Moorland Walking

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Looking from Westend Trig to Barrow Stones

Yesterday was a Ranger Patrol day. The first duty was to marshall road traffic whilst the Remembrance Day service was being conducted at the Derwent Village War Memorial. It always stirs something when I hear the bugle reaching out across the valley to the sunken village below Derwent Reservoir.

After with a trainee Ranger we walked up to Hagg Guide Post for a spot of lunch, whilst we looked out over the Woodlands Valley up into Blackden Clough. No matter what perspective you look from, Kinder Scout always has something to offer. We sat and traced the old routes, from Hope Cross some say a Roman Road, the shooting track up to Jubilee Lodge, the best shooting lodge in the area and always locked. The aqueduct path following the course of the water stolen from the River Ashop and poured into Derwent Reservoir just by the dam. We could see the line of Jaggers Clough where, sitting above and a little up in to the Vale of Edale sits a small cairn that used to be named on the 1850 maps as the site of an altar.

Below us lay the Snake Road, and between us a landscape not often explored. The track going down passing by Hagg Farm and across to Haggwater Bridge on the River Ashop. Another track leading down to Rowlee Farm, one of the oldest and passing Bellhagg Barn on the way, with the Alphabet Stone opposite, a favourite for navigation assessments. Hagg is an old word meaning clearing, where the farms were situated in forest clearings.

We left our lunch spot and ascended to Bellhagg Tor, on our way walking by a bronze age barrow, letting sleeping ancients lie. Then on to Pasture Tor, moorland taking over now, opening up, below us and ahead Alport Dale gradually coming into view, the scene of the worst of tragedies when young lives were lost and still today the scene of many a find of a lost walker as they take the wrong turn off the Pennine Way coming down from Bleaklow Head. An easy thing to do when conversation or visibility take the mind away from the path.

As we walked along the Dale edge the wind picked up a little, but amazingly still quite warm for November. We meet a large group from Lockerbrook and I regale them with tales of the Love Feast at Alport Hamlet and one of the Dark Peaks great daughters Hannah Mitchell who escaped cruelty from that Hamlet and her mother to rise in prominence in Manchester and become a light in the Suffragette movement. On we go, the ground becoming wetter after the recent snow and rain. We can just see the West End triangulation pillar gleaming in the sporadic beams of sunlight.

At Ditch Clough we turn into the moor and begin our descent. The shooting cabin has now returned and I show my companion. We sit inside and feel the warmth and I tell him of bringing a young couple and baby in there to warm up, one harsh winter ago. Ill dressed for the terrain and the weather, the baby struggling in the conditions, the father holding it inside his coat, looking frightened. Then out and past the grouse butts and through the gate into the forest. I noticed the wall, with crenellations and marvel at the neatness, even after all these years, the wall being at least one hundred years old.

They laid a new track up Ditch Clough, to get the landy’s up there with their expensive cargoes of shooters. It makes for a nice descent down in to Westend coming out on the track nearby the remains of Westend Farm, now long gone.

A good days moorland walking. One to remember.

Bradford Dale and Lathkill Dale

River Lathkill Weir 4

The first time I came across Bradford Dale it was a revelation. I hadn’t expected the view that met me as I walked along the route of the Limestone Way. Descending from the road I saw before a vista of the true English countryside, a clear gentle river threaded its way through a limestone gorge, trout jumped out of the water to secure a tasty morsel, dippers weaved up and down as the proceeded along the river gathering food and coots sat nesting awaiting a new brood.

The path down winds its way past a series of pools flanked by limestone outcrops and tree lined slopes. This is a highly managed environment, it doesn’t look like this by a fate of nature. The river is renowned for its trout fishing hence the pools which create a calm water for the fish to lay i wait for any dinner that floats by. The pools are connected by sluice gates and weirs, this regulates the flow and also introduces faster flowing water rich in oxygen.

2012 saw the complete disappearance of the water due to drought conditions and a fly fisher friend tells me the trout would have migrated down stream following the water. Lack of water is a common sight in the limestone rivers, many have seriously porous beds and a drop in flow due to drought conditions means the water finds and easier course underground, often absenting itself several miles away from where it re-emerges.

Take binoculars with you on this walk and be prepared to stop frequently and look at the play nature is laying on. Birds are in abundance as are dragonflies, newts, toads, fish, wildflowers appear in abundance. As the path and river wind their way down the dale all of this is on display.

At the bottom of the dale the landscape opens out and crossing an old stone footbridge it is possible to rise up into Youlgrave and explore the village which has lots of interest for the historian. Continuing down the dale eventually brings the walker to the village of Alport with its neat limestone houses topped with elaborate chimney pots set on a hill above a flood plain and a limestone gorge.

Lathkill Dale has an inauspicious start from its confluence with the river Bradford, you don’t realise that you have started following the Lathkill until you enter the dale further upstream.  We walked across fields from the village of Alport then struck up hill to meet an unmarked lane which led us to Conksbury Village a medieval site now long deserted, you need to look hard for signs of human habitation but they are there.  Further on we came to a strange set of farm buildings.  Strange because they were so large, with a big farm house and had in the past obviously been a major site of farming activity.  This is Meadow Place Grange, the Grange an indication of its past and for all I know present owners.  Abbey’s were major land owners in the area and used the dales and pastures for extensive sheep grazing for the wool that they became justly famous for.

Dropping down into Lathkill Dale  we meet one of the clearest rivers in the country.  The River Lathkill is the only river in the Peak District which rises and flows entirely through limestone and as a consequence is filtered to crystal clear clarity.  The river and dale is a national nature reserve, site of special scientific interest and has wildlife in abundance, this is home to some rare plants such as Jacobs Ladder, which needs special conditions to continue growing and these are only found in the dale. There are 3 major caves associated with the dale all situated slightly off the main tracks but well worth a visit.

Exiting the dale we made for Monyash, now mainly a commuter village but with a good pub and facilities, sadly the church was closed, this being a Sunday!! so we could not explore the interior nor leave a donation!!  Picking up the Limestone Way we started back to the beginning of our walk and passed through One Ash Grange Farm which is a must if just for a view of the most perfect set of medieval pig sties in existence.  They are exquisite, if a pig sty can be such a thing and once again the “Grange” tells us we are in the presence of an old farming operation of the Abbey’s.

This is a really good walk with lots of interest for everyone and one that requires further explorations.

Lathkill Dale