Peak District Walking

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Walking in the Peak District and the Peak District National Park including Derbyshire and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

On this blog you will find lots of information about the Peak District and the Peak District National Park, its geology, history, natural history and the Peak Districts magnificent landscape.

My book, Dark Peak Walks, published by Cicerone, guides the walker through 40 walks across the gritstone and moorland landscape of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District.

Peak District in the snow

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Winter is just rubbish this season in the Peak District National Park. Too warm, too wet underfoot and calamities of calamities not enough snow, any snow, snow that stays around for days and weeks, not just a few hours creating mayhem then slinking away like an errant child.

I have had some wonderful winters in the Peak District. Proper winters, with cold and snow and the Snake, Woodhead and Cat and Fiddle closed and blocked with stranded vehicles. Winters where you have to pinch yourself because you are the first person, ever to walk into Dovedale went it is covered in snow from the previous days snowstorm. All the snow just drapes across the trees and the walls and the fields, great billows of cotton. And not a single foot print in sight save for those of birds and sheep.

Walking around the Upper Derwent Valley and having to post hole for 9 miles, wishing you’d brought a slower companion. Cant he stop and look at the scenery, its magnificent. The groins paid for it after though. A full six months before I could walk normally again.

Sitting in Grindle Barn and just looking at the scenery down the Upper Derwent Valley. Snow covering Bamford Edge and Win Hill. Snow in all the fields, right down to the reservoir edge. Drinking spiced Bovril from the flask and thinking last time you did this was in the bird hide at Ditch Clough I gave my Ranger mentor for the day a cup because she loved the smell.

Walking along the pastures below Rocher Edge and seeing a truly gift card scene. A monochrome landscape in perfect balance. Nothing out of place at all. Later the dogs getting snow balled up as they dived in and out of the snow.

Ice crystals at Kinder Downfall, but far too soon for any ice climbers. A day on Kinder in the winter, planning a walk that was far too long for some and using the short cut to get back on track. Then into the Snake Inn and meeting friends old and new, all having had a great time in the Dark Peak snow.

How the wind blows snow against the walls and leaves the opposite side clear. Great drifts forming where the wind packs the snow. Suddenly having to navigate without walls and fields and boundaries for reference because there aren’t any, they are all under great big piles of washing. Bright white, a brilliant blue white like in the washing powder commercials.

Thinking, next year I am going to get snow shoes or learn to ski. And next year comes and will there be snow this year, perhaps not, so don’t waste my money. Then I remember the time I nearly got stuck on the Snake, but managed to make it back to Glossop and a 8 hour round trip via the M62 to get home.

I love winter and I have missed it this year.

Alport Castles – Peak District

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One of the nicest ways to spend time at lunch is sitting viewing some wonderful wildlife. And one of the best spots to do this is in the bird hide at Alport Castles in the Peak District National Park. From within the hide you can watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons tending their nest or their young. The birds fly to and from the crag face, the nest being out of site of the hide. Alport Castles is a perfect place to watch their flight. It always amazes me and I love to hear the calling. They are often joined by Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Long Eared Owl, although they may not welcome these visitors.

I am not very good with identifying birds. One of my long suffering fellow Rangers is often subject to a very brief interrogation by me as I thrust a photo across his eyes. “Whats this bird, looks quite rare?” “Its a blackbird Paul” is generally the reply.

The last time I was in the bird hide a couple came in. They were in their late 70’s, well togged out for a windy day, obviously seasoned walkers. We got to talking and they told me they had been walking in the Peak District since their late teens, so getting on for 60 years. They had met on a rambling weekend, he’d seen her striding across the Manifold river whilst everyone else was tip toeing and knew she was the one. They walked every weekend and once mid week, went on holiday in any mountain range in the world you could care to mention and generally had a ruddy good time. He had worked for the council and she was a librarian. I find people like this fascinating, love meeting and talking to them.

He picked up the bird log book and looked inside. Same as before he said, always the same. We’ve been coming here a fair few years now and the logs are always the same. Didn’t see the bird. No birds. People just need to stay awhile and look at the view. Everything is a rush nowadays.

I left them to their bird watching and went on my way. I’m missing out, I know it. So I am going to get a book, or an app on birds and when they put the hide back up at Alport I will sit there in the peace and quiet, munching my sandwiches and ticking off the birds. Not a bad way to spend the next 60 years.

You can find the bird hide when in season on Walk No.13 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

Winter on Hathersage Moor

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Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor, Peak District National Park

Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor

As I look out of the window a few flakes of snow are drifting around, the first real snow flakes this year and the only second lot of snow this winter. Walking in the Peak District National Park when there is snow on the ground is a real joy. Care has to be taken as the weather often changes quickly from a nice winter scene to one of life threatening survival.

I have a friend out on Kinder Scout today, running the Kinder Dozen, a gruelling route up and down the flanks of the plateau. In winter conditions this is one serious undertaking, but well prepared can be a fine way of spending a day out on the high moors.

Some of the best days out walking have been in winter. Back in 2013 I was leading a group of walkers around the White Peak. It snowed heavily in the night, fifteen foot snow drifts were not unusual, so there was no use of the car. We elected to walk from the hotel down in to Dovedale and follow it up to Milldale. We were the first people in the dale. All was white and quiet, and curves. Not a single footprint existed, the land was formed by white billows of snow, obliterating walls and footpaths. It was like walking into Narnia. We all walked without talking, just enjoying the surreal experience.

The picture above was taken a few years ago on Hathersage Moor. When we set out it was just a normal winter day, no snow, but a heavy sky. By mid afternoon it had all changed and as we dropped down from Higger Tor the scene changed to a complete whiteout, unusual in the Peak District. We were heading for the enclosure but that had disappeared. Walking on a bearing we found the walls and then on to Mother Cap. At all times, literally just a few hundred meters away from a road, but we might as well have been in the middle of Bleaklow for all we could see.

Monty and Olly enjoyed it hugely and collected huge great balls of snow on their coats. A day never to forget. Getting out there is what makes the memories.

Hathersage Moor appears on Walk No.5 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

Derwent Village – Peak District

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George VI Lamp Box, Derwent Village, Peak District

George VI Lamp Box, Derwent Village, Peak District

This is a Post Office lamp box. I never knew it had a name until I started to research Derwent Village. It is called a lamp box because it was designed to be attached to lamp posts. You can also find them attached to telegraph poles as this one is in the village of Derwent in the Peak District National Park. Some were also placed into walls, in fact I used to have one in the bathroom of my old house.

Along this section of the walk you can find lots of historical heritage. The old school is just on the opposite side of the road, it was a catholic school and still has the Virgin Mary statute above the doorway. A little further along the road is the old gateway to Derwent Hall and going the other way is the gateway to the old vicarage.

If you look carefully along the roadside you can spot benchmarks placed there by Ordnance Survey surveyors in the 1852 and 1896 surveys.

The Post Office lamp box appears on Walk No.12 in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

The Buck Stone – Stanage Edge

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The Buck Stone below Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park

The Buck Stone below Stanage Edge

This is the Buck Stone below Stanage Edge in the Peak District National Park. It stands within its own walled enclosure, a little way down from the Long Causeway that rises up to the top of Stanage Edge from Dennis Knoll.

This large boulder was once used as a sort of transport cafe for the packhorse trains that used the Long Causeway to deliver goods to and from Sheffield. The holes in the boulder were sockets for a primitive timber shelter and around the boulder are runnels, grooves chiselled into the surface that deflected rain water away from the structure. The trains used to stop here, the walled enclosure useful for holding the ponies, whilst the Jagger, the man who guided the packhorse train, would take in refreshment and rest.

The boulder is often ignored now, being off the beaten track, but its past is of importance tot he trade routes that criss crossed the area. It has some nice bouldering problems, quite easy even for old people like me. There is a reward at the top, but I will leave it for you to find out for yourself.

The Buck Stone appears in Walk No. 6 in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

The Peak District Community

This last few days have seen me struggling with a heavy chest cold, one thats been lingering around for twelve weeks on and off, and that finally decided to show its full potential on Friday. I’d been out on a search the previous night and found it tough going getting up on to the tops, forcing my legs to keep going, sweating like a guy in a sauna even though the temperature was going minus. Anyway, the next day, the cold really took hold and that was it I wasn’t going anywhere soon.

I spent a lot of my time on Social Media, reading what people were up to. I decided this year to start afresh building my Facebook and Twitter feeds, to reflect the interests I have, the Peak District, walking, history, landscape. So I connect with people who do STUFF out in the Peak. I like the photos and the little reports posted on Facebook. People ask questions about this or that, answers get posted. Often debates start about the differing merits of a thing, a recent one on Parkin Clough saw almost 6000 people view the post and dozens of comments.

It feels nice. It feels like a community. We all have the same interests and importantly all view the Peak District with a sense of protection, that we are responsible, it’s us that must keep this place safe. Enjoying this amazing landscape comes at a price we all accept and the pay back is sheer enjoyment. Photos of peat sodden trainers, brew ups on frosty mornings, sunsets along gritstone edges. 

Social Media is changing the way we see and experience the outdoors, its no longer a private contemplation, it is a public celebration of a myriad adventures. 

Peak District Names

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Signpost above Chew Valley pointing the way in to the Wilderness

Signpost above Chew Valley pointing the way in to the Wilderness

Getting lost in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District is a very common thing. Most people manage to get back on the right track, or find other walkers to help them out, or maybe a road to walk back to civilisation even if it’s in the wrong direction. Some people have to be found and rescued by Mountain Rescue, generally at night after the person has wandered around for hours trying to extricate themselves from the predicament.

The Dark Peak does give the walker a helping hand. Signs that say, “walker beware”, not in those words but if you study your OS map the clues just jump out at you.

Above is the signpost to the Wilderness from Chew Valley, take care not to go over Lads Leap as you reach the Longdendale Valley. You would want to avoid The Swamp on Alport Moor as you made your way over to Lost Lad above the Upper Derwent Valley. Mind you if you agreed to meet someone there make sure its the right Lost Lad as there is another just off Cut Gate near Langsett. And definitely stay away from the Black Hole on Black Hole Moor, it does exist, I promise you. Hades Peat Pits are possibly the entrance to another world, one of everlasting pain.

Of course if it says, Shooting Cabins, then stay well clear, goodness knows what goes on there. Which reminds me, any area that is called Target, begs the question, target who?And talking of mad things, do not enrage the woman at Madwoman’s Stones on Kinder, there is an ancient altar site nearby, goodness knows what became of people, when the encountered the enraged lady.

 

 

Chatsworth Gritstone of The Peak District

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It’s nice to live so close to easily accessible geology. Gritstone is all around the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. On Loxley Common there are a great number of small quarries still visible where the Chatsworth seam of gritstone was so close to the surface men just had to walk in and take it. The 1792 Parliamentary enclosure of Loxley Common gave rise to quarrying and mining. The mines were for coal and gannister both closely associated with Chatsworth Grit. The quarrying was for stone for local use, the enclosure walls were made from the stone found right next to the line of build. Gritstone was also in demand for building and the area around Loxley Common is mainly of gritstone build, including High Bradfield Church, a wonderful example of the finish that could be achieved with the material.  A Mrs Sissons and a Mr Pearce both had ownership or licence of the quarries on Loxley Common in the latter of the 19th century, with Sheffield growing at a fast rate and the use of gannister in steel and glass production becoming widespread, it must have been a very profitable business.

Peak District Gritstone Graffiti

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The mixed “VM” appears on lots of Peak District gritstone from the 17th and 18th century. Of the possible explanations three seem to be the most probable. The first is that it is a Catholic sign for the Virgin Mary in the era of the Reformation, when persecution of Catholics was rife following the Glorious Revolution of 1689 when James the second a Catholic sympathiser was overthrown.

Practicing Catholics marked boulders and buildings with the ‘VM” inverted or otherwise to signify places where people gathered for worship. Which may fit with the markings on the gate post that sits in a dry stone wall above Marsden near Standedge Tunnel. Close by is an old farm with mullioned windows from the same period.

It could also be used to signify supporters of the protestant William and Mary who became joint monarchs in 1689 following the Glorious Revolution. The use of the intertwined WM was seen as a denouncement of the Catholic VM. As may well be the case with the markings at Stanedge Pole near Stanage Edge in the Peak District. Or perhaps these signified Catholic markings and were connected to the Catholic Chapel at Padley where the priests were caught, hung drawn and quartered and became Martyrs in the process.

Of course it could just plainly be some ones initials and they liked chiseling it on to gritstone.

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge

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The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park

The Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is full of gritstone rock formations that have being hewn and sanded over millions of years by the wind and rain. One of the most iconic is the Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge in the Upper Derwent Valley.

It sits, or more accurately, balances on the very edge of the long gritstone escarpment that runs up the eastern side of the valley and presides over a spectacular view of the moors of Howden and Bleaklow and the reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower.

It is easy to spot from below, but surprisingly easy to miss when walking along the newly laid path that traverses the edge. You pass the Wheelstones on the right and go up the slight rise of White Tor then a matter of 500m further on you come to the gritstone outcrop on the left that hides the Salt Cellar. A faint path leads through the heather directly to it, or you can walk a little further on until reaching a dry stone wall coming up from the valley floor on your left, which you then follow back to the Salt Cellar.

The Salt Cellar balances precariously on a thin post of gritstone, looking almost like a wine glass with its wide base, stem and bowl. I have never known anyone climb it, probably from fear of knocking it over.

On a recent visit I sat looking around at the rocks, when a little old couple appeared, the man holding a toy penguin, as you would. They were a little furtive in their actions so I feigned indifference whilst all the while keeping my eye on them. The man scrabbled around the rocks and reaching into a cleft pulled out a world war two ammunition box.They were Geocachers, if that’s the word. And the penguin was his offering.

We sat and talked awhile, they both telling me that they had been walking these hills for more than 60 years, and me a mere 40. Not a bad way to spend a life.