It’s nice to live so close to easily accessible geology. Gritstone is all around the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. On Loxley Common there are a great number of small quarries still visible where the Chatsworth seam of gritstone was so close to the surface men just had to walk in and take it. The 1792 Parliamentary enclosure of Loxley Common gave rise to quarrying and mining. The mines were for coal and gannister both closely associated with Chatsworth Grit. The quarrying was for stone for local use, the enclosure walls were made from the stone found right next to the line of build. Gritstone was also in demand for building and the area around Loxley Common is mainly of gritstone build, including High Bradfield Church, a wonderful example of the finish that could be achieved with the material. A Mrs Sissons and a Mr Pearce both had ownership or licence of the quarries on Loxley Common in the latter of the 19th century, with Sheffield growing at a fast rate and the use of gannister in steel and glass production becoming widespread, it must have been a very profitable business.
I went to have a look for Cave House on Loxley Common today. The Ordnance Survey map of 1852 shows the dwelling sitting on the edge of a rectangular enclosure so it should not be too much of a problem in identifying it.
I found the remains quite quickly sitting just below the Loxley Edge right where the map said it would be. There isn’t much left of it. Because of copyright I have no image to show, but this is what it looked like here . It was demolished in the 1920’s using explosives, probably from the quarry workings and possibly because there is a quarry right behind it and the approach to the house up a nice ramp would have made easy access for the stone to be removed.
The house was built into the rock and consumed a cave as part of the dwelling. Its construction was known as a fire house, all of it being built of stone including floors, another was the old Robin Hood pub in Little Matlock across the valley, built by the same person. Mrs Revill who lived in the house with her husband was found murdered in the house at the turn of 1812, her husband went quietly mad and finally hung himself at the house before the next year was out.
A few decades before, one Frank Fearn, lured a watchmaker to the Old Horns Inn at High Bradfield and killed him on his way back to Sheffield. He was caught and tried and hung, then gibbeted on Loxley Common for seventeen years until his bones fell out of the iron girdle on Christmas Day. A few years later an accomplice of Spencer Broughton the highwayman escaped capture and hid out on Loxley Common. When found he committed suicide there instead of being captured and hung.
Who would have thought one small area could see so much crime and punishment.
Every Christmas when I was a kid mom and dad would drag my brother and I across town to visit Uncle Frank and Aunty Iris. It was a walk of 3 miles or more through suburban housing and odd open spaces. We walked because we didn’t have a car, this was back in the sixties and walking wasn’t a pastime then, it was how you got about.
I looked forward to the walk because when we got to the Colin Campbell pub we had to cross some open land, that had a pond with stickleback fish in, weird dry grass and even more strange black hills about twenty feet high. It was a very odd place. I now know it was an old coal pit, closed long before that whore of the city Thatcher got her hands on the school milk, never mind whole mining communities.
In one corner was this sinister obelisk. It stood on one of the small hills, like a pyramid, the white bright against the black coal spoil. It always freaked me out a bit because it sat there throbbing, a deep hum seemingly emanating from the inner core. Of course this was in the days of the first Dr WHO programmes which I watched from behind the settee so perhaps it could have been my imagination. I always looked out for the pyramid but never thought to ask what it was. Such are the seeds of a future life wasted on trivialities and other such important stuff in life.
The latest triangulation walk covered ancient routes, astronomy, the global positioning network and the legacy of the privileged classes, quite a menu for a days walk.
Rain has been a constant companion for quite a lot of us lately, I see they are now calling the current weather a conveyor system, a pretty descriptive term as we seem to be getting massive pulses of rain interspersed with a day or so of cold blue skies. I had not chosen one of the blue sky days, more to the pity. At least it didn’t bucket it down or freezing cold.
The first trig was at the top of a hill, so no surprises there then. To get to it I had to walk up through two villages, first Low Bradfield and then High Bradfield along a lovely old stone paved trail, the gritstone slabs dished with hundreds of years of passing feet. At High Bradfield a sign told me the church was open but as I vigorously rattled the door like one of Henry’s boys from the monastic cleansing department, it clearly wasn’t. Peeved me a bit that did as I wanted to use the porch to put on my waterproofs, as it was I had to don them beside an opened stone coffin which thankfully only contained an empty crisp packet, salt and vinegar flavour, and a chocolate bar wrapper.
Onwards and upwards through the most sodden ground I have seen in a long time. There has been so much rain the ground cannot take any more. Water sits in great lakes across the landscape, cascading off fields and down roads in sheets of rippled silver.
Kirk Edge trig point is pretty un-glamorous surrounded by grotty fields, a water board pumping station and broken down walls. The view wasn’t even any good today as you can see. There is some compensation though in the rather sinister and newly refurbished buildings to the east. These belong to Sheffield University Astronomy department. I have no idea what they do up there, but it does bring back similar feelings to my childhood forays to Aunty Iris.
Onwards then to a special trig via Rocher Edge a wonderfully isolated wooded area with towering cliffs just asking to be scaled. My goal was a very special triangulation point, so special it had a special fence and a plaque.
This strange trigpoint is still in use as part of the GPS system today. The picture at the top of the blog is of the top of the stone obelisk shown here. It is odd isn’t it that today’s GPS hi-tech units still have to rely on a piece of technology built in the thirties. It is called a Fundamental Benchmark because it was one of the first trigs established and is set on bedrock so is highly unlikely to move and therefore very reliable.’
Lunchtime and I found a sheltered spot from the wind and rain along a shooting track that led onto the moors. It was quite a nice place, I was very comfy with my flask and pot of noodles, I rather enjoyed myself.
The final trig was only about 750m away from me but I decided to avoid the steep clough, didn’t fancy clambering down and back up again in all that wind and rain. I followed the track round then turned east before cart wheeling head first in to a peat bog, the first of three that day. It is a part of Peak District moorland walking, peat bogs, and you just have to accept that at some point you will be sucked in. There’s one born every minute as Sam used to say.
This was my little bit of nav practice in a howling gale with just the use of the map. My objective was marked on the OS map as “New Cross”, which sat on a small featureless plateau. I focused on a point on the skyline and headed for it through thick heather, peat grough and waterlogged marsh land, arriving bang on the cross with no time wasted looking for it.
I am unsure what the crosses were for, there are a few of them in the Peak district and I assumed they were some form of ancient way markers. They always have a base where the post must have fitted, but is now long gone and always in a remote location in relation to today’s transport routes. They do warrant further study, perhaps they were a form of trig point, albeit without the triangulation.
A simple bearing and some pacing took me across moorland to the final trig on a small hill over looking the Bradfield Valley.
The light was starting to fade now, time to get off the hill and out of the wind and rain. As I headed back to the village the rain softened, big drops landed gently on my coat and made for a pleasant end to the day.