Grindle Barn – Peak District

 

One of my favourite short walks in the Derwent Valley takes me from Derwent Dam, through what remains of Derwent village and up via an old packhorse route onto Derwent Edge. It is not a taxing walk, the ascent up on to the edge a mere 160m along a well marked and in places paved path. What it has that draws me back to it on a regular basis is quietness and contemplation.

Once the crowds have been left behind at the dam I can amble south down the valley along a single-track road, passing along the way a bright red phone box by the gateway to the remaining lodge to Derwent Hall, a terrace of workers cottages and an empty farmhouse. Soon on the left is the old school, no longer in use, the image of the Virgin Mary and Christ above the doorway, telling me that I am on the Roman Catholic side of the valley and therefore on Norfolk land. It is a lovely building; the porch has a beautifully tiled floor with plain black and red Minton tiles and stone benches on either side of the entrance each below a small leaded window. In the garden lays a carved lintel from the Derwent Hall, showing the date and the coat of arms of Henry Balguy a previous owner.

The road continues on through the site of the village, crossing over Millbrook where it becomes a track and soon the way south is barred by a gate. To its left is the bridleway that will take me up on to Derwent Edge, part of the old 14th century packhorse route from Derwent Village in to Sheffield. It begins its ascent by working a ribbon of stone through a meadow, the stone from the old cotton mills of Lancashire, the meadow filled in spring, with Buttercup, Scabious, Saxifrage, Mallow, Cowslip and Cranesbill and more. It is a wonderful and sadly rare sight these days to see a meadow in full bloom. The colours of white, reds, yellows and blues dotted across a huge expanse serves as a painful reminder of what we have lost in the countryside.

The path ends at a collection of stone barns, known as Grindle Barn. The barns are made of coursed and roughly dressed stone with stone roofs. They sit well in the landscape, clustered together on either side of the packhorse trail, the trail having to form an “S” bend as it weaves between the buildings. The first barn is dated 1647 above a doorway and has the initials of “LG”, probably the person who built it structure. A second barn opposite remains closed, but the third around the corner has been converted in to a shelter for walkers and bikers and perhaps horse riders. This is the barn now known as Grindle Barn.

Grindle Barn is one of my main objectives of this walk for it affords a comfortable stopping off point, particularly in inclement weather. There is the best bench in the whole of the Peak District to sit on, placed in such a way as to afford a spectacular view in any season, down the valley to Win Hill on the opposite side. The floor sits high so is not prone to flooding or gathering dirt. The walls are adorned with small tiles, each with a drawing or poem from local children in the villages down the valley. Above the entrance, just a large opening is a carved wooden board, depicting packhorse trains working their way down the trail.

I love to sit here and simply watch. Sometimes people are present or passing by and it is nice to chat about the day, the view, different walks, what flowers are present in the meadow. But it is solitude and watching that I seek most. To find the barn empty is a delight. I can take a seat, and just look. It does not matter about the weather or season. Looking out in winter and studying the old field boundaries, or the long forgotten ways up to the high grounds that snow has now brought back to life, the way it does by laying in the hidden dips long after the rest has melted. In summer the area around the barn is filled with swallows swooping up and down the trail, flashing across the barn opening. Occasionally a mouse will appear, out of the wall, once a stoat suddenly put in an appearance, disappearing as soon as it heard people approaching. I have never seen a horse, much is the pity, and it would be nice to see a small team of horses working their way down into the valley.

Ordnance Survey Map Markings

Ordnance Survey map 2017 Derwent Moor, Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map 2017, Derwent Moor
Ordnance Survey map 1884 of Derwent Moor Peak District National Park
Ordnance Survey map of Derwent Moor 1884

This week seems to have been all about Ordnance Survey and surveyors markings. The OS maps tell secrets if you know how to read them.

The present day maps don’t just allow us to get from A-B without getting our feet wet. If you know what you are looking for and have the time to do a bit of research they can be portals into history. The lines on the map aren’t just a whim, they actually mean something, occasionally something of social, political and economic importance.

Take the two maps above, both of Derwent Moor, the top a present day 1:50 OS map, the bottom one from the 1880’s. Notice the dash and dotted line on the top map running from the road bottom right to Dovestone Tor top left. It has the words Boundary Stones written underneath and above plus the words “Met Dist Bdy” in grey above the line. Met Dist Bdy is Metropolitan District Boundary. The line denotes the boundary here between Yorkshire or originally Hallamshire and Derbyshire.

The county boundary is the same on the 1882 map runs the same line as today, but it is not called that. Bottom right are the words “Union By”. The line is still a dot and a dash denoting County and Parish but the addition of Union By gives it a more sinister meaning. It meant Union Workhouse with each Union having a specific area tin which they were responsible for the application of the Poor Laws.

To the right of the boundary and you were within Bradfield or Ecclesall Union territory. To the left and you were in Hathersage. There were workhouses at High Bradfield and also on the Sheffield to Manchester road at Hollow Meadows, both are now residential properties.

It was important to know which side of the boundary a person was on, financial gain depended on it for the Union, and a less harsh environment could be available for the inmate, not all had treadmills. Hence the boundary stones, marking the line and which would be checked each year when officials of the parish would Beat the Bounds. Boundary stones were often placed as markers to avoid being on the wrong side of the boundary. These stones are still in place.

County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor. Peak District National Park
County, Parish and Union Workhouse Boundary on Derwent Moor.

This is the boundary today. A gamekeeper track now runs along its length from the Strines Road almost to Dovestone Edge as it crosses Derwent Moor. In the picture on the right of the track can be seen one of the boundary stones, there are several more along the line along with several Ordnance Survey benchmarks on the gritstone rocks that are scattered around the boundary line.

All that history from two square kilometres on the map. Next time you are on Derwent Edge and get to Dovestone Tor turn away from the edge and follow the line on the map and have a look.

 

Ordnance Survey surveyor marks

Lots of discussion on social media this weekend about Ordnance Survey marks on the gritstone of the Dark Peak in the Peak District. A topic that fascinates me with every walk including a foray into the wilderness to try to find some elusive mark made more than a century and a half ago.

Top left is a benchmark used to establish height at a point on the footpath to Stanage End from Moscar.

Below that is a benchmark used to mark a survey position on Higger Tor.

Top right is a really interesting one. An arrow below a square box with a dot in the middle. This denotes a survey height taken from the ground and not estimated. On modern maps today these are denoted as a black dot with a height number as opposed to an orange dot which denotes a measurement taken from the air.

Bottom left is a lovely levelling bolt, indicating a survey position near Laddow Rocks.

Bottom right two survey marks, one for levelling and one for triangulation found on Back Tor on Derwent Edge. On the left hand mark is a benchmark made by Lieut Barlow RE when he carried out the triangulation in 185. The right hand mark denotes a spot height taken in 1854 by Capt Kerr RE to establish the contour lines.

All heights back then used the Liverpool datum and approximate average of the sea height there. Nowadays the OS maps use the Newlyn datum taken from the tidal measuring station in Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall.

 

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park
The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park

The Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is full of gritstone rock formations that have being hewn and sanded over millions of years by the wind and rain. One of the most iconic is the Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge in the Upper Derwent Valley.

It sits, or more accurately, balances on the very edge of the long gritstone escarpment that runs up the eastern side of the valley and presides over a spectacular view of the moors of Howden and Bleaklow and the reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower.

It is easy to spot from below, but surprisingly easy to miss when walking along the newly laid path that traverses the edge. You pass the Wheelstones on the right and go up the slight rise of White Tor then a matter of 500m further on you come to the gritstone outcrop on the left that hides the Salt Cellar. A faint path leads through the heather directly to it, or you can walk a little further on until reaching a dry stone wall coming up from the valley floor on your left, which you then follow back to the Salt Cellar.

The Salt Cellar balances precariously on a thin post of gritstone, looking almost like a wine glass with its wide base, stem and bowl. I have never known anyone climb it, probably from fear of knocking it over.

On a recent visit I sat looking around at the rocks, when a little old couple appeared, the man holding a toy penguin, as you would. They were a little furtive in their actions so I feigned indifference whilst all the while keeping my eye on them. The man scrabbled around the rocks and reaching into a cleft pulled out a world war two ammunition box.They were Geocachers, if that’s the word. And the penguin was his offering.

We sat and talked awhile, they both telling me that they had been walking these hills for more than 60 years, and me a mere 40. Not a bad way to spend a life.

Gritstone Graffiti

It pays to keep your eyes open on a walk in the Dark Peak. It is also an advantage to look around at the gritstone that forms this wonderful landscape, because you might just spot some graffiti from another age.

Centuries ago people signified their claim on the land by making marks in the rock. These would often be used to signify boundaries and ownership. Beating the bounds, an annual perambulation, a word that means to traverse to inspect, meant a walk across the moors to check the marks were still there. Parish boundaries were a favourite as were boundaries where two estates met.

Some marks were simple crosses, such as the one on Hathersage Moor, made in the 19th century and which lies between the Sheepfold and Higger Tor. Others combined initials or motifs, such as the ‘T’ and ‘E’ at Back Tor on Derwent Edge. This one also sits beside and early surveyors mark made by the Ordnance Survey.

 

Cotton Grass

 

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Hare’s-tail Cottongrass on the Cotton Famine Road

Someone mentioned the other day that they thought that Cottongrass was more prevalent over in the far north of the National Park than anywhere else. I had just finished two walks across Saddleworth Moor and South Clough Moss, both in the far north and a third along Derwent Edge in the centre so could make a reasonable judgement if indeed there was more Cottongrass in the north. I think there is.

Moors For The Future have been hard at work for a few years now, changing the moorland landscape from one of desperate black oozing peat to one of soft grass and a wealth of fauna and flora. It is, I think, one of the reasons why the moors of the north have such an abundance of Cottongrass. Unlike the moors in the central Peak area where management of the moor to provide a tightly controlled environment for grouse shooting seems to have resulted in less Cottongrass and also fewer numbers of other species too.

The photo above was taken, rather ironically, on the Cotton Famine Road heading out to Broadstone Moss from the A 635 over Saddleworth. The whole area is awash in Cottongrass and this is a direct result of the work MFTF have been carrying out. The moor itself is becoming less bumpy too, witness the two photos of groughs after a dam has been inserted.

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See how the peat builds up against the dam and then the grasses take over, smoothing the levels out. That is actually watching the landscape change over time, pretty rare experience for mere mortals, usually it take millions of years for the land to morph into something different. Out on the moors now its taking just a few years.

It’s a simple process, backed no doubt by clever minds. Block up a grough, let it fill with water add sphagnum moss, introduce natural plant species and hey presto new peat, new moor,new landscape, new experience.

Walking across these moors is no longer a process of grit and determination, a load of gear to hose peat out of when you got home. It is a walk of wonderment, pleasure, joy.

 

Upper Derwent Valley

The first time I drove along Derwent Lane up to Fairholmes was in autumn and to me it felt like driving in to the Yellowstone National Park in America. The leaves had not fallen yet so the trees on either side of the narrow road were like spikes towering into the sky with hues of gold and lime. It lifts me still.

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Derwent Dam, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park

I have just finished the section for the Upper Derwent Valley in the guidebook I am writing. It is a section I have laboured over with much love as it is where I spend a great deal of my time as a Ranger for the Peak District National Park and as a solo explorer.

The first time I drove along Derwent Lane up to Fairholmes was in autumn and to me it felt like driving in to the Yellowstone National Park in America.  The leaves had not fallen yet so the trees on either side of the narrow road were like spikes towering into the sky with hues of gold and lime. It lifts me still.

I always look across to Derwent edge and the Wheelstones  then down to the reservoir to see how much if any of the old village is showing through the surface. The reasons I chose the area as my Ranger station, the scenery, the geology, the history and the valley does not disappoint on any of these. If you want to explore, discover history then this is the place.

The more time I have spent the narrower my focus has become. Somedays it is a single clough, deep, incised, generally wet but full of hidden nooks and crannies teaming with wildlife and history. I recently spent time in a clough and sat having tea in an old sheepfold now derelict. Near to it was a small ford I had crossed and a flat piece of land, enough for a shepherd to drive sheep out of the fold and onto the flat plain before heading down the valley and into the village, or up on to the high moorland. I sat and imagined the scene in my mind, a shepherd in old worn beige clothing, string around the coat to keep it closed. A Collie keeping the sheep in line stopping them from running away. The noise of the sheep and the sound of the shepherds voice as he gave the dog commands. A real hive of activity now quiet and forgotten.

The sheepfold is on the map and true to OS is there on the ground.