St Paul’s Church – Sheffield

Sometimes I like walking through the streets of Sheffield. Urban walking has a different feel to the moors, a perspective that has more of the human than the landscape.

Walking along streets gives a view the human desire to be unique, to make a home, a community with all its hopes and dreams. I like the houses that are different, it says to me someone had the courage to stand out.

I often choose a walk that has a specific building in mind. A few weeks back I wanted to look at a church built in the late 50’s and designed by Basil Spence, one of two he designed in Sheffield at the same time he was thinking about Coventry Cathedral. The Sheffield churches are both listed buildings and reflect the confident attitude the country had at that time.

St Paul’s Church, Parson Cross, sits on a major road running through a sprawling housing estate of mixed private and council housing. The area in parts has seen better times and has enclaves of anti social behaviour, mixed with neat semis with nice front gardens.

The building sits, sentinel like, back from the road, surrounded by a low brick wall and grass. Made of brick, glass and steel the large windows allow you to look through the entire church, one end to the other. It is almost scandi in its simplicity, the interior items designed and made to fit in with the building, so at first glance it looks a little empty. Then eyes set on a font, modern, simple, elegant. The church organ set on a mezzanine above a wood lath screen that shields the congregation from the outside world and yet lets light flood in. Pews set in rows, a simple square design of wood and steel. The lectern, wood and square tubular steel.

It mixes modern with the ancient. It must have seemed like a new world was dawning when the first congregation entered for worship. The building now puts forward a slight utilitarian face, a hoover stored against a glass window, posters advertising Africa Aid and the next jumble sale, bits of the design altered to accommodate technology never imagined.

But it is, in my eyes a beautiful building, simple, elegant, pleasing.

Something new in Dark Peak Walks

New Packaging for Dark Peak Walks books
The new packaging for the Dark Peak Walks book.

I fully believe in adding value wherever I can. As a writer, I make my living by showing people something they may not be aware of, some interesting facts, beautiful walks, wonderful photos, being helpful wherever I can and generally spreading the message that outdoor walking is great, especially in the Peak District.

I earn money by selling my book and writing articles. I like to add value by being a little different. Anyone can sell something, but making that purchase special I think takes a different mindset. Lots of people have bought the book through our shop and that makes me feel a little emotional if I am honest. Being told that someone trusts the work is quite a powerful thing.

I sell my book Dark Peak Walks from our online shop at Wapentac. I know you can get it for less elsewhere. When you buy from me, you get more and hopefully that added value makes a difference. Whether it is the special gift wrapping the book now comes in, or collection on a rainy day in the Dark Peak, or some advice about a walk on Facebook or Twitter, or the general banter about walking in the Dark Peak, guidance on who best to go to for training, I think it all makes it unique. In the coming months I will add more to a purchase, to make it even more special. I hope this adds up to more than the sum of its parts, and that makes the pound or two extra worthwhile. If it does, thank you, really I mean that, because what you do helps me continue, and I very much want to do that, because I just love being involved in this community of walkers.

Happy walking.

Dark Peak Walks – Book Launch

Dark Peak Book Launch
Typical Dark Peak weather for the Dark Peak Walks book launch

Lots of people who ordered my book, Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press, from my own blog had suggested a book launch and that they would like to come and collect their book in person.

There was only one place to have the launch of a book about walking in the gritstone and peat area of the Peak District National Park known as the Dark Peak, that was on the gritstone and peat moorland that make up this unique landscape. I chose Whinstone Lee Tor as the venue, easy access, good views, and on both a public footpath and a bridleway, so people could bring their dogs and bikes too.

It was quite humbling to see 25 people brave constant rain,  quite typical Dark Peak weather, to celebrate the book launch. Of course you cannot have a launch without cake, Alison from Wapentac baked flapjack and a very nice Yorkshire Parkin. Plus we had a wonderful surprise where a fan of the book Col Wood of Everyday Adventures had baked a special cake with a picture of the book on it.

As we ate cake, drank coffee, talked and got wet I looked around the gathering. We ranged in age from a few months to the late sixties.

Some had walked, some had run. Some people were new to the area, some were old friends of the Dark Peak. A few local Mountain Rescue teams were represented, Moors For The Future were there, as was the Peak District National Park.

People had travelled from all the major cities and towns that surround the Peak District and that make it one of the most visited national parks in the world. Discoveries were made too. Debra from Moors For The Future had her first sip of Hot Vimto, an old Dark Peak favourite, which proved valuable of that cold rainy day.

I like to make a nice presentation of the book when people purchase it from me, all that wrapping had me singing My Favourite Things from the Sound of Music. Some lucky people who had bought early also had a gift of a Wapenmap too, so as I handed the parcels out I hummed the little tune, some people even sang along with me. Then it was time to cut the cake and eat.

It was a magical day. Everyone said how much they had enjoyed it, lots of laughter and talking about days out in the Dark Peak. It has such a great community of people, who love and care for the area deeply. It is wonderful to play a small part in it.

The most marvellous thing though is how young people are discovering the Dark Peak, exploring its delights and having great adventures. It means the story keeps on developing and that’s what should happen to a landscape.

Young adventurers are discovering the Dark peak
Great to see young explorers like Neve out having adventures in the Dark Peak. Photo by Chris Blake, with permission.

You can purchase a signed copy of the book Dark Peak Walks here

Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley


Dark Peak Walks Book

Dark Peak Walks Books waiting for dispatch
Dark Peak Walks Books waiting for dispatch

My book Dark Peak Walks arrived yesterday from Cicerone. People have ordered signed copies from our Wapentac  shop and we will need to replenish our stock soon.

The Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is a unique place in Britain to my mind. No where else I have found the combination of gritstone edges, vast peat moors and the plateaus of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. It has an enormous amount of history, geological interest and some of the most spectacular wildlife sights that can be found anywhere. For a sense of wilderness and isolation that brings a raw emotion to me when I experience it the Dark Peak cannot be beaten. It is a land full of comedy too, ask anyone who has sat and watched a friend desperately trying to extricate themselves from a peat bog, all sense of dignity gone, language become basic, anger rising. It is the best fun a person can have, watching this, its free too. A friend showed me a photo of an Adder, taken last week on Big Moor, it was just off the path and taking in the first hint of summer in the warm sun, a sight never to be forgotten.

It was Mark Richards who suggested my name to Cicerone for the guide-book to replace Marks iconic High Peak Walks. One day I dragged Mark through the bracken on Bamford Moor, hoping he wouldn’t notice that I had got lost.  Afterwards he made the suggestion perhaps I would like to write the book. It was a dream come true for me and I am very grateful to Mark and Jonathan Williams at Cicerone for their faith in me. The book took two years to research and write, many of the walks being covered several times, so that I could get the absolute best out of the landscape. Gone are my days of 30 mile walks in a day across peat bog. In the book I have attempted to produce walks that have interest and views, a little navigation here and there, making good use of the landscape, but most of all days that are memorable, the ones you want not to end and always to repeat.

In one of those odd turns of fate a new Facebook page Dark Peak UK was started by Paul Bridge and this has quickly become a community of like-minded people who all love the Dark Peak area and are not afraid to get out there and have some fantastic adventures. I realised that there was still a growing passion for the outdoors, that people were out there having great days out and sharing it with other like minded souls. The world has changed, and in this instance it is for the better.

We live in an age of instant notification, I was born in the days of press button A or B, and some of you will know what that means. But, it is the written word that still remains important and sits at the centre of all we do. It is the words that take us to places we have yet to see.

World Book Day

World Book Day – some of this years reads.

I love books. There is something so exciting about picking up a new book and not knowing where it will take you. I re-read my books a lot. Sure, most are about mountains and hills and places, but inside there are people ad animals and the landscape, which means I get to visit places again and again and see them anew. There is always something I have not seen before.

This years reads have so far been

An Infinity of Small Hours – Nancy Klein Maguire – about the austere Parkminster

Common Ground – Rob Cowen – everyday life transformed

Dark Peak Walks – Paul Besley – Walks in the Dark Peak Peak District

The Rucksack Club Journal 1959 – irreverent, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable

The High Places – A. Harry Griffin – no one better on the Lake District

Travels with a Flea – Jim Perrin – opens the door to new adventures

The Journal of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club 1959 – amazing tales from everyday people

A Land – Jacquetta Hawkes – Beautiful nature writing about Britain

The Hills of Wales – Jim Perrin – as always Jim has to be read again and again

Mountain Rescue Funding

Woodhead Mountain Rescue on Black Hill January 2016
Team members of Woodhead Mountain Rescue manning the Trigger Race checkpoint at Black Hill January 2016

Looking back at the photos from 2016 I came across this one taken of fellow team mates on a very cold January Sunday at 08:00 hours at Soldiers Lump triangulation pillar on Black Hill.

The reason why we had got up at an ungodly hour on a cold, frozen, snowy day was to walk in the dark, across the moor from Holme Moss Transmitter Station and set up a transmitter station and checkpoint at Black Hill for the fell runners taking part in that years Trigger Race from Marsden to Edale.

Woodhead Mountain Rescue team members man all the checkpoints and provide safety cover, especially needed on days like this picture shows. The fell running community are great supporters of Mountain Rescue and this is one way that they raise funds for the team; donations that are badly needed.

Winter is still holding back in England, but it will arrive and with winter comes accidents and people in distress. Already this year Woodhead Mountain Rescue have rescued a lost walker in harsh winter conditions and rescued a badly injured climber in the middle of the worst storm this year.

All this takes money, not to mention the time members of any Mountain Rescue team give voluntarily, leaving jobs and family to go and help total strangers. Money is critical in a voluntary service. It buys fuel for vehicles, provides funds for premises and training, and buys specialist kit for team members. Team members also buy their own kit too and the fuel to get to a callout. Each year a team knows it has to raise enough money to remain operational, if they aren’t there, who else is going to go out and find a lost walker, rescue the injured climber. That amount can be anything from £25000 upwards. It’s a lot.

Raising the money takes various forms. Team supporters, without whose help teams would not be able to function, hold collection days at local venues, sell merchandise, provide hot food and drinks at fell race events. Pubs and shops put a collection tin on the counters for locals to drop the pennies into. Local children raise funds through village fairs, school events. Local and national businesses provide donations to buy equipment.

All donations are welcome. One of the most treasured is from the people teams are asked to go and help. Mostly individuals who send a cheque and a thank you note; those are really nice to read. Sometimes, as in a recent Mountain Bike accident, friends of the injured party do something special, like cycling the Pennine Bridleway to raise funds for the team, a really wonderful way to give something back and fantastic to receive. One person sells a special beer and has raised thousands another sells neck buffs with team logos on. Team members play Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, Guy Fawkes in their communities at traditional events and helps raise funds. People give through websites such as Just Giving  which increases the amount donated with Gift Aid. Donations range from the thousands to a 50p coin pocket money from a child. It all helps.

To those who give, it makes a huge difference to someones life, literally. Without your donations Mountain Rescue could not do what it does. What you do is vitally important.

So thank you.

Cave House

I went to have a look for Cave House on Loxley Common today. The Ordnance Survey map of 1852 shows the dwelling sitting on the edge of a rectangular enclosure so it should not be too much of a problem in identifying it.

I found the remains quite quickly sitting just below the Loxley Edge right where the map said it would be. There isn’t much left of it. Because of copyright I have no image to show, but this is what it looked like here . It was demolished in the 1920’s using explosives, probably from the quarry workings and possibly because there is a quarry right behind it and the approach to the house up a nice ramp would have made easy access for the stone to be removed.

The house was built into the rock and consumed a cave as part of the dwelling. Its construction was known as a fire house, all of it being built of stone including floors, another was the old Robin Hood pub in Little Matlock across the valley, built by the same person. Mrs Revill who lived in the house with her husband was found murdered in the house at the turn of 1812, her husband went quietly mad and finally hung himself at the house before the next year was out.

A few decades before, one Frank Fearn, lured a watchmaker to the Old Horns Inn at High Bradfield and killed him on his way back to Sheffield. He was caught and tried and hung, then gibbeted on Loxley Common for seventeen years until his bones fell out of the iron girdle on Christmas Day. A few years later an accomplice of Spencer Broughton the highwayman escaped capture and hid out on Loxley Common. When found he committed suicide there instead of being captured and hung.

Who would have thought one small area could see so much crime and punishment.

Autumn on the Common

Nature put on a beautiful display this morning on the common. The sky had a broad undulating wave of cloud stretching from west to east. The cloud an Altocumulus undulatus, isn’t that a lovely name, hung like a roll of cotton wool just pulled from its packet. This type of cloud is formed when the air above and below move at different speeds, producing a shearing effect and giving us these soft billows of white fluffiness.

Autumn is starting to settle in now. The air is much cooler in a morning and the sun stays lower throughout the day. One of the nice aspects of autumn is the unexpected warmth the sun can give once out of the shadows. Sitting against some gritstone with the sun on my face and looking out across the Common is a pleasure I look forward to.

The Common has not started to produce its distinctive autumnal smell, decaying leaves, fungi, damp peat and earth, but it will not be long. The low sun gives a nice display of shadow lighting on the woodland floor. Streaks and dapples of sunlight dancing on the oak and beech leaves that carpet the woodland from last winter.

The Common

Puffball on the floor of oak woodland

Nearby we have a common, one hundred acres of enclosed land split in two by a gritstone escarpment that runs east to west along its entire length.

In the seventeenth century oak and birch were planted to the south of the gritstone to supply the growing local population with timber for building and fuel. Today you can still see pollarded trees that produced long straight poles, perfect for the hand tool industry that had grown up in Sheffield.

North of the gritstone edge the land was enclosed for grazing and now stands as heath land with heather and silver birch. A large open space in the middle enclosed by stone walls was used for grazing of herds sheep, protected from the wind which can whip across the common by the oak woodland that surrounds it.

The common is full of flora and fauna. Greenfinch, woodpecker and warblers can all be seen amongst the seventy plus birds that frequent the area. It is rich in food for these and small mammals. In summer the common has huge quantities of bilberry amongst the heather and come autumn fungi abounds both on the heath and in the woodlands.

I find myself spending more time there, becoming more inquisitive about its history and the hand that man has played in shaping the land. One hundred acres with so much diversity and history, it is the perfect study of Dark Peak development.