Bamford Edge

Layers of sediment clearly visible on Bamford Edge
Layers of sediment clearly visible on Bamford Edge

Bamford Edge is often overlooked by both climbers and walkers. I guess that lack of access before CROW in 2000 put it out of peoples mind. There are still restrictions in place and the moor is closed at certain times of year. Outside of those times I would urge people to go and explore one of the Peak District most iconic places. This is the edge that looms above you as you drive along the road from Bamford village to Ladybower. It stands proud, heralding the Dark Peak.

The area is easy to get to from Stanage, Bamford or best of all Heatherdene car park. The route from Heatherdene leads up through a holloway, hundreds of years old which threads its way through an oak woodland even older.

The edge itself is good old Gritstone or Millstone Grit. A sandstone peppered with sharp grains that made it perfect for the Sheffield cutlery industry. The face of the edge shows the continuous build up of sediments brought down in to a delta the outflow of which became the Derwent Valley. Over millions of years the sediments were deposited layer up on layer, then as Britain moved north from the equator and the seas retreated the gritstone was revealed.

Gritstone sits above the coal deposits along with some shales, that pop up now and again around the Peak District. Far down below sits the calcium rich limestone, which is plain to see in the White Peak and is easily visible from Bamford Edge if you look up the Hope Valley. There you will see the giant limestone quarry with half the hillside missing and residing in a thousand patios and pathways across Britain.

Bamford Moor is awash with archaeological interest. Stone circles, cairns, hut circles and more all feature on the moor, if you know what to look for and have the patience. Most is now well hidden in undergrowth but a stone circle towards Stanage is relatively easy to spot, sitting on a slightly elevated earth platform. Near to the circle is the Old Womans Stone, a taller carved piece of gritstone that once stood away from the circle, it now lays on the ground. The cairn field and ancient settlement, thought to be Bronze Age are harder to see and require some detective work and patience.

Lots of historic and archaeological interest stretching from 350 Million years right up to present day and covering Neolithic, Bronze age, Roman and modern day industrial activity can be explored.

It is well worth a visit and can be combined with several superb walks. The views along the valleys and across to the high moorlands of Bleaklow and Kinder are magnificent and eastwards lay the edges of Stanage, Burbage, Frogatt and Curbar.

Hidden Valley

Towards Whinstone Lee Tor and the Derwent Edge
Towards Whinstone Lee Tor and Bamford Edge

Just off a vehicle track in the DerwentValley is a rotting finger post pointing up a grassy incline that disappears into some trees, if you’re not paying attention as you pass it by then you wouldn’t even notice it, few do, not even National Parks maintenance teams, hence the rotting finger post.

If you do stop and wonder where the finger points to and decide to follow its direction you are in for a real treat for this is one of the valleys hidden secrets, rarely visited by walkers and of course almost never visited by the thousands that park at the visitor centre about a mile away.  So you have the place to yourself, go and enjoy it!

Follow the incline upwards, working your way along a tree lined, and grass covered farm track.  Coming to an old abandoned farm that once formed just one of the many that tended these hillsides through beautiful spring and summer and into horrendous winters when the valley could be cut off from civilisation for months, the track veers left and narrows into an ascending path, enclosed by dry stone walls erected hundreds of years ago.  At the top you come to a farm, which seems odd as there is no way you could get farm machinery up the path, but the farms access lays north of the buildings and unseen by the walker.  As you pass the farm stop awhile and take in the first of the expansive views of the Derwent Edge.  South lays Whinstone Lee Tor, a nob of a hill that sits as a gatekeeper, with Crookhill on the other side of the UpperDerwentValley.  The Tor offers fine views across the valley, with Bleaklow, Kinder and Mam Tor forming the western skyline.  Below you is a solitary barn set in lush green pasture, this is a good place to stand and stare a little, watching the buzzards soaring above the gritstone edge, whilst below, stoats work their way through the stone wall labyrinth.  If you look closely at the fields in front you can detect boundaries and footpaths long gone now save for a depression in the ground and the odd marker tree showing the line.  Centuries old these remnants remind us that man leaves his footprints where ever he goes.

Take the shooting track that heads towards the skyline and works its way round the hillside in front of you, descending in to a seemingly lost valley complete with stream and cloughs. The stream has to be crossed without the aid of a bridge and is no real obstacle.  It is a quiet place, rarely frequented and has the beauty of the rugged Peak District moorland, without the windswept desolation or indeed the destruction caused by man. Having crossed the stream take the feint path left that works its way up through the bracken, in summer this is hard to see and you have to look for a break line in the thick bracken to ascertain its course.  It is a narrow path until near the top where it meets a boulder field and then opens up making the final few meters easy.

You pop out and that is the most descriptive word I think fits the situation, on to a flat seemingly featureless moorland sitting directly below a Gritstone edge, to the right on the horizon is the Salt Cellar a prominent gritstone feature, useful for navigation.  This is where the fun starts for the way forward lies across the bog soaked moor with the attack point being a rectangular walled enclosure marked on the map that hardly exists on the ground.  Take a bearing from where the path brings you on to the flat part of the moorland, this is a highly subjective starting point and good map work is required which means it is the perfect practice area for navigation exercises.  Aim for the centre of one side of the rectangle and calculate the paces needed to reach it, and then start to walk on the bearing.  This is where the funny walk starts as you try to keep on the bearing, keep an even pace for counting and avoid bog, tussock and peat holes.  Soon you will have reached you number of paces meaning you should have reached the wall, but none is to be found.  You stand on a flat ish plain with no wall in sight, looking around you can detect nothing.  Spotting a small rise in the land near to you, you decide to use this as a vantage point to locate the now offending enclosure. None can be seen and it gradually dawns on you that the small rise you are stood on is in a very straight line and seems to extend to right angled corners at each end.  As your eyes follow the rise you realise, a little sheepishly that you are in fact stood on top of the enclosure wall which over the years as now being reclaimed by nature and forms part of the moorland land mass.  There is a mixture of joy at having found it and depression at realising the navigation skills still need some work.

From here the way is easy. Straight up to the edge and on to the top, you can choose to do a little light scrambling to ascend the edge which adds a frisson of adventure.  Once there it is a matter of following your nose, left or right and just enjoying the views.  On a clear blue sky day the views are extensive and magnificent, stretching in to several counties at all points of the compass.

A beautiful little walk best kept a secret.