Bamford Edge

Layers of sediment clearly visible on Bamford Edge
Layers of sediment clearly visible on Bamford Edge

Bamford Edge is often overlooked by both climbers and walkers. I guess that lack of access before CROW in 2000 put it out of peoples mind. There are still restrictions in place and the moor is closed at certain times of year. Outside of those times I would urge people to go and explore one of the Peak District most iconic places. This is the edge that looms above you as you drive along the road from Bamford village to Ladybower. It stands proud, heralding the Dark Peak.

The area is easy to get to from Stanage, Bamford or best of all Heatherdene car park. The route from Heatherdene leads up through a holloway, hundreds of years old which threads its way through an oak woodland even older.

The edge itself is good old Gritstone or Millstone Grit. A sandstone peppered with sharp grains that made it perfect for the Sheffield cutlery industry. The face of the edge shows the continuous build up of sediments brought down in to a delta the outflow of which became the Derwent Valley. Over millions of years the sediments were deposited layer up on layer, then as Britain moved north from the equator and the seas retreated the gritstone was revealed.

Gritstone sits above the coal deposits along with some shales, that pop up now and again around the Peak District. Far down below sits the calcium rich limestone, which is plain to see in the White Peak and is easily visible from Bamford Edge if you look up the Hope Valley. There you will see the giant limestone quarry with half the hillside missing and residing in a thousand patios and pathways across Britain.

Bamford Moor is awash with archaeological interest. Stone circles, cairns, hut circles and more all feature on the moor, if you know what to look for and have the patience. Most is now well hidden in undergrowth but a stone circle towards Stanage is relatively easy to spot, sitting on a slightly elevated earth platform. Near to the circle is the Old Womans Stone, a taller carved piece of gritstone that once stood away from the circle, it now lays on the ground. The cairn field and ancient settlement, thought to be Bronze Age are harder to see and require some detective work and patience.

Lots of historic and archaeological interest stretching from 350 Million years right up to present day and covering Neolithic, Bronze age, Roman and modern day industrial activity can be explored.

It is well worth a visit and can be combined with several superb walks. The views along the valleys and across to the high moorlands of Bleaklow and Kinder are magnificent and eastwards lay the edges of Stanage, Burbage, Frogatt and Curbar.

Spring

Towards Whinstone Lee Tor and the Derwent Edge
Towards Whinstone Lee Tor and the Derwent Edge

I attended my first Peak District National Park Ranger day since Christmas recently.  It was an easy day with some maintenance work in the morning, scraping leaves off double yellow lines on the approach roads up the Derwent Valley.  It felt good to be back with the shift.  I’ve missed the lads, the work and the camaraderie.

After lunch we all went out on individual patrols.  I like this part of being a Ranger the best.  Talking to the public, helping them, educating them on what the landscape is doing this time of year in the valley.  It was a nice day and I wanted to visit a small secluded valley, not often frequented as it is off the main trails.  Walking down the old Derwent Valley road to what is now left of the village the sun warmed me up, the first time this year that has happened.

I reached my turn off and heading up a vehicle track, stopping off to view an old barn, now used for storage, that sits opposite a derelict farm-house.  What life was like here I don’t know but I managed to conjour up an image in my mind of shepherds working with their flocks.

I continued up an old holloway, the ground still a bit muddy from all the rain we have had.  About halfway up there is an old oak tree, all knarled curling branches.  It sits on top of the holloway banking and looks out over a small dale.  Clambering up I was pleased to see the roots formed a natural seat with the trunk forming a  back rest.  I took out my map and leaning back into the tree settled in to look at the landscape.

There were old lines where once field boundaries had been, these were long removed to facilitate larger fields.  Some had the odd tree still standing in line with its neighbours, and looking at these markers in the land I could reconstruct the way the land used to be.  How long back I could go I guess would have been a hundred years or more.  The farm above is well over 300 years old and judging by some of the field boundaries I would say the landscape was at least 7 – 800 years old.

I sat there for an hour or more, taking in the sun and the landscape.  It is one of the nicest hours I have spent this year.

Hidden Valleys

Upper Derwent Valley
Upper Derwent Valley

I find myself in the Upper Derwent Valley most weeks of the year, it helps being a Ranger in that area for the Peak District National Park, which gives me a reason to be there, other than loving the beauty of the place.  I first came across the area back in the 70’s when Mick Dyson and I cycled from his home at the side of Tinsley viaduct to the summit of the Snake Pass.  Some feat for a couple of kids and even bigger feat for me, Mick had a 10 speed bike with go faster handle bars, I had a cast off sit up and beg Raleigh with no gears and a saddle that cut you in half.  We cycled up the A57 stopping off at Philips little garden shed where he sold bacon butties and mugs of tea at the side of the road.  We didn’t know it then but we were in the presence of a legend, the hut being Philips precursor to his cafe at Grindleford station.  I don’t recall any scrawled signs giving strict instruction not to ask for mushrooms, because he doesn’t do them and how many more times do people need telling that, but there probably were some.  Dropping down from Moscar Top and crossing the Ashopton Viaduct with the road entrance into the valley on the right I was awestruck by what I saw.  I had never imagined there could be such a wild place, the moors seemed brooding, oppressive and menacing, especially to a skinny lad from Rotherham who had only ever seen the woods at the bottom of the street and, once a year, Blackpool Tower.  It would be a long time before I ever ventured up that road but when I did eventually drive up to the Ranger centre I was captivated by what I saw and experienced.  The first impression of that drive was one of grandeur, majestic trees and towering ridges.  It was, for me, an epiphany, I had come home.

The valley is conjoined by a series of cloughs, miniature secluded valleys, the joy of which is their isolation from the outside world.  You never know quite what you will find or indeed if you will ever emerge once you have stepped down from the rim off the moorland that sits above the clough.  This action is often the first part of the adventure for there is rarely a path down and you have to find the best way, often a scramble over greasy, moss encrusted gritstone.  A frisson of fear shivers through the body as you hold on as tight as can be done with cold fingers and an unsure step.  Grabbing at clumps of grass and fern probably isn’t the most sensible way to achieve descent but then who ever said walking had to be sensible?  Reaching ground a decision has to be made where to go for there are no human signs to guide you.  The clough is thick with bracken, waist high and smelling fresh and green.  It makes walking difficult, your feet cannot be seen so you trust in touch, judgement and luck and the bracken wraps around your feet so every so often you need to stop and force your legs through the tangle.  Working along the sides I start to gradually descend until my eye is caught with some feature that looks interesting.

Best are the old quarry workings now engulfed by nature they fascinate me.  Man was here before I was and he wasn’t having fun he was hewing stone from these ancient rocks.  How did he arrive in this isolated place, did he walk, was there a form of transport.  In winter was he drenched in sweat and rain or snow, cold hands working colder tools to break rock and for what, what was so special about this place that it needed to become an industrial site, where did the rock go to, what was it used for.

You can stop and sit here for hours; no one will disturb you it’s yours for as long as you want.  Find a rock or a grassy shelf and just take it in.  Once the clough has got used to you being here it goes back to its normal life.  Birds flit about eating, collecting, and the odd rustle in the bracken indicates some creature going about its business.  At times I think I can here voices and steel hitting gritstone and fancy I see men working away whilst in the background a stream bubbles away running along the floor.

One day for whatever reason the men left and no longer was the stone required.  Why is lost now, no one thought to document these places and so they slipped back to nature who re-claimed them and continued on the process of millions of years.