Scout trainee search and rescue dog

Scout
Scout. Trainee Search and Rescue Dog. Photo Mark Harrison

Its been a bit of a week for Scout my trainee Mountain Rescue search and rescue Border Collie. On a training exercise Monday night, Scout had to find a hidden person, Paul Richmond, a friend who regularly gives up his Monday nights to act as a body for Scout. He set off searching woodland as he normally does, trying to detect any scent from a human in the air and unknown to me, picked up the scent of two people lost in the woods, without a torch and unable to get out to safety.

Scout still has a year of training to do, but he performed, exactly as he should, returning to tell me he had found some people then making multiple runs between them and me guiding me to their location. They were a little scared and desperate to get out of the woods. Scout an I escorted them out and then Scout continued on with his search to find Paul, eventually locating him and bringing me to his position.

It’s a big moment in his development, he did what he had trained to do, without thought or hesitation. I am so proud of him.

Grindle Barn – Peak District

 

One of my favourite short walks in the Derwent Valley takes me from Derwent Dam, through what remains of Derwent village and up via an old packhorse route onto Derwent Edge. It is not a taxing walk, the ascent up on to the edge a mere 160m along a well marked and in places paved path. What it has that draws me back to it on a regular basis is quietness and contemplation.

Once the crowds have been left behind at the dam I can amble south down the valley along a single-track road, passing along the way a bright red phone box by the gateway to the remaining lodge to Derwent Hall, a terrace of workers cottages and an empty farmhouse. Soon on the left is the old school, no longer in use, the image of the Virgin Mary and Christ above the doorway, telling me that I am on the Roman Catholic side of the valley and therefore on Norfolk land. It is a lovely building; the porch has a beautifully tiled floor with plain black and red Minton tiles and stone benches on either side of the entrance each below a small leaded window. In the garden lays a carved lintel from the Derwent Hall, showing the date and the coat of arms of Henry Balguy a previous owner.

The road continues on through the site of the village, crossing over Millbrook where it becomes a track and soon the way south is barred by a gate. To its left is the bridleway that will take me up on to Derwent Edge, part of the old 14th century packhorse route from Derwent Village in to Sheffield. It begins its ascent by working a ribbon of stone through a meadow, the stone from the old cotton mills of Lancashire, the meadow filled in spring, with Buttercup, Scabious, Saxifrage, Mallow, Cowslip and Cranesbill and more. It is a wonderful and sadly rare sight these days to see a meadow in full bloom. The colours of white, reds, yellows and blues dotted across a huge expanse serves as a painful reminder of what we have lost in the countryside.

The path ends at a collection of stone barns, known as Grindle Barn. The barns are made of coursed and roughly dressed stone with stone roofs. They sit well in the landscape, clustered together on either side of the packhorse trail, the trail having to form an “S” bend as it weaves between the buildings. The first barn is dated 1647 above a doorway and has the initials of “LG”, probably the person who built it structure. A second barn opposite remains closed, but the third around the corner has been converted in to a shelter for walkers and bikers and perhaps horse riders. This is the barn now known as Grindle Barn.

Grindle Barn is one of my main objectives of this walk for it affords a comfortable stopping off point, particularly in inclement weather. There is the best bench in the whole of the Peak District to sit on, placed in such a way as to afford a spectacular view in any season, down the valley to Win Hill on the opposite side. The floor sits high so is not prone to flooding or gathering dirt. The walls are adorned with small tiles, each with a drawing or poem from local children in the villages down the valley. Above the entrance, just a large opening is a carved wooden board, depicting packhorse trains working their way down the trail.

I love to sit here and simply watch. Sometimes people are present or passing by and it is nice to chat about the day, the view, different walks, what flowers are present in the meadow. But it is solitude and watching that I seek most. To find the barn empty is a delight. I can take a seat, and just look. It does not matter about the weather or season. Looking out in winter and studying the old field boundaries, or the long forgotten ways up to the high grounds that snow has now brought back to life, the way it does by laying in the hidden dips long after the rest has melted. In summer the area around the barn is filled with swallows swooping up and down the trail, flashing across the barn opening. Occasionally a mouse will appear, out of the wall, once a stoat suddenly put in an appearance, disappearing as soon as it heard people approaching. I have never seen a horse, much is the pity, and it would be nice to see a small team of horses working their way down into the valley.

A great family day in the Peak District

 

 

This is probably one of the best book reviews I have received, if not the best. Messages like this make everything worthwhile, especially when the young have such a fantastic time out in the Peak District.

Daniel Simpson sent me this message via facebook of a day out with his family. They chose to do PB Walk 5 Grindleford to Higger Tor. If you want to introduce children to walking and have a good time, then this is definitely the walk to do. Thank you to Daniel and his family.

Hi Paul. Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed our walk today. By far and away the highlight was just how much my son’s enjoyed themselves they wee enjoying it every bit as much as me if not more so. So often I feel like I’m cajoling them in to something they’re not massively keen on but the past two Sundays have been an absolute blast. I didn’t really use the guidebook whilst walking last week but we had loads of time today so I let my 10 year old lead the way following the instructions, when we were at the rear of the chapel and he realised where he was stood was the same as the one in your book it blew his mind…it was lovely honestly, he was almost starstruck and later on when we walked past the gritstones he recognised those as well and demanded the book to confirm what he was seeing was the one from the book. I managed to snap him posting and getting good really giddy, it looks contrived but he was going ‘look !…that’s those from the book’. Thanks again, really enjoyed it today.

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Grainfoot Farm – World War Two

Above is Grainfoot Farm in the Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park, as it can be seen today, alongside a watercolour by Kenneth Rowntree from 1940, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the new Ladybower Reservoir. The two Ordnance Survey maps, one from 2018 and one from 1852 show the position of the map in the landscape and perhaps more importantly today the position of the field boundaries and other landscape items.

The farm was, at one time in the possession of the Eyre family, well-known landowners in Derbyshire, still in existence today. It passed through various other hands, by marriage and purchase, before finding itself in the way of the new reservoir and scheduled for demolition.

The farm was painted by Kenneth Rowntree of the War artists Advisory Committee, not because of its imminent demise but as part of a project to record the changing face of Britain. This started in 1939, overseen by Kenneth Clark, father of the Tory MP Alan Clark, and was devised to record important buildings and artefacts of Britain incase they were destroyed by the second world war. It also coincided with a growing realisation that the landscape was changing at a rapid rate, due to urban development, industrial growth, changing agricultural practices and a shift in the social cohesion of the country after world war one. It followed similar projects carried out in America under the Federal Arts Project. It was felt that by celebrating the unique British landscape in art, morale would be boosted during the darkest hours of the war.

V&A Museum Collection

Kenneth Rowntree

War Artists Advisory Committee

Scouts progress in Search and Rescue

Scout training on Eyam Moor, Peak District National Park
Scout training on Eyam Moor, Peak District National Park

Training a SARDA Search and Rescue dog takes time and patience, mainly on the part of the dog, because it is the handler who is most/always at fault. Scout always comes up with the goods, in the way of a find. He worked hard on Eyam Moor this weekend in hard conditions. The bracken is still dense and hard to get through, combined with deep snow, it makes it extra tiring for Scout to get around. He battled his way around to find three hidden bodies, with little scent moving about to guide him, so he really had to work for it. He started to get tired after find number two, I could tell he was needing a break.

Tiredness is something I have been working on with him. Taking him on long moorland walks, he probably runs about three times the distance I walk. It’s good to get him working over rough ground, boulder fields are particularly good, if you have ever tried negotiating a boulder field in summer, think about it under thick slippery snow where you cannot see the gaps.

The other major work is building up the return sequence. This is where he finds a body and returns back to get me then lead me back to the body. It is an important tool, especially when covering large areas effectively. He soon got the hang of the sequence, and then worked out that if he starts returning to me and he can see that I can see him, he doesn’t need to come all the way back, but can just bark his command. Pretty sneaky and clever of him to work that one out. I need him back to me, because we may be out of sight from each other and I need to know for definite that he has a find.

Training is frustrating. Sleepless nights, going over and over what went wrong on the last session and how to correct it. Worrying over whether he will make the grade. But, when it goes right, when he works his socks off and I don’t screw it up, it is the best feeling in the world.

 

 

Derwent Village – Peak District

Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District
Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District

Here is a little bit of social industrial history.

I found this brick sat in the remains of the flooded Peak District village of Derwent, it was sat in the mud on what would have been the main street. The brick was made at Skyers Spring brickworks in Hoyland, Barnsley around 1880 and found its way to the village for some use or other. It is an engineering brick, not used for adornment, so probably formed some infrastructure of the village.

It probably travelled over via Penistone, either across Strines along the Mortimer Road and then hang a right at Moscar Cross, up the bridleway to Whinstone Lee Tor and then down via Grindle Barn to the village. Or alternatively via Cut Gate from Langsett over the top and into the Upper Derwent Valley. The brickworks were run by James Smith and had connections to the Earls Fitzwilliam, who still have extensive shooting moors along the Strines Road. There was extensive trade between the two areas which accounts for the routes across the tops. It’s nice to see artifacts around that were from local sources.

 

National Parks a dying landscape

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It is an odd time in the nations National Parks at the moment, they seem to be confused as to their purpose, their reason for being. It comes at a time when funding is being cut from central government and the political and economic mood of certain ascendant sections of society are for profit.

The latest furore to hit social media is the Thirlmere Zip Wire. People resigning in protest from organisations, business manoeuvring to get their way in the dash for cash. In the Peak District it’s now about false tartan, in plush cafes with cuddly toys on the shelves for the grandparents to buy before they set off back to Sheffield or Derby. Meanwhile the BMC take people out on to the moors at night to educate and illuminate, raise funds for path repairs and generally act as guardians of the park.

Commentators speak about going back to the original reason for the national parks and often quote Sandford in support of one stance or another. One thing that is familiar with the Thirlmere Zip Wire argument is that lots of people speaking against it were never actually born there, but moved there because of its beauty and their own love of the place, they often quote Wordsworth in their argument to keep the Lake District in aspic.

One thing that is striking about the White Peak is how empty the villages are and how many cottages, its always the nice ones, have their doors and windows painted in those pretend national trust colours so favoured by the middle classes. The gentrification of the White Peak is gathering apace, cottages inhabited by retiring oldies who pop off every friday in their Disco’s to shop at Waitrose and come back in their 4×4 laden down with frozen goods to stock up their Wickes kitchens with the granite worktops. Apart from the chintzy names that now adorn the cottages another sign to be seen is the country holiday let. A small plastic holder with leaflets or tiny cards giving the contact details of the owner should you want to book. It usually accompanies an old milk churn, or scythe, something that can add “authenticity” to the “look”. Walk through any village now and you can count on more than one hand the number of such dwellings.

These ghost villages once provided housing and work for young people, who had families and kept things alive. Now the villages are bereft of life, part of a landscape that is now a set in a giant government funded theme park. The locals forced out by low wages and high house prices and no employment. The national park seems to be a landscape that is dying, killed by the very people who profess to be its protectors. It’s now just a photo opportunity and a means to make money.

Perhaps we need to go back to Wordsworth, often quoted in any Lake District battle to preserve what people want as the status quo.

When responding to the proposal to build a railway to Windermere to bring tourists to view the wonderful landscape and bring in much needed revenue for the local economy he said, and I paraphrase, that members of the working class would be unable to appreciate the beauty and character that the area had to offer and concludes that bringing so many travellers in would destroy the landscape.

He may just have been correct.