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.

Derwent Village – Peak District

Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District
Brick made by Skyers Spring. Found in the remains of Derwent Village. Peak District

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.

 

Peak District in the snow

Winter is just rubbish this season in the Peak District National Park. Too warm, too wet underfoot and calamities of calamities not enough snow, any snow, snow that stays around for days and weeks, not just a few hours creating mayhem then slinking away like an errant child.

I have had some wonderful winters in the Peak District. Proper winters, with cold and snow and the Snake, Woodhead and Cat and Fiddle closed and blocked with stranded vehicles. Winters where you have to pinch yourself because you are the first person, ever to walk into Dovedale went it is covered in snow from the previous days snowstorm. All the snow just drapes across the trees and the walls and the fields, great billows of cotton. And not a single foot print in sight save for those of birds and sheep.

Walking around the Upper Derwent Valley and having to post hole for 9 miles, wishing you’d brought a slower companion. Cant he stop and look at the scenery, its magnificent. The groins paid for it after though. A full six months before I could walk normally again.

Sitting in Grindle Barn and just looking at the scenery down the Upper Derwent Valley. Snow covering Bamford Edge and Win Hill. Snow in all the fields, right down to the reservoir edge. Drinking spiced Bovril from the flask and thinking last time you did this was in the bird hide at Ditch Clough I gave my Ranger mentor for the day a cup because she loved the smell.

Walking along the pastures below Rocher Edge and seeing a truly gift card scene. A monochrome landscape in perfect balance. Nothing out of place at all. Later the dogs getting snow balled up as they dived in and out of the snow.

Ice crystals at Kinder Downfall, but far too soon for any ice climbers. A day on Kinder in the winter, planning a walk that was far too long for some and using the short cut to get back on track. Then into the Snake Inn and meeting friends old and new, all having had a great time in the Dark Peak snow.

How the wind blows snow against the walls and leaves the opposite side clear. Great drifts forming where the wind packs the snow. Suddenly having to navigate without walls and fields and boundaries for reference because there aren’t any, they are all under great big piles of washing. Bright white, a brilliant blue white like in the washing powder commercials.

Thinking, next year I am going to get snow shoes or learn to ski. And next year comes and will there be snow this year, perhaps not, so don’t waste my money. Then I remember the time I nearly got stuck on the Snake, but managed to make it back to Glossop and a 8 hour round trip via the M62 to get home.

I love winter and I have missed it this year.