I like moorland walking. Its a great way to get fit, improve calf and thigh muscles and once you get walking across peat moorland with lots of grass tussocks it will definitely improve you ankle strength, all in all a winner. I was scared of the moorlands as a kid because someone, I cannot remember who, put the idea in to my head that they were dangerous places where people died. I have grown to love the high moors, the loneliness mixed with wild beauty has a transfixing effect on my mind, after a few miles walking I have completely left my other lives behind.
The path up to Flask Edge was almost a sheep track, it was so narrow as it wound its way through calf high heather. In places I had to divert due to the amount of standing water. We have had so much rain this winter, peat bogs have become a soup as they stop being able to absorb any more rain. The path rises to a small plateau with broken down walls forming a handrail to the triangulation pillar. As I arrived, a huge group of ramblers also appeared and what seemed to be a bit of a stand off ensued. I wanted my photo they didn’t want to move. I decided to say my good mornings and take in the view. You can see for miles from here, across Sheffield, over to the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Power Stations, up in to North Yorkshire and down the Derwent Valley through Derbyshire. Eventually the oldies grew tired of the metaphorical staring contest and buggered off down the path I had ascended. I got my photo!
Then set off after them. They were surprisingly quick and noisy so I let them get on ahead. I am with Wainwright on walking. Being alone is enough company and being quiet is even better.
There is a track that winds its way down to the old abandoned Barbrook Reservoir and I ambled along it enjoying the easy walking. Along the track I came across a leaning stone pillar and noticed it had a benchmark with the levelling mark perfectly level, so assume this is how it is supposed to look and time has not pulled the pillar over. It would be easy to become disoriented in the area there being no water in the reservoir, the bottom being well overgrown with moorland grass. At first I thought, hang on, there should be a big blue bit here, then saw the hole, of Dambuster proportions in the dam. There is no way this reservoir could ever hold water with a hole that big, whatever are the water people playing at, come to think of it what are OS playing at, colouring in water when there plainly could not be any. By the way never ever ever call the thing that is supposed to hold the water in the reservoir a Dam Wall. Dam builders become very agitated when hearing this. The “Wall” is The Dam, there is no wall. Got It.
I did a little nav exercise here to a stone circle not far away. Got to the right point but couldn’t see the circle. I was looking for a small circle of stones, maybe a few feet in diameter. It slowly dawned on me that the stone I was standing in front of was part of a large stone circle and that I had in fact found it.
Lunch at a lovely little bridge where I enjoyed my Big Soup in my Thermos Soup Flask and some nice cheese and pickle sandwiches. The boys played around and had the odd chew to gnaw. Then we headed off across Big Moor,now part of the Eastern Moors Partnership of the National Trust and RSPB.
As we crested the hill I noticed quite a lot of people watching us, I could see their heads turned in our direction. It was only as we got closer that I realised it was the herd of deer that live on the moor. It is purportedly the largest wild herd in England, I have no doubt this is correct. Once they had a whiff of the boys, or maybe it was me and all that man made base layer technology, they scarpered and were never seen by us again.
We hit White Edge just to the left of the trig, this is called aiming off in navigational terms or just plain lucky in layman terms. The views were magnificent, Bleaklow, Kinder, Wing Hill, Lose Hill, The Great Ridge, Burbage and Stanage. Then down the Derwent Valley deep into the White Peak ans going east towards the coast. Viewpoints like this are magical places, giving a sense of scale to the landscape and the human. We really are of no consequence when placed in a landscape that does not even register our existence.
We worked our way along White Edge, the wind gusting strongly, but still quite warm. Ollie enjoyed it tremendously and kept stopping to face in to the wind for a bit of surfing. Monty was not so keen as the wind would have ruffled his coiffed hair doo. Heading back to the car we passed two relics of a lost transportation infrastructure.
The side tells the traveller this is the Dronfield Road, it also has a benchmark on the face. It was used to guide travellers between Sheffield, Dronfield, Tideswell and Bakewell. There is further information at artsinthepeak
There is something satisfying about walking an ancient route. I imagine all sorts of characters struggling along in dark days with howling gales across desolate moorland. Trains of horses loaded with goods, monks moving from monastery to grange, journeymen, quarrymen, stone masons and of course vagabonds. Imagine being out on these moors in bad weather, the depths of winter, no fancy hi tech clothing, no maps or compasses, only stories and the stones to tell you the way.
There are several salt routes that cross the moors around Big Moor and Leach Fen further south, major trade and communication routes. Many were marked by crosses, Ladys Cross on Big Moor is the third and most complete example I have seen on these walks. It still has some of its perimeter wall surrounding it. As a traveller these crosses must have been a welcome sight and visible for many miles.
Shortly after leaving Ladys Cross I arrived back at my car and the third and final Trig Point. This was the hardest to find. No pillar just a surface bolt in a lump of stone below ground level as it transpired. Some prodding around with a Leki eventually located it. This would be a fine nav test.
Walking through thousands of years of history all within a nine square kilometres is one of the joys of being outdoors, made all the more special when that history is so easily to hand and visible.