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.

The Derwent Reservoirs

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The original plan for the Derwent Valley Water Board Reservoirs

Here is what the Upper Derwent and Woodlands Valley should have looked like. Originally there were set to be five reservoirs, Howden, Derwent, Bamford, Ashopton and Hagglee, each with a dam spanning the relevant valley.

The first two, Howden and Derwent were constructed at the turn of last century. The Derwent Valley Water Board also had the rights to the water in the Woodlands valley and developed plans to construct three huge reservoirs stretching up the Woodlands valley, consuming the Snake Road and most of the farms and Hamlets on either side.

The major problem with the plan was the Snake Road, one of only two trans Pennine routes, the other being the Woodhead Road. Re-routing the Snake was a major construction project with huge cost implications. To reduce the cost an alternative proposal was put forward. If you have to move the road, why not just construct one enormous dam spanning the Derwent Valley at Bamford and rising to the top of Bamford Edge and across to Win Hill. Both the Derwent and Howden dams would have been consumed  beneath the waters.

Eventually, cost and the inter war years moved the focus on to a third reservoir, Ladybower, stretching from Yorkshire Bridge up to Fairholmes, flooding the villages of Derwent and Ashopton.

Of course if one huge dam had been built there may not have been the Dambusters raid in Germany, no Four Inns walk and the start of Peak District Mountain Rescue, no Upper Derwent Valley.

So there you have it, that’s why the Upper Derwent looks like it does today.

 

 

Dark Peak Gritstone graffiti

Its always nice to find some interesting graffiti when out on the Peak District. Gritstone retains the carved word really well.

Today I had a walk in the Woodlands Valley and paid a visit to the Alphabet Stone by Bellhagg Barn, below Bellhagg Tor. The stone has the alphabet carved in both upper and lower case. Legend has it that the carving was done by the local school teacher as a means of keeping the children occupied  when he had to leave for brief periods to tend to sheep, he being a part time shepherd too. I can certainly picture children tracing out the words with their fingers.

Nearby is another stone with graffiti. This says Red Dragons and the initials WF. The words seem to have been scratched on to the stone, unlike the Alphabet Stone which has been carved, so may have been put there by someone not used to stone work. Who were the Red Dragons and who was or is WF I do not know.

Derwent Dam

Views rarely seen by the public. This is the inside of Derwent Dam. Beautiful crafted walls show the original untainted colour of the stone. The stone is dressed which is amazing considering that it would never be viewed, a nice touch of quality by the builders. There are two staircases in the cross tunnel leading each to the East and West Towers. The interior has a slightly eerie feel to it, monastic in a way. The temperature is constant and the slightly sandy floor gives the impression of the inside of a Pharoahs Tomb to an imaginative mind.

Not many people will know that the Dam stretches for hundreds of feet in to the hillside on both sides, which is one way to stop it sliding down the valley and losing all that water.

The interior of the Dam is made of stone “Plums”. Plum shaped boulders that were placed near to but not touching each other. When the concrete was poured in it filled the gaps and hence no air pockets of weakness.

A common misconception with the Dam is that it was used for target practice during the war. This is not true. The Dambuster Squadron did practice there as it was similar in design to the Mohne and Eider Dams. This fact combined with what seem to be pock mocks on the stonework developed into the myth of the RAF firing at the Dam for practice. The mundane truth about the pock marks is that they were made to accept the scissor lifting device used to place the large and heavy stones into place during construction.