Scouts first month


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Scout has been with us one month now and has settled in really well. The other two dogs Monty and Olly are gradually accepting him although Olly still remains to be convinced Scout is a keeper. But this does not seem to phase Scout in the slightest. He has a firm personality and a strong character, he refuses to be bullied by the other dogs and is gradually ingratiating himself with them. He is happy to be part of their gang or spend time on his own.

Scout has gradually increased his levels of activity and interest. At first he showed no real interest in toys but now is gathering quite a collection. Still the best toys seem to be toilet rolls and egg boxes, oh and soil, he likes soil. He sleeps through now and is on the way to being house trained, but more work needed on that.

This coming month is a big one for Scout. Tomorrow he will be able to go out for the first time and walk around. So far he has had car journeys and visits to shops and offices and people, all good for him, sights and sounds, smells and touch. He has coped really well and shown no signs of distress. Tomorrow morning he goes for his first walk around the common. Lots of trees and grass and smells. Lots of other dogs too so he can start to join a wider community. Only 15 minutes of walking for him, twice a day to make sure he does not strain his limbs.

Next weekend he attends his first SARDA training camp up in the North Yorkshire Moors. He will attend puppy class, learing obedience, getting ready for his first tests. Walking to heel, staying put and the biggy passing a stock test where he has to ignore a flock of sheep.

Later in the month he takes on his first fund-raising work for his team Woodhead Mountain Rescue. He will be at Sheffield Train Station collecting for team funds. Then a few weeks later he is at Scholes Gala helping raise more funds. A busy time.

Be Responsible in the Peak District


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Lambing Time. Dogs on the lead.

Lambing Time. Dogs on the lead.

I was out yesterday filling in the last few access gaps in the Peak District National Park with the lambing signs. Lambing and nesting is such a special time of year and always heralds better weather for me. Walking with a dog in the National Park carries with it a responsibility that the dogs are under control. Thankfully most are and thats thanks to responsible owners.

I love walking with my dog Scout. Scout is normally off the lead, one because it is all part of his training as a search and rescue dog with me in Mountain Rescue, two because Scout has passed not one but three rigorous stock tests, that closely examines his ability to be in extremely close proximity to sheep and not pay them any attention, nor want to, its important on a hill search he stays focussed.

Scout fully focussed on me some 200m away.

Scout fully focussed on me some 200m away. January 2017

But between 1st March and 31st July I keep Scout close by and do not let him range, if sheep are in the vicinity Scout stays to heel on the lead. If there are no sheep and we are in an area where there maybe ground nesting birds Scout stays to heel on the lead. If we are on access land or common land Scout stays to heel on the lead. Scout does walk off the lead if we are in an area where there are no sheep or ground nesting birds, and it is not access land, but again he is not allowed to range and when commanded is immediately close to heel.

Only when Scout is training in these months is he off the lead and away from me, but he is still under my control and will recall if commanded. He will ignore livestock and wildlife. He does not train where nesting and lambing takes place and we have the permission of the land owner or farmer.

On my way back from putting up the last sign, I could hear a man across the valley shouting his dog and I could see sheep running up the hillside trying to get away from the animal. This went on for some 20 minutes, he was too far away for me to do anything, sadly I could only stand and hope the sheep got free of the animal and that no lambs were affected. That was not the dogs fault, it was entirely the owners. Basically your dog should be under control at all times.

If you are unsure about where and what you can do with your dog look here Responsible Dog Walking

Birchen Clough – Peak District


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Me by the memorial cross above Ashway Gap

I hesitate to say this, but the weather could be kind this weekend and not rain, well not too much. So if you fancy a short wander out with some incredible views and a frisson of the sublime, you couldn’t do any better than Dove Stone reservoir in the Peak District near Saddleworth.

A nice quick way up is via Ashway Gap, then heading north near the top to arrive at the memorial cross to James Platt, he used to live at times, at a gothic mansion just where you turn of the reservoir track to ascend to the top. He was unlucky with guns, having being shot by one of his mates the Mayor whilst out walking with guns, America take note, guns are bad for you. More interestingly, to me anyway, James Platt came from the Mather and Platt local business which made special machinery for industry in Victorian times and still does today. But that didn’t save him from getting it in the neck from his mate. It was all just an accident.

Follow the crags round heading generally north then east until you drop in to Birchen Clough. This is a joy, especially after rain. It is to my mind the best Clough for waterfalls in the whole of the Peak District. To add to the beauty there are two sections where a frisson of excitement and death or at the very least serious injury may occur if you are not careful. A footpath that runs high on the eastern  hillside above the stream offers relief from the excitement and safer passage for the sensitive. Take your time and enjoy the place. Its water thunder in your ears, Dippers dart here and there and invariably you have the place to yourself. If you are unsure about this bit of the walk you can always retrace your steps. Personal safety is the better part of valour.

If the Birchen Clough stream is in flood and seems difficult to cross at the top , it will be worse further down, especially at the weir so you may want to retrace your steps.

At the bottom cross the stream, gain the reservoir track and follow it down. Note on your right stones from the gothic mansion making a wall.

At the car park there is usually a stall selling wonderful food and drink. A good day out.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.30 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.

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

Winter on Win Hill -Peak District


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Winter on Crookhill. Peak District National Park

Winter on Crookhill. Peak District National Park

I managed to catch a little bit of winter yesterday in my monthly ascent of Parkin Clough to Win Hill in the Peak District. It was one of those days when the weather makes all the difference to a photo.

I shot this photo as Scout and I were descending from the trig pillar. Scout was frolicking in the snow near to the boundary wall and I just happened to look across at Crookhill to see light moving across the landscape and illuminating Crookhill and then onto Crookhill Grange and the barn. It was a wonderful sight, one of those moments that I hope for in winter, something of nature and the elements touching me.

Looking at the photo now, I see the hand of man going back thousands of years. Nestled to the east of Crookhill, almost in line with the centre of the saddle is a neolithic stone circle or curbed cairn. Inside the circle sit to mounds which could have been separate cairns. The circle sits amid other ceremonial features indicating this place was of some importance.

The circle and features date from the neolithic and bronze ages. Interestingly the monks of Welbeck Abbey chose this same spot to build Crookhill Grange/ now farm. The establishment of religious settlements near to ancient sites of ceremony is not unusual in the Peak District.

History on Derwent Moor – Peak District


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1880 Ordnance Survey map of Derwent Moor. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

You can find a lot of history in a couple of hours walking on Derwent Moor in the Peak District National Park. Starting at Cutthroat Bridge on the main Sheffield to Glossop road, the bridge itself home to two murders several centuries apart, you immediately come across some Ordnance Survey history.


OS Benchmark near Highshaw Clough

A benchmark right where the footpath drops down to cross Highshaw Clough. It is chiselled onto a gritstone boulder just before the footpath crossing the stream below meets up with the bridleway. The 1880 map has it at a height of 945.5 feet above mean tidal level at Liverpool, which was then the datum for height in the UK. The benchmark, an arrow below a line was also used as the survey data point for mapping the area. A second benchmark near to Whinstone Lee Tor is marked the same on the ground, but is marked on the map as a triangle with a dot in the middle indicating that this position was used to fix height (1492.0 feet), latitude and longitude.


Benchmark denoting survey point for height, latitude and longitude near Whinstone Lee Tor

Further from Highshaw Clough heading north east towards Moscar House is a stone milepost giving the distances to Sheffield and Glossop. This sits on the old Sheffield to Glossop road, before the present day course of the road was established in the early 1800’s. It gives the distance to Sheffield as seven miles. I like following the old roads as they weave their way across the landscape. Sometimes the way is lost which is when it becomes more interesting. Navigating a route that is not there makes me look at the land form and decide which way I would go if I had to choose. Using the natural lay of the land is often a good way of finding the route again.

There is a footpath a little further on that heads directly west up on to the grouse moor and then on to Derwent Edge. The way is full of interest the most prominent being a large standing stone on the right of the path, it is shown on the map above on the left of the path, so the path has moved in the last 160 odd years.

Standing stone on Derwent Moor, Peak District National Park

Standing stone on Derwent Moor

This beautiful stone stands looking out towards Stanage Edge and the moors of Moscar and Bamford with all their ancient history, stone circles, hut circles, Glory Stones and the fluted gritstone of The Old Woman Stone, an ancient standing stone menhir vandalised by  the owners in the last century and brought crashing to the ground to stop walkers using it as a guide across the moor. Does this standing stone on Derwent Moor have a connection with the ancient places across the valley. It is evidently placed there by man judging by the large stones that are around the base keeping it in place. Did it mark the footpath or was the stone there before the right of way. There are no markings on the stone save for the fluting from erosion, which can also be found on The Old Woman Stone.

The footpath heads straight over the top and down in to Upper Derwent Valley by Grindle Barn, following the line of the old packhorse route to the village of Derwent. Before that where the path reaches the top by the final, or first shooting butt, the trail along Derwent Edge going left leads you to Hurkling Stones which judging by the lack of erosion around it is little visited. It has some interesting gritstone erosion with wonderful soft curves like the ones seen on Bleaklow.

Gritstone erosion at Hurkling Stones.

Gritstone erosion at Hurkling Stones.

As I was mooching around trying to find evidence in the way of chiselled markings that this place was the same place as mentioned in my post about the 16th Century Perambulation I came across a lovely stone trough.

Stone trough at Hurkling Edge

Stone trough at Hurkling Edge

The stone trough must be well hidden in summer. I wonder why it is there. No quarrying activities have taken place there and the area shows no sign of any other industrial workings. So I wonder if it is something to do with transportation. It is too far out of the way for the old Sheffield to Glossop road, or so I thought. As we moved away towards Whinstone Lee Tor I saw another stone trough maybe some 50m away from the first. Which leads me to thinking if it was some sort of stopping place and the troughs were for horses, but they are so small, so perhaps not. Worthy of more exploration and research I think.

All this in a two-hour walk. It is amazing what history there is at my very feet in the Dark Peak.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.8 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.



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