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.

Grainfoot Farm – World War Two

Above is Grainfoot Farm in the Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park, as it can be seen today, alongside a watercolour by Kenneth Rowntree from 1940, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the new Ladybower Reservoir. The two Ordnance Survey maps, one from 2018 and one from 1852 show the position of the map in the landscape and perhaps more importantly today the position of the field boundaries and other landscape items.

The farm was, at one time in the possession of the Eyre family, well-known landowners in Derbyshire, still in existence today. It passed through various other hands, by marriage and purchase, before finding itself in the way of the new reservoir and scheduled for demolition.

The farm was painted by Kenneth Rowntree of the War artists Advisory Committee, not because of its imminent demise but as part of a project to record the changing face of Britain. This started in 1939, overseen by Kenneth Clark, father of the Tory MP Alan Clark, and was devised to record important buildings and artefacts of Britain incase they were destroyed by the second world war. It also coincided with a growing realisation that the landscape was changing at a rapid rate, due to urban development, industrial growth, changing agricultural practices and a shift in the social cohesion of the country after world war one. It followed similar projects carried out in America under the Federal Arts Project. It was felt that by celebrating the unique British landscape in art, morale would be boosted during the darkest hours of the war.

V&A Museum Collection

Kenneth Rowntree

War Artists Advisory Committee

Pecsaetan – Ancient Peak District tribe

Some thing for the weekend. How about stepping into a time in the Dark Peak, when the Peak District was not a district at all, it was the northern edge of territory for the Pesaetan tribe way back in the Anglo-Saxon era.

Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia
Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia

The boundary is still there today at Stanedge Pole which sits on the boundary of the old Northumbria and Mercia territories, now it separates Yorkshire and Derbyshire and the Sees of Canterbury and York.

The Peaklanders as they were known called Kinder Scout “Cyn dwr scwd” which translates as “The hill of the waterfall”, Kinder Downfall.

Dwr gwent “the white water” became Derwent.

The many “lows” Bleaklow, Shuttlinsloe, Pike Lowe, White Lowe, signify an ancient burial-place. Perhaps there is something to the Longdendale lights after all.

It seems perhaps odd to our modern day minds that these places should be inhabited, maybe that is because for many years mere mortals were banned from setting foot, it was the privilege of the chosen few. Not too different from when it formed part of the ancient Peak Royal Forest then.

This weekend, have a walk in an ancient landscape, there is plenty of information on this blog to wet your appetite and you can find lots more in my book Dark Peak Walks.

Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.
Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley

Penistone Stile – Peak District

Penistone Stile and Howden Edge
Penistone Stile and Howden Edge

Looking out over a failed attempt at using land for agricultural purposes. This land, Penistone Stile, sits between the higher former common lands of Featherbed Moss which lay beyond the most southern of the Howden Edges and the 1811 enclosures lower down the slopes of the Derwent Valley, known as Hey’s, Upper, Nether and Cow.

Hey’s fell between the Outpastures and the enclosed lands with tenants of the Hey lands having greater rights than in the Outpastures higher up the slopes, where the number of stock was tightly controlled for each farm, Tenants could cut peat on the Hey and apply lime to improve the peaty soil. Walking across this landscape today peat cuttings and and sled ways can be spotted as well as the occasional pile of lime, the only remains that can now be found.

The experiment in improving the land for crop production by the introduction of lime and other soil improving chemicals proved that the land was unviable for agrarian uses and the trials were terminated in the 20th century.

John's Field Howdens
John’s Field Howden. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

A little further down the valley at John’s Field Howden, can still be viewed the remains of the crop trials, in a large mound of lime, now overgrown with grass, contained within a rectangular dry stone wall structure. The enclosure protected the crops, probably black oats, from livestock and provided a controlled environment for the experiment. The structure is not easy to find, even though it is marked on modern day Ordnance Survey maps. Its walls, quarried from a nearby outcrop, are almost at ground level now and they are easy to walk over. It is a regular favourite for navigation courses, the student, expecting to see a 5 foot high enclosure is perplexed when they arrive at what they think is the spot, only to find a flat field, or seemingly so.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.14 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.

Derwent Valley Autumn

It’s beautiful in the Upper Derwent Valley right now. The Beech, Oak and Larch are putting on a fantastic display of colour. The valley is probably one of the best places in the Peak District to see autumn in all it’s glory.

Thankfully the planners and builders of the reservoirs and the present day custodians saw fit to plant glorious woodlands including natural species, hence the colour.

The East Track is the easier walk, no traffic so you can amble along taking in the colours and that wonderful aroma of autumn.

The drive into Fairholmes from the Snake Road has to be one of the best in the country in autumn, a bit like New England, all golds, yellows, reds and browns.

Derwent Dam

Views rarely seen by the public. This is the inside of Derwent Dam. Beautiful crafted walls show the original untainted colour of the stone. The stone is dressed which is amazing considering that it would never be viewed, a nice touch of quality by the builders. There are two staircases in the cross tunnel leading each to the East and West Towers. The interior has a slightly eerie feel to it, monastic in a way. The temperature is constant and the slightly sandy floor gives the impression of the inside of a Pharoahs Tomb to an imaginative mind.

Not many people will know that the Dam stretches for hundreds of feet in to the hillside on both sides, which is one way to stop it sliding down the valley and losing all that water.

The interior of the Dam is made of stone “Plums”. Plum shaped boulders that were placed near to but not touching each other. When the concrete was poured in it filled the gaps and hence no air pockets of weakness.

A common misconception with the Dam is that it was used for target practice during the war. This is not true. The Dambuster Squadron did practice there as it was similar in design to the Mohne and Eider Dams. This fact combined with what seem to be pock mocks on the stonework developed into the myth of the RAF firing at the Dam for practice. The mundane truth about the pock marks is that they were made to accept the scissor lifting device used to place the large and heavy stones into place during construction.

Changing landscapes

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Derwent Village, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park.  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland     http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

A changing landscape has always fascinated me. I think the interest comes when I find out things are there that I never even knew about. I have a boyish attraction to the man made artefacts that were once of use and even important but now are long forgotten.

Benchmarks are a particular delight when I find one. A friend and fellow Ranger sent me a picture of one this week and it prompted me to look for more, so I got out my old maps and started to look.

The map above is from a survey in 1880 and it shows the now submerged village of Derwent. You can still walk around the village when the waters or low, discerning streets and boundary walls. Some of the village still exists, the school for instance, the one at the top, not in the village, I had not realised there were two. The gates to the Vicarage can be seen but the building along with Derwent Hall and the church have long gone. Grindle Barn is still there although the path up now sets off from a different place.

What is interesting are the OS benchmarks. There is one by the road between the upper school building and Wellhead at a height of 712 feet and 4 inches. Something to go and seek out next time I am there.