A great family day in the Peak District

 

 

This is probably one of the best book reviews I have received, if not the best. Messages like this make everything worthwhile, especially when the young have such a fantastic time out in the Peak District.

Daniel Simpson sent me this message via facebook of a day out with his family. They chose to do PB Walk 5 Grindleford to Higger Tor. If you want to introduce children to walking and have a good time, then this is definitely the walk to do. Thank you to Daniel and his family.

Hi Paul. Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed our walk today. By far and away the highlight was just how much my son’s enjoyed themselves they wee enjoying it every bit as much as me if not more so. So often I feel like I’m cajoling them in to something they’re not massively keen on but the past two Sundays have been an absolute blast. I didn’t really use the guidebook whilst walking last week but we had loads of time today so I let my 10 year old lead the way following the instructions, when we were at the rear of the chapel and he realised where he was stood was the same as the one in your book it blew his mind…it was lovely honestly, he was almost starstruck and later on when we walked past the gritstones he recognised those as well and demanded the book to confirm what he was seeing was the one from the book. I managed to snap him posting and getting good really giddy, it looks contrived but he was going ‘look !…that’s those from the book’. Thanks again, really enjoyed it today.

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Grindleford Station walk – Peak District

Readers off Dark Peak Walks enjoying the first group walk. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Readers of Dark Peak Walks enjoying the first group walk.

It has been a busy few days of late. A couple of call outs with MR, SARDA dog training, and preparation work for magazine articles and walks for the forthcoming books.

Sunday was a big day in a nice sort of way. A group of us went for a walk in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, one from my book Dark Peak Walks.

Speed Limit at Grindleford Station. Peak District National Park. PB Walk 5, Dark Peak Walks Book. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Speed Limit at Grindleford Station. Peak District National Park

Fourteen people and four dogs set out from Grindleford Station and walked up to Higger Tor, PB Walk 5 in the book, only we did it in reverse so that we could visit Padley Chapel on one of its rare open days.

The Money Tree, Padley Gorge
The money tree in Padley Gorge

Walking up Padley Gorge with the stream thundering below us was a wonderful experience. We came across a money tree, lost of these popping up across the Peak District now.

Arriving at Carl Wark with Higger Tor in the background, Dark Peak, Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks book. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Arriving at Carl Wark with Higger Tor in the background.

It was lovely to meet and talk with so many people interested in the Dark Peak and have a leisurely walk in the wonderful weather. Considering all the rain we have had the day was sunny and warm. The recent wet weather did work in our favour though with a marvellous display of heather across the moors. I cannot ever remember seeing the heather so vibrant in colour, huge great swathes of purple and pink stretching as far as the eye could see. It made for wonderful photo opportunities and great shots appearing on social media later.

The glorious heather surrounding Carl Wark
Vibrant heather on Carl Wark

I got a chance to show people things that are not in the book. Writing and publishing a book becomes a balancing act of what to put in and what to leave out. It is one of the reasons I started this blog, there is so much out there that is interesting in fields as diverse as human activity, wildlife, geology, cartography, history, anthropology, war, it is all there if you know how and where to look.

On Sunday we covered the provision of clean drinking water for the major cities surrounding the Peak District National Park and land ownership of the landed gentry on the Longshaw Estate. Then we moved on to World War II training grounds in the Burbage Valley along with the air raid defences around Sheffield near the Houndkirk Road. We visited the Iron Age hill fort at Carl Wark, packhorse routes across the Peak District and cartographic surveying by the Ordnance Survey on Higger Tor. We passed by the boundaries of Union Workhouses in the 19th century around Hathersage and Sheffield, sheep and crop enclosures on Hathersage moor. Setting of back to Grindleford we looked at millstone production at Bole Hill and discussed the changing fortunes of millstone production caused by the fashion for white bread. Saw the massive civil engineering on the quarry incline that transferred stone from Bole Hill to the Derwent Valley dam construction.

Padley Chapel window
Side window in Padley Chapel

Finally the fate of catholic martyrs in the 16th century at Padley Chapel that we were able to visit and have a guided tour.

We walked and talked for six hours and it was an absolute delight. And to top it all people gave £40 in donations that will go to Glossop and Woodhead Mountain Rescue Teams, for which I am ever so grateful.

To everyone who came thank you so much for your on going interest and your support of Mountain Rescue. After this success, general agreement seemed to be for another walk perhaps in winter, when we have had a good dusting of snow.

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

Ordnance Survey surveyor marks

Lots of discussion on social media this weekend about Ordnance Survey marks on the gritstone of the Dark Peak in the Peak District. A topic that fascinates me with every walk including a foray into the wilderness to try to find some elusive mark made more than a century and a half ago.

Top left is a benchmark used to establish height at a point on the footpath to Stanage End from Moscar.

Below that is a benchmark used to mark a survey position on Higger Tor.

Top right is a really interesting one. An arrow below a square box with a dot in the middle. This denotes a survey height taken from the ground and not estimated. On modern maps today these are denoted as a black dot with a height number as opposed to an orange dot which denotes a measurement taken from the air.

Bottom left is a lovely levelling bolt, indicating a survey position near Laddow Rocks.

Bottom right two survey marks, one for levelling and one for triangulation found on Back Tor on Derwent Edge. On the left hand mark is a benchmark made by Lieut Barlow RE when he carried out the triangulation in 185. The right hand mark denotes a spot height taken in 1854 by Capt Kerr RE to establish the contour lines.

All heights back then used the Liverpool datum and approximate average of the sea height there. Nowadays the OS maps use the Newlyn datum taken from the tidal measuring station in Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall.

 

A few hours in the Peak District – Burbage

Alison and I live on the edge of the Dark Peak and recently we have taken to escaping to the Peak District National Park for a few hours of an evening. Pack up some food, a flask of tea, camera and away. The thing is not to make it complicated and to do it for just a few hours.

Last night we paid a visit to Burbage Valley, Carl Wark and Higger Tor. Almost clear skies meant that a flaming sunset was in the offing, so some good photo opportunities. As often happens on these small excursions a subject presents itself and last night it was gritstone markings, manmade and natural. Burbage Valley is full of them if you keep the eyes peeled and know what to look for.

We found declarations of love and ownership. The remains of World War Two still evident on the bullet pockmarked boulders that lay all around. Did none of these bullets ever ricochet off and kill someone I always wonder. Natural rock features that look like a human fist. And what could possibly be the progenitor to the grouse water bowls on Stanage Edge, what look to be natural rock bowls, eroded by wind, rain and ice all around Higger Tor.

Three hours from house to return and we had a small adventure and tea in the park.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near walk 4 and walk 5 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

 

Winter on Hathersage Moor

Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor, Peak District National Park
Monty and Olly on Hathersage Moor

As I look out of the window a few flakes of snow are drifting around, the first real snow flakes this year and the only second lot of snow this winter. Walking in the Peak District National Park when there is snow on the ground is a real joy. Care has to be taken as the weather often changes quickly from a nice winter scene to one of life threatening survival.

I have a friend out on Kinder Scout today, running the Kinder Dozen, a gruelling route up and down the flanks of the plateau. In winter conditions this is one serious undertaking, but well prepared can be a fine way of spending a day out on the high moors.

Some of the best days out walking have been in winter. Back in 2013 I was leading a group of walkers around the White Peak. It snowed heavily in the night, fifteen foot snow drifts were not unusual, so there was no use of the car. We elected to walk from the hotel down in to Dovedale and follow it up to Milldale. We were the first people in the dale. All was white and quiet, and curves. Not a single footprint existed, the land was formed by white billows of snow, obliterating walls and footpaths. It was like walking into Narnia. We all walked without talking, just enjoying the surreal experience.

The picture above was taken a few years ago on Hathersage Moor. When we set out it was just a normal winter day, no snow, but a heavy sky. By mid afternoon it had all changed and as we dropped down from Higger Tor the scene changed to a complete whiteout, unusual in the Peak District. We were heading for the enclosure but that had disappeared. Walking on a bearing we found the walls and then on to Mother Cap. At all times, literally just a few hundred meters away from a road, but we might as well have been in the middle of Bleaklow for all we could see.

Monty and Olly enjoyed it hugely and collected huge great balls of snow on their coats. A day never to forget. Getting out there is what makes the memories.

Hathersage Moor appears on Walk No.5 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

Gritstone Graffiti

It pays to keep your eyes open on a walk in the Dark Peak. It is also an advantage to look around at the gritstone that forms this wonderful landscape, because you might just spot some graffiti from another age.

Centuries ago people signified their claim on the land by making marks in the rock. These would often be used to signify boundaries and ownership. Beating the bounds, an annual perambulation, a word that means to traverse to inspect, meant a walk across the moors to check the marks were still there. Parish boundaries were a favourite as were boundaries where two estates met.

Some marks were simple crosses, such as the one on Hathersage Moor, made in the 19th century and which lies between the Sheepfold and Higger Tor. Others combined initials or motifs, such as the ‘T’ and ‘E’ at Back Tor on Derwent Edge. This one also sits beside and early surveyors mark made by the Ordnance Survey.

 

History on Higger Tor

Yesterday I spent a few hours on Hathersage Moor and Higger Tor seeing if any benchmarks shown on old maps would still be evident today.

The image from the old map above is taken from a survey of the Moor carried out in 1852. Would the benchmarks shown still be there, did they actually exist or were they just markings on the map showing where a measurement had been taken from? What did they actually look like?

The one on Higger Tor, (Higher Tor), seemed to be the easiest to find. It’s the small arrow between the ‘r’ and ‘T’ of ‘Higger Tor’. The marking is not to scale obviously, nearby there is a triangle denting a triangulation point. It also has lots of features to aim from and sure enough that’s how it turned out. It took a while of rummaging around and at first I was looking for a benchmark on a vertical surface and chiselled in the style that is normally seen on buildings and gate posts. Then I found it, on a large flat stone, in the middle of the edge path. The marking was on a horizontal surface and pointed west, not north as in the map. It was a simple arrow with no levelling line at the tip of the arrow. The mark was still very clear, although if you weren’t looking for it you probably wouldn’t notice it. Did they take the measurement and then make the mark or vice versa? A Benchmark denoted a levelling point, hence the number, in feet, nearby, and the triangle marked the spot for triangulation. Are they one and the same place or was the triangulation in a different spot. Close by there was a spot that would have been perfect for a tripod and theodolite.

Dropping down from the Tor onto the Moor I set out to find the other two marks that are shown on the map as you head south-west towards the walled enclosure. Success was not to be mine. I needed to do a great deal more work on the position of the marks. The bracken hid many boulders and time had allowed moss and lichen to grow over a large number. I didn’t want to disturb too much so looked but could not find the two.

I did find other items of interest though. A possible burial cairn, complete with chamber. A partially finished grindstone, some way from the traditional grindstone fields and more markings that were different to the Ordnance Survey marks.

A few hours spent walking in the foot steps of surveyors and masons and perhaps Bronze Age man.