Abbey Farm – Upper Derwent Valley

Derwent Valley. dwr gwent. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park
Derwent Valley. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park

The island below Howden Dam in the Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park. Made from spoil out of the trench that the dam sits in, at low water in Derwent reservoir a small bridge can be walked across.

The bridge led to Abbey Farm, now below the island. A clue as to the owners of the area in past centuries is in the name. Abbey Farm was owned by the the monks of Welbeck Abbey, as was the nearby Abbey Grange the site of which today is beneath the waters near to the mouth of Abbey Brook. A chapel was situated just down from Abbey Brook, all owned by the monks who would pay visits annually to collect their tithes and make sure that the land was being used to its maximum potential.

Red Grouse – Peak District

Male Red Grouse
Male Red Grouse of the Peak District
A few weeks back I had a patrol out in the Dark Peak of the Peak District National Park that took me over from Pike Low, sitting just above the old Derwent village, and across the open moor to Cogmans Clough. It’s a nice walk and I had a purpose too. I wanted to find benchmarks from the surveys done between 1850 and 1890 by Ordnance Survey. I had found one on an old gatepost in Derwent village that morning on my way to Pike Low, so I had high expectation that the day would produce more.

I spent a good amount of time on Greystones Moss searching out rocks that might have the benchmarks but to no avail. The little arrow pointing to the nice level straight line above was not in evidence. Back to the research to try and pinpoint the areas.

Dropping down from Cogmans Clough along Abbey Brook I came across Jack, a male Red Grouse who patrols the track between Cogmans and the woodland at Abbey Tip. Today he was in one hell of a mood. He followed me, keeping to the right for easy take off down the valley, chuntering to me as we made our way down the track about some slight he had endured.

The track is his biggest source of angst. Before the track there was a nice path covered by a green sward of grass. It was a joy to walk down. You could imagine the monks making their way from the convent at Bradfield down to the Abbey Grange at the bottom of the Abbey Brook. You would sit and look around you. Ancestors of Jack would often be in evidence, courting couples, strutting teens, it was quite a promenade. Then one day some damn fool brought in a big yellow monster of a JCB and ripped the track apart. Now its just rubble and dirt. A scar on the landscape and for what asks Jack. So fat, bumbling men can drive up to the shooting butts and not get out of breath.

He cackles on, telling me about his mate Harry who went up to the butts to give them a piece of his mind for wrecking the countryside. Guns were blazing back then and Harry decided enough was enough. So off he went, last week. Jack hasn’t seen him since so he guessed Harry was lying low, probably with that young floosie from the Broomhead estate. Trouble is what she was.

We carry on walking like this down the track. Me listening and adding in the odd murmur of sympathy, Jack walking backwards and forwards giving me the full performance. When he gets really riled he struts forward, hackles showing, his head high and those red eye brows bobbing up and down. Words stream out of his beak too fast to discern, you just have to stand there and listen. Then he walks off back up the track a few feet and calms down.

As we approached the boundary wall of the wood Jack decides that he needs to be back up the track and takes his leave. Walking in that odd flat footed way back up to his sentry point to await the Land Rovers with their fat cargoes. He’ll give them something to think about next time he cackles and then starts calling for Harry, who still hasn’t come out of hiding.

The other mass trespass

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Abbey Brook from Cartledge Bents

The other day I did a spot of checking for one of the walks in my Dark Peak book. It is always a quandary when I have more than one possible route. Which will be of more interest and why. Some routes are better at certain times of year, or have a completely different character. Walk on Bleaklow in summer with the cotton grass, golden plover, common lizards and bilberries and then do the same walk in deep winter, with windswept snow and ice  and only the white mountain hare and a few brave walkers for company and you have two very different experiences.

Abbey Brook is a case in point, not so much for the seasons, although it presents a different face at each turn, but because there are so many walks that can lead to it. That is not by accident either, Abbey Brook was a major route across the area in the past. The area was owned by Welbeck Abbey who used it for sheep and the monastic outpost that was situated in this cleft in the hillside was connected to the Grange at Crookhill a little further down the valley by a path. On the moorland above tracks fed into Abbey Brook from North, East and South, the small valley providing easy access to the west.

One of the most prominent was the Dukes Road, named after the Duke of Norfolk, which led from Bar Dike over on Mortimer Road to Abbey Brook and onwards west or alternatively Bradfield Gate and Derwent Village. One of several ways to head east to west in the age before roads. The route was always public until the Duke decided to close it for his Grouse Shooting.

GHB Ward of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers was none too impressed and was convinced it was a public right of way and carried out research to prove so. It was decided to make a stand, this was several months after the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout and things were still tense between walkers and land owners. On Sunday 18th September 1932 several hundred walkers set off from Malin Bridge in Sheffield and headed towards Broomhead Moor and the Dukes Road. They were intent on walking on to Bradfield Gate and returning back to Malin Bridge. All seemed to go well with only the odd Gamekeeper spotted. That was until the reached Cartledge Bents overlooking Abbey Clough, where the Dukes men attempted to stop their progress. A small fracas ensued before the walkers were allowed to proceed unhindered.

The protest did not make the news nor the impact they probably desired and this was very likely due to the outcry that had followed the Kinder Mass Trespass and the imprisonment of the so called ring leaders. Nonetheless, a further blow had been made for walkers.

It must have been a fantastic site to see hundreds of walkers marching down the Dukes Road. Today you get the odd group of Ramblers, some fell runners and the lone single walker.

I have researched the route the mass trespass took from the Tram sheds at Malin Bridge and will walk the route come spring, who knows it may well make it in to the book. It might be nice to have two trespasses.