Penistone Stile – Peak District

Penistone Stile and Howden Edge
Penistone Stile and Howden Edge

Looking out over a failed attempt at using land for agricultural purposes. This land, Penistone Stile, sits between the higher former common lands of Featherbed Moss which lay beyond the most southern of the Howden Edges and the 1811 enclosures lower down the slopes of the Derwent Valley, known as Hey’s, Upper, Nether and Cow.

Hey’s fell between the Outpastures and the enclosed lands with tenants of the Hey lands having greater rights than in the Outpastures higher up the slopes, where the number of stock was tightly controlled for each farm, Tenants could cut peat on the Hey and apply lime to improve the peaty soil. Walking across this landscape today peat cuttings and and sled ways can be spotted as well as the occasional pile of lime, the only remains that can now be found.

The experiment in improving the land for crop production by the introduction of lime and other soil improving chemicals proved that the land was unviable for agrarian uses and the trials were terminated in the 20th century.

John's Field Howdens
John’s Field Howden. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

A little further down the valley at John’s Field Howden, can still be viewed the remains of the crop trials, in a large mound of lime, now overgrown with grass, contained within a rectangular dry stone wall structure. The enclosure protected the crops, probably black oats, from livestock and provided a controlled environment for the experiment. The structure is not easy to find, even though it is marked on modern day Ordnance Survey maps. Its walls, quarried from a nearby outcrop, are almost at ground level now and they are easy to walk over. It is a regular favourite for navigation courses, the student, expecting to see a 5 foot high enclosure is perplexed when they arrive at what they think is the spot, only to find a flat field, or seemingly so.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.14 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.

Sentinels of the Dark Peak

Howden Clough in autumn, and the Derwent Valley Water Board marker post by the little reservoir. A wonderful spot and a good way up on to Howden Edge. Did you know there are three places called Howden Edge in that part of the Peak. Could be confusing if you arrange to meet someone.

It is a lovely walk from the east track of Howden Reservoir, up through Clough Wood which is all oak and beech and in autumn sun dappled leaf motifs project onto the woodland floor which makes me slow down, and turn this way and that. I like to stop at the gate that leads in to the Clough, often if I am lucky I see Mountain Hare still in summer coat working away between Howden and Stony Bank Cloughs. Lepus Timidus to my mind is the true owner of these moors, the great icon of the Dark Peak. When one joins me on a walk, which they often do, it is such a joy, such a privilege to have their company.

No sooner have you left the woodland, you are presented with a small reservoir and dam, which seems odd, up here, when there is the great Howden Reservoir below which this flows into. By the side of the track and often overlooked is a small post bearing the letters DVWB, Derwent Valley Water Board. It is beautifully made, a small piece of craftsmanship in this wild place. To the touch it is a pleasure, its surface soft and smooth and cold to the fingers. Someone took time to design this insignificant object, to give its edges a radius so that when you run your hand over it there is no sharpness. And when it had been cast, someone took time to finish it as if it would be on show in the most prestigious of public places. But it isn’t, it’s here on the moor with the Mountain Hare, sentinels of the Dark Peak.


Trigpoint Walks 11

SK 1770 9697 Outer Edge 541m
SK 1770 9697 Outer Edge 541m

The classic walks of the Dark Peak offer the walker enjoyment of the highest order whatever the weather, come rain, snow or sunshine. The degree of isolation especially in winter when on a featureless high moorland deep in snow that is invariably being driven hard into the face by an unremitting wind, is a character building experience best savoured in warm surroundings with a hot mug of tea. The walker having endured such a day will quite rightly have earned the soft green hills of the White Peak the following spring.

The walk along the three triangulation pillars that look out over the Upper Derwent Valley is one of the great edge walks of The Peak District. It is not a long walk so there is plenty of time to stand and stare, or, better still find a vantage point and sit and watch, there will be much to view and learn.

I started from The Kings Tree at the end of the public road that winds its way up the valleys western side. A track leads across the young Derwent river via the Slippery Stones bridge, transplanted from the sunken Derwent Village, and heads off up the valley following the river. Above can be seen the edges that fringe the valley and it is to one of these that a shooting track climbs up from the river towards Crow Stones Edge and then onto the first trig at Outer Edge.

The views from the triangulation pillar are magnificent. Bleaklow, Kinder, The Great Ridge, Bamford Edge, West and North Yorkshire, all are there to be seen and no doubt on a crystal clear day well beyond that as well.

SK 1891 9569 Margery 546
SK 1891 9569 Margery 546m

The next triangulation pillar, Margery is in line with the valley and in a dry season is a pleasant walk, in wet and continuous rain it is a completely different matter. This is peat grough country, dark, thick, oozing, leg sucking. There is no avoiding it, so you might as well be prepared. Gaiters are a must as are tight laces to save lost boots. You can skirt some groughs but a strange and probably natural mathematical formula means that you can never ever escape the final ignominy of flailing about in a childish fashion whilst trying to look as though you are in control. It is also a natural law that having seen no one all day, as soon as you become stuck a ramblers group will appear out of nowhere, to ask if you need help, to which the answer is of course a firm NO.

From Margery I chose a little bit of a nav exercise, taking a bearing from Featherbed Moss to the shooting track of Dukes Road means a yomp across moorland, navigating between the wetter marsh areas to gain the track across Cartledge Bents. Near by is an old cross possibly used as a marker to the Grange at Abbey Clough nearby and well worth a visit.

SK 1976 9099 Back Tor 538
SK 1976 9099 Back Tor 538m

The slabbed track for Back Tor which can be seen on the skyline, threads through peat and bog, so at least the feet keep dry. I’m not sure about these paths, I agree they do reduce erosion and something had to be done, but they are sore on the feet, so I was glad on reaching Back Tor, to climb up to the trig, remove my boots and sit back and relax.

The vista really is superb, I was glad I had brought some binoculars so that I could watch the birds and hares and pick out favourite places on the horizon. After half an hours rest I set off down to Fairholmes visitor centre via moor, woodland and track, a great days walking whatever the weather.