I took a walk along the Yorkshire border a few months back, well inside the Peak District National Park. I fancied a visit to one of the highest points in South Yorkshire, which sits just inside Yorkshire’s western boundary with Derbyshire.
I walked the route up from the Upper Derwent Valley, via Penistone Stile and the Cut Gate track then hung a right across the peat bogs, heading out for the trig pillar on Margery Hill.
The beauty about using Penistone Stile as the way up is the two Cloughs of Howden and Cranberry. Plenty of people will know Howden; it’s a lovely way out of the valley, passing through mixed woodland, stepping over the little stream as the Clough opens up on to the moor. Most will walk past the tiny little reservoir but few will notice the exquisite cast iron marker post placed there by the Derwent Valley Water Board in the early part of last century. This is industrial art, something not seen too often these days. Someone in an office took the time to ensure that even the smallest most insignificant detail had a design element and more to boot a craftsmanship in the making of it. I like to run my hand over its smooth silky surface, very cold in winter; the four letters DVWB are such a pleasure to run the fingers across. They have a radius, a form, each letter unique but following a set of rules, like real typeface.
Cross Penistone Stile, did they really have a market here in the 13th century? I have in my mind they did, I am sure I have read this somewhere. Interestingly the moor here lines up very well with a way across the moors from Sheffield to Cheshire, via Hoar Stones Road, the New Cross at Cartledge Bents and then right following the old boundary to Hoar Stones and down via Round Hill to Salterbrook. Something for another day.
Cranberry Clough is well hidden. People may see its mouth as they walk down the Abbey Brook track back into the valley, few ever venture into it. Approach from the top and it is a delight. A winding steep sided crack in the moor, the sides are showing signs of colonisation from Rowan and thankfully are almost free of bracken. Miniature crags pop out at each corner the brook twists and turns as it continues it’s routing of the peat down to bedrock and then the gritstone bedrock down to coal and limestone. Here and there are signs of shale’s that were laid down between the successive layers of silting gritstone. It’s a good place to stop for a brew, no one there, a babbling brook and lots to look at. Out of the wind too which tends to whip across from Ronksley Moor and can cut a person in two in winter. Looking down into Cranberry Clough is High Stones the highest point in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. Often a shriek can be heard as a Buzzard soars high above Upper Hey from its launch pad of High Stones. I love to watch them soar. In spring and early summer the bird can be mobbed by the Carrion Crow, out on patrol protecting their chicks.
Finally I reached Cut Gate and a short ascent up to the massive cairn to turn right and off to Margery Hill.
I don’t see it at first, in fact its positively flat up there, the hill is too. The groughs and peat bogs conspire to keep the high point hidden until I am almost upon it. Eventually I spot the Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar. It is actually called Margery, no ‘Hill’ attached, which is nice I think to myself. People mill around not quite sure whether they should be there as it is in a fenced off compound with stern notices about archaeology and monuments etc. The hill is a small boulder field, not quite the highest point in South Yorkshire, that is a little way off going directly south to the aptly named High Stones. But from here the view is spectacular. Across the Dark Peak, over into to Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire. Turn east and the view is out to Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, power stations dotting the skyline. Then look north, across the vast county of Yorkshire, the ends cannot be seen. On a clear day they say you can see York Minster, though I never have. Emley Moor transmitter is clear to see, as is Holme Moss a little west. The flat lands of West Yorkshire going up into the Dales and the Vale of York lay out in front, a vast plain of chequered greens interspersed with dark circles of cities and towns and muddy dots of villages and hamlet.
It can get ruddy cold in winter as the wind drives in from the west. It’s height and exposure means it will get a dusting of snow and keep it well before anywhere else. I hunker down behind one of the boulders, wondering if this is part of the Bronze Age burial cairn. Am I transgressing I think and move around until I find a spot I think is safe and out of the wind. The people have all moved off, dogs and children going on ahead as the oldies dawdle at the back.
I have the place to myself and I sit looking out to the east and the north and think about the people who used this place as a place of ceremonial burial. It’s a long, long way from anywhere today a few thousand years ago maybe not. I like this about the Dark Peak, the fact that I am not the first, that people were here thousands of years ago. What must it have been like then? What kind of lives did they live. How did they live? I imagine small tightly knit communities working together to survive. Maybe they prospered, certainly a burial chamber would suggest a life more than an existence, thoughts beyond food and warmth.
I sip hot tea, eat cheese sandwiches and ruminate on such matters. Somewhere there is a connection to today. Maybe, when they buried whoever it was, the people gathered here and had a presence. Then, after hour’s maybe, they left, solemnly or with happiness, children and dogs running ahead the old dawdling at the back.