I hadn’t expected to feel such an impact of place on my psyche as happened when we visited Gardom’s Edge the other evening. Maybe it was the quiet, or the cool of the evening. Or the advancing ink black clouds of the storm rolling in from the west. Watching the dogs twist and turn there was certainly some sort of charge in the air. Or maybe they sensed something else.
We sat by the ring and cup stone that lay along a line stretching form the Menhir to the Three Old Men of Gardom Cairns. This was a good place to live back then. Flat, protected by gritstone edges to the east and west with a long flat plain in between giving good line of sight. My mind conjured up a clearing in the trees, the round house to the south with an entrance in the north from Leash Fen. And, a young man or woman carving out the delicate intricate shapes on the rock.
I fancied they did this not for art or ceremony but to leave something of themselves. Make a mark; speak down the ages to the young man or woman today. Did they have that sense of their place in time?
Something thick and heavy muffling out all other senses. I had gone through weeks of emotional extremes and that had opened a door in to a long passageway to the past. I leaned back against ancient gritstone and settled for the first time in many a day.
This is one of my favourite photos of one of the many monuments to be found in the Peak District National Park. Taken on Birchen Edge, almost at the very end of the eastern arm of the Dark Peak, it shows the monument erected to Lord Nelson viewed from Victory one of the three gritstone tors that stand slightly back from the edge.
The monument looks out over the valley to the north-west and the monument to Wellington on Baslow Edge erected some 60 years later. Below Birchen Edge a large area of flat moorland is dotted with ancient cairns and field systems as it spreads out towards Gardom Edge with its Menhirs and cup rings.
A good place to spend a few hours exploring ancient civilisations going back to Neolithic times.
I like collecting things. Triangulation points are a favourite along with benchmarks that can be found along a walk or near to one.
There is something very satisfying about reaching a trig pillar, partly I guess because they invariably involve a walk up hill and a reward of sweeping views, weather permitting. There are 84 pillars within the Peak District National Park boundary and many more triangulation points and thousands more benchmarks.
Some are not shown on maps with the traditional blue triangle, the one at Hey Edge for instance, built but never used for triangulation, but was used for levelling, so does it not qualify for the blue triangle.
Some triangulation points are not even pillars. One of my walks takes in the Hunting Tower on the Chatsworth Estate, the triangulation point being the flagstaff. Another is the centre of the spire of All Saints Church in Bakewell.
With the advent of GPS the triangulation pillar network became largely redundant, but a few still do have a purpose. The pillar at Harland South, levelling bracket number 2998 is part of the Global Positioning Network and as such is protected by Ordnance Survey. A plate informs the visitor that any damage should be reported to the phone number.
Triangulation points always come in a minimum of three so a favoured walk of mine takes in the Hunting Tower at Chatsworth, the pillar at Birchen Edge along with the Three Ships and the pillar at Harland South, passing Hobs House, one of the first ancient monuments to have legal protection in the UK, on the way. Two pillars, one part of the Global Positioning System and one flagstaff on a hunting tower. Not bad for a day out.
I am not a big fan of the country house estate. The architecture and landscaping is something to be admired, all that human ingenuity, hard work, and skill, but the privilege that is enjoyed by the owners of these huge estates for some dubious acts way back in history is well out of place in my socialist world.
I started my walk from the Chatsworth car park and climbed through the woodland surrounding the house to gain my first trigpoint. The Hunting Tower is a rather fine trig, possibly one of the best in the country. The door was open and a lady, I doubt it was the Duchess of Devonshire, was preparing a large table with linen and cutlery. Monty soon found the open doorway and went in the introduce himself and to plant his muddy feet all over the clean tiled floor. I hastily followed to get him out as Monty jumped up and pawed the lady’s clean white apron. No sooner had I entered, only to have Olly follow suit and then all four of us did a sort of dervish dance around the table until the boys left and the lady, in remarkably good humour gently closed the door.
Relieved at not being incarcerated in The Hunting Tower we headed over to Birchen Edge and our next trig. Lots of climbing taking place along the edge, young and old all enjoying the sun and the grit stone. I sat and watched a group pick their way up a route, each man showing lesser or greater skills. The triangulation pillar is a fine viewpoint and you can see the delineation of the White and Dark Peak. Large plantations of conifer cover the hillsides and no doubt one day will be felled leaving a denuded hill with the grey skeletal remains of the trees, a sight I have never been pleased with.
Retracing my steps back on to the Chatsworth estate I headed for the final trig of the day, across moorland to a Harland South, which sounds as though it should be a motorway service station. It was one of the GPS triangulation pillars, used to make sure that the GPS system is behaving. Odd that a technology constructed by pencil and paper should be used to verify a high tech all singing all dancing satellite system.
The route back to the car followed quiet country roads, green lanes and then back down through the estate woodlands to regain the car park. The journey through the woods gave a pleasant end to the day and I have Joseph Paxton to thank for that.