and Mercia territories, now it separates Yorkshire and Derbyshire and the Sees of Canterbury and York.

The Peaklanders as they were known called Kinder Scout “Cyn dwr scwd” which translates as “The hill of the waterfall”, Kinder Downfall.

Dwr gwent “the white water” became Derwent.

The many “lows” Bleaklow, Shuttlinsloe, Pike Lowe, White Lowe, signify an ancient burial-place. Perhaps there is something to the Longdendale lights after all.

It seems perhaps odd to our modern day minds that these places should be inhabited, maybe that is because for many years mere mortals were banned from setting foot, it was the privilege of the chosen few. Not too different from when it formed part of the ancient Peak Royal Forest then.

This weekend, have a walk in an ancient landscape, there is plenty of information on this blog to wet your appetite and you can find lots more in my book Dark Peak Walks.

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

Dogs on a lead please-Peak District



Dogs on a lead in the Peak District National Park. Paul Besley

Dogs on a lead in the Peak District National Park

I will admit that I am starting to get a Bee in my bonnet about dogs not on a lead and out of control.

This month a sheep was savaged to death in the Upper Derwent Valley by a dog off the lead. The sheep lambs have never been found, they are probably now dead. I have also posted disturbing images of lambs that have been killed by dogs this month elsewhere.

I love walking with my dog Scout, it is a real joy and he enjoys being out on the moors with me. Scout has passed three stock tests, designed to show whether or not he will worry or be attracted to sheep. That test is part of his registration to become a Mountain Rescue search dog, a stock test is crucial to pass, to demonstrate that when out on the hill looking for a casualty the dog will not run after sheep.

From the 1st March to the 31st July all dogs must be on a lead on Open Access land, near livestock or where there is ground nesting birds.

Scout is on a lead, even though I completely trust him around livestock. He may disturb ground nesting birds that I cannot see and that may scare them away from their nest and the chicks may die or the eggs never hatch. He is on a lead.

Some people just do not think the law applies to them.

I stopped a family of four on Saturday on the pipeline path alongside Ladybower, less than 100m from where the sheep was savaged to death by a dog. Their dog was running ahead in front of them, up and down banking, it was not on a lead. I asked them to place the dog on a lead, telling them it was a requirement at this time of year. They complied, but the father had to tell me his dog would never worry sheep and he was not happy about putting it on a lead.

The thing is this. That family had walked past a dozen signs telling them to put the dog on a lead and at least six signs telling them of the sheep that had been savaged. So what makes them so special, so different, that they have to ignore all those signs.

It isn’t stupidity or ignorance. It is arrogance and selfishness. That dog could be shot if a farmer thinks it will affect sheep. And that would not be the dogs fault.

I have in my mind some action to take, education seems to be the key, especially around ground nesting birds.

Ouzelden Clough – Peak District


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Around this time each year I pay a visit to Ouzelden Clough that sits at the head of the Ouzelden inlet in the Upper Derwent Valley. Another couple of weeks and the Clough will become submerged under a green blanket of waist high bracken, hiding all the interesting little features that make this Clough special.
Ouzelden Clough is a narrow, almost perfectly right-angled valley, cut out of the gritstone and peat by the Ouzelden Brook which drains the pastures of Rowlee and Birchinlee and decants the waters, along with its tributaries, out of its north-east facing mouth into the Derwent reservoir. Walk its length east to west and you will have risen 600ft in little more than a mile, finishing on the wide open moorland that separates it from Alport Dale. It sits like a long forgotten land amidst the great moors above and the vast waters below.
The hidden entrance to the Clough intensifies the mythical island feeling. You step off the reservoir road and follow a forest track, through oak woodlands and across a flat plain pasture to the bank of Ouzelden Brook. As I walked across the flood plain I could see long thin beaches of gravel, brought down from the peat moorlands last winter. The sedge was still flat in places and further up stream laid a beech tree its large flat root base sticking out of the water and above the bank. The rains collect on the moors until the peat can absorb no further downpours and then it heads down the brook, breaking out of the banks and spreading wide across the flat grassy pasture. Today the waters were low, a short step and I was across to the remnants of an old dry stone wall from the days when farms stretched out along the valley floor. The word Ouzelden is a combination of Ouzel or Ousel, the bird, and den meaning pasture. So this is the pasture of the Ouzels. Ouzelden Barn sat by the brook, now all that remains are some low walls. When they built the reservoirs in Derwent Valley there was a thought that some buildings might contaminate the waters and so they were removed.
I sat on a small grassy knoll and watched the woodland, a mixture of ancient oak, scots pines and modern forest plantation. A Short Eared Owl flew through the trees, its flight straight and silent. It was the wingspan that caught my attention a long straight block of brown moving horizontally across the eye line. As it passed each tree the image of the bird flickered like a Victorian zoopraxiscope. It disappeared into the darkness of the woodlands interior but my gaze still held the last point I saw it, as if I was waiting for it to return.
The Owl did not return and I moved on up to the old quarry that was used to provide stone for the dam construction in the early part of last century. There are the remains of a small stone hut, perhaps the foreman’s office, still clearly defined. It is a favoured spot of mine for watching and brewing, the low walls making a perfect seat. From here you can see the whole of Ouzelden Clough and out across Derwent reservoir and onwards to Howden moor. The land curves where the waters have cut their way through peat and stone. Steep slopes extend down to the valley floor and along the moorland edge are outcrops of millstone grit. Here in the quarry the stone edge is high from the removal of material for the constructions. Mounds of spoil, grassed now, dot the floor of the quarry, piles of stone, some worked lay around as if found to be wanting in quality and therefore not required. On some you can see initials, carved by the quarrymen perhaps in an idle few minutes. The features that I have come to see are tracks. The tracks work their way up the slopes, away from the quarry floor, intermittently switching back in the opposite direction forming a zigzag pattern up the slope. Where the track changes direction there is a stone seat for want of a better word. It is embedded into the slope at ground level and comprises of a back and two sides mounted around a base, sometimes the base is missing. They are always at the junctions where tracks meet.

I have spent the last few years tracing these tracks and their features, imagining what they were for. In my minds eye I see workmen walking along the pathways from the top of the quarry to the bottom. I see them hewing away at the crag face and fashioning blocks to be taken down to the construction site in the valley below. In winter this would have been a cold depressing place to work. In the rain too.

When access land was introduced the national park installed fencing and a stile from the quarry out on to the moor above. They thought at that time people would come in drives. They haven’t. Save for, what I assume are workmen’s tracks, the only other trails are sheep trods from the valley floor to the moor. Occasionally I see a human footprint, but to all intent and purpose Ouzelden Clough is a hidden valley.

Fox Cub on Loxley Common



Fox Cub on Loxley Common

Scout and I were out on Loxley Common this morning. It is a wonderful place of ancient woodland and heath, low gritstone edges and sandy paths. We go there just about everyday, to play and learn.

It was a sad start to the day, Scout had his first find. He shot over to what at first I took for a rabbit, but turned out to be a Fox Cub. Scout lost interest and moved on, but Alison and I just stood transfixed by this beautiful creature that lay so still at our feet.

He was just laid on open common. I could not leave him there so picked him up to move him to a place of rest. He was still warm and showed no signs of injury except a broken neck. He laid almost as though he was running and about to pounce on some prey. Front legs raised back legs powered out.

He was a beautiful creature, the eyes still alive, his fur, brown and white, soft to the touch. I cradled him in my hands and found a spot in the woodlands, under brambles and on a bed of leaves and laid him to rest in a place of nature, somewhere he would have spent hours with his mother.

I stood back and looked and thought, and saw him chasing rabbits across the heath.

Fox Cub at peace


Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks – Peak District


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Image of a B29 Superfortress engine on Bleaklow, in the Peak District National Park. Part of Walk No 20 in Dark Peak Walks

B29 Superfortress Engine on Bleaklow. Part of Walk No. 20 in Dark Peak Walks

Many of the walks in the Peak District National Park that are in the book Dark Peak Walks pass by or close to many of the aircraft wrecks that are on the moors. They make for an interesting navigational challenge and often a poignant reminder of the fragility of human life. Many aircrew survived the crash, but many did not. The wrecks in the Peak District National Park, range from a 1918 Tiger Moth to modern day planes. Many but not all, are military. RAF Mountain Rescue was based at Harpur Hill and played a vital role in rescuing aircrews. They also removed any sensitive equipment. Some sites contain a large amount of plane debris, others very little or none at all. Some sites are marked with a form or memorial, a simple cross, a plaque, others are unmarked and simply a very small pile of metal.

Below are the walks in the book that are near to a wreck along with its grid reference.

If you do make a journey out to a wreck, please act appropriately with respect for the site and do not remove any material.

Locations of aircraft crash sites in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park contained in the appendix of the book Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley published by Cicerone Press

Locations of aircraft crash sites in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park contained in the appendix of the book Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley published by Cicerone Press

Locations of aircraft crash sites in the Peak District National Park

Full list of Peak District walks in the Dark Peak Walks book

Read reviews of Dark Peak Walks

Purchase a signed and gift wrapped copy of Dark Peak Walks

Ordnance Survey Map Markings


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Ordnance Survey map 2017 Derwent Moor, Peak District National Park

Ordnance Survey map 2017, Derwent Moor

Ordnance Survey map 1884 of Derwent Moor Peak District National Park

Ordnance Survey map of Derwent Moor 1884

This week seems to have been all about Ordnance Survey and surveyors markings. The OS maps tell secrets if you know how to read them.

The present day maps don’t just allow us to get from A-B without getting our feet wet. If you know what you are looking for and have the time to do a bit of research they can be portals into history. The lines on the map aren’t just a whim, they actually mean something, occasionally something of social, political and economic importance.

Take the two maps above, both of Derwent Moor, the top a present day 1:50 OS map, the bottom one from the 1880’s. Notice the dash and dotted line on the top map running from the road bottom right to Dovestone Tor top left. It has the words Boundary Stones written underneath and above plus the words “Met Dist Bdy” in grey above the line. Met Dist Bdy is Metropolitan District Boundary. The line denotes the boundary here between Yorkshire or originally Hallamshire and Derbyshire.

The county boundary is the same on the 1882 map runs the same line as today, but it is not called that. Bottom right are the words “Union By”. The line is still a dot and a dash denoting County and Parish but the addition of Union By gives it a more sinister meaning. It meant Union Workhouse with each Union having a specific area tin which they were responsible for the application of the Poor Laws.

To the right of the boundary and you were within Bradfield or Ecclesall Union territory. To the left and you were in Hathersage. There were workhouses at High Bradfield and also on the Sheffield to Manchester road at Hollow Meadows, both are now residential properties.

It was important to know which side of the boundary a person was on, financial gain depended on it for the Union, and a less harsh environment could be available for the inmate, not all had treadmills. Hence the boundary stones, marking the line and which would be checked each year when officials of the parish would Beat the Bounds. Boundary stones were often placed as markers to avoid being on the wrong side of the boundary. These stones are still in place.

County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor. Peak District National Park

County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor.

This is the boundary today. A gamekeeper track now runs along its length from the Strines Road almost to Dovestone Edge as it crosses Derwent Moor. In the picture on the right of the track can be seen one of the boundary stones, there are several more along the line along with several Ordnance Survey benchmarks on the gritstone rocks that are scattered around the boundary line.

All that history from two square kilometres on the map. Next time you are on Derwent Edge and get to Dovestone Tor turn away from the edge and follow the line on the map and have a look.