Well this is great news. Dark Peak Walks, published by Cicerone Press has been shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine 2017 award in the book category.
I have started on the next book in the Cicerone Peak District trilogy. The second one, the first being Dark Peak Walks, covers the Ordnance Survey map OL24 East sheet and will be called White Peak Walks East. It still involves quite a bit of gritstone on the edges, with some peat as well. Heading towards the south and west limestone and pasture become dominant.
The White Peak has a marvellous collection of dales, carved out of the limestone by crystal clear streams. These run broadly west to east, taking water from the higher pasture land and feeding it through the dales into the Derwent which flows north west to south east.
Around the dales and the streams are the villages. Beautiful limestone built cottages and farms, settled by a people engaged in agriculture and mining. Families go back a long time in the White Peak, its old money unlike the new money of the Dark Peak shooting estates. White Peak was monastic, huge sheep farms used for producing wool to send out to Italy. The monks were the ones who really knew how to industrialise sheep farming, walk anywhere in the area and you walk on monastic land, farms with the word ‘Grange’ in the title were owned by the abbeys.
The land saw early enclosures around the villages and hamlets, you can tell the age by the shape of the fields, narrow and long close to the communities getting larger as subsequent enclosures moved up the sides of the dales.
Mining also played its part, right back to Roman times, lead had been mined in the area. The land is littered with mine shafts around villages that grew into small markets as money flowed in from the lead. Winster is an excellent example, and has Moot Hall, where the Barmote Court sat to settle mining disputes. Amazingly the court still sits to this day.
Prosperity brought new buildings and and alterations to existing ones. A particular favourite for adornment was the local church. Many villages had a church that dated back to Norman times these were added to, built upon rebuilt. Then came money from wool and then from lead and the local gentry wanted to be remembered so added windows, fonts, a new altar. Then came the victorians who really did go to town re-styling the churches in their own image. What this leaves us with today is a wonderful historical record not just of the religious fervour of the village but also its economic history and the landed gentries entitlement.
The land is criss crossed with ancient footpaths and green lanes bounded by verges deep with wild life and bounded by lichen covered limestone walls. The fields are surrounded by walls hundreds of years old, punctured by squeeze stiles, that for todays walker may be a challenge. Often the walker will come across a dish shaped depression in a field, the dew ponds were placed there to collect water for livestock to drink, hundreds dot the landscape, many have fallen in to dis-repair, but some still survive. Hedgerows, centuries old outline the land and field strips surround small villages, a living record of a feudal system that provided for all. Meadows, a countryside form that almost died out, can be found in the White Peak. Lush with buttercups in spring the meadow adds a vivid splash of colour to the pastures.
It all makes for wonderful walking, following in the footsteps of human history.
This guidebook describes 40 walks in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. Ranging from short strolls to full-day adventures, they showcase the region’s unique character. Dramatic waterfalls, striking gritstone edges, heath and woodland are just some of the delights encountered, with many of the routes venturing off-path to explore hidden cloughs and valleys. Detailed route description is provided for 35 walks, accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and interesting facts about local points of interest, then a further five longer walks (of 25-45km) are summarised in the final section, including a classic circuit of the Kinder Scout skyline.
Taking in the high moors of Derwent, Bleaklow, Kinder and Howden, the walks reveal not only the area’s wild beauty but also some of its fascinating stories. 10,000 years of history lie waiting to be uncovered – from Neolithic burial mounds and Bronze Age cairns to remnants of the region’s more recent industrial past. This guide is a perfect companion to discovering the secrets of the Dark Peak and experiencing its magnificent landscape in all its glory.
There was only one place to have the launch of a book about walking in the gritstone and peat area of the Peak District National Park known as the Dark Peak, that was on the gritstone and peat moorland that make up this unique landscape. I chose Whinstone Lee Tor as the venue, easy access, good views, and on both a public footpath and a bridleway, so people could bring their dogs and bikes too.
It was quite humbling to see 25 people brave constant rain, quite typical Dark Peak weather, to celebrate the book launch. Of course you cannot have a launch without cake, Alison from Wapentac baked flapjack and a very nice Yorkshire Parkin. Plus we had a wonderful surprise where a fan of the book Col Wood of Everyday Adventures had baked a special cake with a picture of the book on it.
As we ate cake, drank coffee, talked and got wet I looked around the gathering. We ranged in age from a few months to the late sixties.
Some had walked, some had run. Some people were new to the area, some were old friends of the Dark Peak. A few local Mountain Rescue teams were represented, Moors For The Future were there, as was the Peak District National Park.
People had travelled from all the major cities and towns that surround the Peak District and that make it one of the most visited national parks in the world. Discoveries were made too. Debra from Moors For The Future had her first sip of Hot Vimto, an old Dark Peak favourite, which proved valuable of that cold rainy day.
I like to make a nice presentation of the book when people purchase it from me, all that wrapping had me singing My Favourite Things from the Sound of Music. Some lucky people who had bought early also had a gift of a Wapenmap too, so as I handed the parcels out I hummed the little tune, some people even sang along with me. Then it was time to cut the cake and eat.
It was a magical day. Everyone said how much they had enjoyed it, lots of laughter and talking about days out in the Dark Peak. It has such a great community of people, who love and care for the area deeply. It is wonderful to play a small part in it.
The most marvellous thing though is how young people are discovering the Dark Peak, exploring its delights and having great adventures. It means the story keeps on developing and that’s what should happen to a landscape.
You can purchase a signed copy of the book Dark Peak Walks here
My book Dark Peak Walks arrived yesterday from Cicerone. People have ordered signed copies from our Wapentac shop and we will need to replenish our stock soon.
The Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is a unique place in Britain to my mind. No where else I have found the combination of gritstone edges, vast peat moors and the plateaus of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. It has an enormous amount of history, geological interest and some of the most spectacular wildlife sights that can be found anywhere. For a sense of wilderness and isolation that brings a raw emotion to me when I experience it the Dark Peak cannot be beaten. It is a land full of comedy too, ask anyone who has sat and watched a friend desperately trying to extricate themselves from a peat bog, all sense of dignity gone, language become basic, anger rising. It is the best fun a person can have, watching this, its free too. A friend showed me a photo of an Adder, taken last week on Big Moor, it was just off the path and taking in the first hint of summer in the warm sun, a sight never to be forgotten.
It was Mark Richards who suggested my name to Cicerone for the guide-book to replace Marks iconic High Peak Walks. One day I dragged Mark through the bracken on Bamford Moor, hoping he wouldn’t notice that I had got lost. Afterwards he made the suggestion perhaps I would like to write the book. It was a dream come true for me and I am very grateful to Mark and Jonathan Williams at Cicerone for their faith in me. The book took two years to research and write, many of the walks being covered several times, so that I could get the absolute best out of the landscape. Gone are my days of 30 mile walks in a day across peat bog. In the book I have attempted to produce walks that have interest and views, a little navigation here and there, making good use of the landscape, but most of all days that are memorable, the ones you want not to end and always to repeat.
In one of those odd turns of fate a new Facebook page Dark Peak UK was started by Paul Bridge and this has quickly become a community of like-minded people who all love the Dark Peak area and are not afraid to get out there and have some fantastic adventures. I realised that there was still a growing passion for the outdoors, that people were out there having great days out and sharing it with other like minded souls. The world has changed, and in this instance it is for the better.
We live in an age of instant notification, I was born in the days of press button A or B, and some of you will know what that means. But, it is the written word that still remains important and sits at the centre of all we do. It is the words that take us to places we have yet to see.