The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park
The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge, Peak District National Park

The Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is full of gritstone rock formations that have being hewn and sanded over millions of years by the wind and rain. One of the most iconic is the Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge in the Upper Derwent Valley.

It sits, or more accurately, balances on the very edge of the long gritstone escarpment that runs up the eastern side of the valley and presides over a spectacular view of the moors of Howden and Bleaklow and the reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower.

It is easy to spot from below, but surprisingly easy to miss when walking along the newly laid path that traverses the edge. You pass the Wheelstones on the right and go up the slight rise of White Tor then a matter of 500m further on you come to the gritstone outcrop on the left that hides the Salt Cellar. A faint path leads through the heather directly to it, or you can walk a little further on until reaching a dry stone wall coming up from the valley floor on your left, which you then follow back to the Salt Cellar.

The Salt Cellar balances precariously on a thin post of gritstone, looking almost like a wine glass with its wide base, stem and bowl. I have never known anyone climb it, probably from fear of knocking it over.

On a recent visit I sat looking around at the rocks, when a little old couple appeared, the man holding a toy penguin, as you would. They were a little furtive in their actions so I feigned indifference whilst all the while keeping my eye on them. The man scrabbled around the rocks and reaching into a cleft pulled out a world war two ammunition box.They were Geocachers, if that’s the word. And the penguin was his offering.

We sat and talked awhile, they both telling me that they had been walking these hills for more than 60 years, and me a mere 40. Not a bad way to spend a life.

A days shoot on Howden Moor

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Howden Moor 1852 
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From the Sheffield Times 1858

Sheffield Times

November 21st 1858

Mr T Colley, landlord of the Bluebell Inn, was in the middle of the days shoot on the Duke of Norfolk’s moor. A Gamekeeper handed him a gun and pointed to a wild d on one of the lakes as a target. Mr Colley went up a rising piece of ground in order to get a better shot. The duck appeared to have risen, and, just as he fired, something appeared to leap out of the lake and was shot. On it being obtained, it proved to be a large pike. But this was not all, for on firing Mr Colley was knocked backwards by the rebound of the gun, which knocked him over and he rolled down the hill. He was so stunned that he had to be lifted to his feet by his friends, and in doing so found that he had crushed a hare to death and had thus made on of the most extraordinary shots ever recorded. The duck, the pike, the hare have been stuffed and placed in a box which is at present on show at the Bluebell Inn. The Duke of Norfolk on hearing the story sent Mr Colley a brace of grouse.