Just off a vehicle track in the DerwentValley is a rotting finger post pointing up a grassy incline that disappears into some trees, if you’re not paying attention as you pass it by then you wouldn’t even notice it, few do, not even National Parks maintenance teams, hence the rotting finger post.
If you do stop and wonder where the finger points to and decide to follow its direction you are in for a real treat for this is one of the valleys hidden secrets, rarely visited by walkers and of course almost never visited by the thousands that park at the visitor centre about a mile away. So you have the place to yourself, go and enjoy it!
Follow the incline upwards, working your way along a tree lined, and grass covered farm track. Coming to an old abandoned farm that once formed just one of the many that tended these hillsides through beautiful spring and summer and into horrendous winters when the valley could be cut off from civilisation for months, the track veers left and narrows into an ascending path, enclosed by dry stone walls erected hundreds of years ago. At the top you come to a farm, which seems odd as there is no way you could get farm machinery up the path, but the farms access lays north of the buildings and unseen by the walker. As you pass the farm stop awhile and take in the first of the expansive views of the Derwent Edge. South lays Whinstone Lee Tor, a nob of a hill that sits as a gatekeeper, with Crookhill on the other side of the UpperDerwentValley. The Tor offers fine views across the valley, with Bleaklow, Kinder and Mam Tor forming the western skyline. Below you is a solitary barn set in lush green pasture, this is a good place to stand and stare a little, watching the buzzards soaring above the gritstone edge, whilst below, stoats work their way through the stone wall labyrinth. If you look closely at the fields in front you can detect boundaries and footpaths long gone now save for a depression in the ground and the odd marker tree showing the line. Centuries old these remnants remind us that man leaves his footprints where ever he goes.
Take the shooting track that heads towards the skyline and works its way round the hillside in front of you, descending in to a seemingly lost valley complete with stream and cloughs. The stream has to be crossed without the aid of a bridge and is no real obstacle. It is a quiet place, rarely frequented and has the beauty of the rugged Peak District moorland, without the windswept desolation or indeed the destruction caused by man. Having crossed the stream take the feint path left that works its way up through the bracken, in summer this is hard to see and you have to look for a break line in the thick bracken to ascertain its course. It is a narrow path until near the top where it meets a boulder field and then opens up making the final few meters easy.
You pop out and that is the most descriptive word I think fits the situation, on to a flat seemingly featureless moorland sitting directly below a Gritstone edge, to the right on the horizon is the Salt Cellar a prominent gritstone feature, useful for navigation. This is where the fun starts for the way forward lies across the bog soaked moor with the attack point being a rectangular walled enclosure marked on the map that hardly exists on the ground. Take a bearing from where the path brings you on to the flat part of the moorland, this is a highly subjective starting point and good map work is required which means it is the perfect practice area for navigation exercises. Aim for the centre of one side of the rectangle and calculate the paces needed to reach it, and then start to walk on the bearing. This is where the funny walk starts as you try to keep on the bearing, keep an even pace for counting and avoid bog, tussock and peat holes. Soon you will have reached you number of paces meaning you should have reached the wall, but none is to be found. You stand on a flat ish plain with no wall in sight, looking around you can detect nothing. Spotting a small rise in the land near to you, you decide to use this as a vantage point to locate the now offending enclosure. None can be seen and it gradually dawns on you that the small rise you are stood on is in a very straight line and seems to extend to right angled corners at each end. As your eyes follow the rise you realise, a little sheepishly that you are in fact stood on top of the enclosure wall which over the years as now being reclaimed by nature and forms part of the moorland land mass. There is a mixture of joy at having found it and depression at realising the navigation skills still need some work.
From here the way is easy. Straight up to the edge and on to the top, you can choose to do a little light scrambling to ascend the edge which adds a frisson of adventure. Once there it is a matter of following your nose, left or right and just enjoying the views. On a clear blue sky day the views are extensive and magnificent, stretching in to several counties at all points of the compass.
A beautiful little walk best kept a secret.