Travelling from Manchester to Sheffield along the A57 Snake Road you crest at Moscar and begin the long descent towards the Rivelin Valley. At Hollow Meadows on the right hand side of the road and prominent on the moorland skyline sits a tower of rock. It makes an impact on the eye because it stands perpendicular to a landscape that is for all intent and purpose flat along the horizon. This is the Head Stone. A tower of coarse red grit and conglomerate sitting on more of the same but adding in red sandstone, shale and coal to the surrounding areas.
It is a lovely spot to visit and of course try a hand at tower climbing. Access can be made from the Snake Road at Hollow Meadows but I prefer walking up from the Rivelin Reservoirs through Reddicar Clough and along Head Stone Bank, on a Sunday afternoon in summer this is a wonderful stroll. The tower sits at the western end of a long rocky promontory along a geological fault line with wonderful panoramic views.
Directly across the Snake from the Head Stone is Hollow Meadows, housing now, and expensive housing at that, but once an Industrial School, meaning truant school, and before that a Sheffield Workhouse, looking beyond you can see the quarries where the inhabitants worked. I wonder if the poor unfortunates looked out at the Head Stone with longing for freedom or was the landscape viewed as a place to be avoided.
Head Stone is a place a pilgrimage too, judging by the small plaques screwed to its surface here and there and the bunches of flowers laid around. Which probably means it is a place well-loved by lots of people although I have never encountered anyone when visiting.
It sits amidst a boulder field that is well worth exploring for it contains the last of George Broomhead handy work for William Wilson the snuff magnate, who had George carving water bowls out of the rocks to provide drinking water for his grouse. George numbered each one in three sets stretching from Stanage Edge to Wyming Brook. Number 19 on this final set, the Oaking Clough line is a beauty, probably one of my favourites.
Drive along the Snake road heading for Manchester and as you pass the Rivelin reservoir glance over to your left and you will see a tall rock tower standing alone on the moor. This is the Head Stone, so-called by Ordnance Survey.
It is unusual but not unique in the Dark Peak, being a rock tower devoid of any other surrounding towers. The Head Stone stands at the western end of a gritstone outcrop, not great in height but long and thin, with an accompanying boulder field strewn along its length.
As with any prominent rocks the Head Stone has gained its own mythology. It is said to be used in Pagan rituals, one of its names is the Cock Crowing Stone, a reference perhaps to the slaying of a Cockerel at the stone on the midwinter solstice. The ‘Head” is said to rotate on certain days of the year and at sunrise a face will appear in the stone on a particular morning. None of which are have specified days, which probably means it is not true! The Eagle Stone on Eaglestone Flat near Baslow Edge is said to do the same. Sunrise is obviously a busy time for geology in the Peak District.
It is also known as Stump John and Priestley Stone after John Priestley of Overstones Farm just below Stanage Edge, although why this should be so is not clear and could be erroneous.
The easiest way to it is by leaving the track that is Wyming Brook Drive and ascend up through Wyming Nature Reserve at Reddicar Clough. It is a nice little detour from PB Walk No.7 . As you come out of the Clough and through the sheep fence you work your way west across the boulder field, there is a nice path, towards the Head Stone. On the way you will pass several grouse water bowls carved into the gritstone rocks, and below the Head Stone you will find number 15, not often visible as the heather obscures its position.