Here is a little bit of social industrial history.
I found this brick sat in the remains of the flooded Peak District village of Derwent, it was sat in the mud on what would have been the main street. The brick was made at Skyers Spring brickworks in Hoyland, Barnsley around 1880 and found its way to the village for some use or other. It is an engineering brick, not used for adornment, so probably formed some infrastructure of the village.
It probably travelled over via Penistone, either across Strines along the Mortimer Road and then hang a right at Moscar Cross, up the bridleway to Whinstone Lee Tor and then down via Grindle Barn to the village. Or alternatively via Cut Gate from Langsett over the top and into the Upper Derwent Valley. The brickworks were run by James Smith and had connections to the Earls Fitzwilliam, who still have extensive shooting moors along the Strines Road. There was extensive trade between the two areas which accounts for the routes across the tops. It’s nice to see artifacts around that were from local sources.
Getting lost in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District is a very common thing. Most people manage to get back on the right track, or find other walkers to help them out, or maybe a road to walk back to civilisation even if it’s in the wrong direction. Some people have to be found and rescued by Mountain Rescue, generally at night after the person has wandered around for hours trying to extricate themselves from the predicament.
The Dark Peak does give the walker a helping hand. Signs that say, “walker beware”, not in those words but if you study your OS map the clues just jump out at you.
Above is the signpost to the Wilderness from Chew Valley, take care not to go over Lads Leap as you reach the Longdendale Valley. You would want to avoid The Swamp on Alport Moor as you made your way over to Lost Lad above the Upper Derwent Valley. Mind you if you agreed to meet someone there make sure its the right Lost Lad as there is another just off Cut Gate near Langsett. And definitely stay away from the Black Hole on Black Hole Moor, it does exist, I promise you. Hades Peat Pits are possibly the entrance to another world, one of everlasting pain.
Of course if it says, Shooting Cabins, then stay well clear, goodness knows what goes on there. Which reminds me, any area that is called Target, begs the question, target who?And talking of mad things, do not enrage the woman at Madwoman’s Stones on Kinder, there is an ancient altar site nearby, goodness knows what became of people, when the encountered the enraged lady.
A few years back Alison and I were walking up Cut Gate on a cold autumn day that had a wind cutting in to you with icy strokes. As we approached Mickleden Edge Alison wandered off to have a look at something and I carried on a little then waited for her to catch up. As she approached me she seemed to be walking slowly and a little ungainly. I asked her if she was OK and she said her legs were tired and she had no energy, she said this with a slurring voice. We had not been out that long and the day was dry, but it struck me that she might be suffering from light hypothermia. I got her out of the wind and gave her some hot tea to sip and cake to eat, whilst putting on a few extra layers. I could see the woods around Langsett Ranger Station, it was ridiculous this could be happening, we had hardly walked any distance, Alison had recently run the New York Marathon so was not unfit, but here we were dealing with the effects of wind chill on the human body. Alison recovered quickly and we made our way back to Langsett. It turned out that some medication she had been given had thinned her blood making her more susceptible to cold.
Norah Leary was not so fortunate. The seventeen year old rambler from Sheffield froze to death on Broomhead Moor on the 14th December 1937. A rescue party made up of police, local people and gamekeepers, found her body beneath a 10ft snow drift. The report, above, from the Manchester Guardian on the inquest gives further details. A photo here shows the rescue party bringing the body down Mortimer Road towards Ewden Beck. The clothing on the rescue party would have been very similar to the clothing worn by the ramblers.
A recent rescue of a walker near to the Cut Gate path could have had a very different outcome if Woodhead Mountain Rescue had not found them in time. A day walk in good conditions had turned into a life threatening event in harsh winter conditions with snow and sub zero night time temperatures. Being correctly equipped can make the difference between getting home safe or not at all.
The Dark Peak makes you pay for simple mistakes, especially in winter. The area can be at its most beautiful at this time of year, it can also be at its most brutal. So far the winter has been mild, many of us had wished for better winter conditions, hopefully it will come, for there is nothing better than walking across moorland in snow with a blue sky above.
There are quite a few bits of survey ephemera along Cut Gate in the Dark Peak. Benchmarks are much in evidence if you know where to look.
Just above the words “Lost Lad” on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map of Cut Gate, high above Langsett, there are two benchmarks denoted, the B.M followed by the elevation above Mean Sea Level in feet. Mean Sea Level in them days was taken from the measurements obtained at the Liverpool Datum, whereas today it is Newlyn. The first Benchmark happens just before the ford which is the turn off point for the spot height on Lost Lad itself. It is simple arrow beneath a line, but unusually is on a flat surface and not a vertical one, making it a little difficult to be accurate in the measurement. It is also accompanied by the initials RW, Rimmington Wilson the then landowner, chiselled at a later date and certainly with not as much skill.
Heading down the Cut Gate path towards Langsett a further benchmark can be found on the gate post of the boundary wall at Hingcliff Common.
Grouse had been introduced onto the moors for several decades when the benchmark was carved so it would have looked pretty much the same as today with one exception. The Cut Gate track went through the gate posts where as today the line of the path goes someway to the south-east.
A surveying team would consist of a surveyor and his assistant. The surveyor took the reading and the assistant held the staff and lugged the equipment around. It was the surveyor who chiselled in the benchmark. I often try to imagine the team out in all weathers mapping the area. Around these two benchmarks are many more plus triangulation points on Hingcliff Hill and Pike Lowe to the east. The maps they produced are remarkably accurate and can still be followed today on the ground. The really interesting thing about old maps are the items marked that are no longer on modern-day maps.