Offerings in the Peak District

Offering intertwined with barbed wire. Foolow. Peak District National Park. White Peak Walks East. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press
Offering intertwined with barbed wire. Foolow. Peak District National Park

I came across this offering on a field gate near Foolow in the Peak District National Park the other day. A beautifully made ball, the straw carefully manipulated to form a perfect sphere.

I find quite a lot of this in White Peak. Offerings hanging from trees, placed on stones, hidden in walls. It makes me think that the White Peak has a connection with a pagan past. Certainly it has more evidence of human involvement than the Dark Peak, so perhaps their spirits live on.

How to write a Peak District guidebook

The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.
The Vale of Edale from Ringing Roger. Peak District National Park

Someone asked me the other day how I write a Peak District guide book. The question took me aback somewhat, I had to think about an answer. Put simply; I go out on a walk and when I get home I write where I have been.

Then I thought of all the things that lay behind that. The books that are hunted down in the research. Talking to people about an area. Historical and geological websites to spend hours getting lost in. Old maps to peruse and old newspaper cuttings to view. Public archives to spend days in.

Then there are the days spent wandering around an area, looking at rock graffiti. Churches, church yards and old abandoned buildings to crawl over and imagine what it was like for the people who built these places.

Some of the best days are when I trace the old ways across the land, walk in the footsteps of the Jaggers and quarrymen, peat cutters and farmers. The old saltways and the millstone trails. Sit by the quarries and listen to the ghosts hewing out the stone. Stand in a churchyard looking out onto where navvies were buried without, and wondering how someone could do that to a human being.

The best days include all of this plus a good old chat with walkers. Some of my most memorable walks have been when I have met up with groups of people and just chatted.

All of this goes into a book, and what doesn’t goes into a blog or on social media.

That’s how I write a Peak District guide book.

 

Mompessons Well Eyam – Peak District

Mompessons Well Eyam. Peak District National Park. White Peak Walks East. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
Mompessons Well Eyam. Peak District National Park

Eyam in the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park is well-known as the plague village. Virtually everyone knows the story of a bag of cloth from London arriving with the plague and many of the inhabitants of the village succumbing to it and their subsequent death. You can walk around the village, looking at the cottages with their little notices of who died and visit the graves of the dead.

The villagers were true heroes, every last one of them, for the sacrifice they made. Religion and persecution played a major part in their actions once the plague took hold. Civil war, Royal decrees all had a hand. Strength of character, bravery and responsibility were also present.

There were two vicars in the village. The conformist priest Mompesson for whom the well is named after had replaced the nonconformist Stanley, who had refused to conform to Charles II’s new Book of Common Prayer. Stanley had remained in the village after losing his post and livelihood. As the plague swept through other parts of England the conformists priests beat a hasty retreat leaving communities to fend for themselves and at the mercy of the plague. It was the non conformists priests who stayed and tended the flock, a fact not gone unnoticed by many of the communities in the country. Mompesson decided, wisely to stay and, give him credit, teamed up with Stanley, to care for and guide the community. Perhaps this one single act was the catalyst for the whole village acting as they did.

The two proposed a radical and unique approach to the plague now raging through the village. Contrary to the rest of the country who kept people out and expelled infected inhabitants. The priests proposed sealing the village completely, no one in or out, and thereby protecting the surrounding areas from infection. It was radical and it carried the prospect of almost certain death for the whole village. Every single inhabitant agreed to the proposal, effectively committing themselves to mass suicide.

Arrangements were made with local landowners, for food and supplies to be left outside the village boundary, hence Mompessons Well. This quarantined the village from the outside world. Each day the dead would dragged outside the house and buried close by in the fields, by the remaining inhabitants.

Over half the population of the village died, many from the same family. It must have been a desperate time and by sealing the village off from the outside world a lonely bleak existence.

The villagers selfless act prevented the spread of the disease to other parts of the County, a heroic act by the whole community.

 

Autumn in the Peak District

The east track of Derwent Reservoir in autumn. Upper Derwent Valley. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park
Down the East Track towards Derwent Dam 2016

The first day of September and there is a cool breeze coming through my open window.

Autumn is on its way.

Scout at the vets. Scout is a trainee search and rescue dog with me in Mountain Rescue.
Scout at the vets.

I have just taken Scout to the vets to be neutered, its not a thing I have been looking forward to and advice I have sought has gone either way, leaving me constantly thinking if I have made the right decision. It is not a good feeling. I decided to get the operation done now because I myself am laid up with a sprained ankle after slipping on limestone chipping in the Yorkshire Dales. So all in all its an odd time.

Monty standing guard
Monty standing guard and giving me accusing looks

Monty, one of our other dogs, sits across the landing from my office door just looking at me. Its as though he is asking me what have I done with Scout? Where is he?

I love this time of year in the Peak District National Park, the colours, the smells, birds scratching in the fallen leaf for food. Its a time of slowing down, shorter cooler days, longer shadows. The crowds soon stop coming into the Upper Derwent Valley leaving it to those who love to explore its hidden corners.

As nature shuts down for winter the landscape changes, it feels, smells and sounds different. Leaf is the first to fall, carpeting the ground in hues of brown, red and yellow. One of the greatest delights is the drive down the larch tree lined Derwent Lane to Fairholmes ranger centre in the valley on successive days and weeks and notice the colours turn from green to a vivid, almost fluorescent, yellow before the needles coat the floor in deep drifts.

 

 

Hepworth Gallery

Alison and I went for a visit to the Hepworth Gallery yesterday. It is a fine day out, even if it was school holidays. Barbara Hepworth lived and worked in Wakefield where the gallery is situated to display some of her work and that of other artists. Along with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park it is a major cultural attraction. I cannot think of anywhere comparable in the Peak District National Park, nor do I know of any long term programs run by the Park that are associated with the arts, and I think this is something that is missing. The landscape is not just about walking, biking and climbing to my mind. It is a cultural asset and should be constantly developing.

As always at galleries, once I have had a look at the art, it is people that start to attract my attention.

Birchinlee – Peak District

Remains of the railway trestle at Westend, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park
Remains of the railway trestle at Westend, Peak District National Park

Most people know of the two villages submerged beneath the Ladybower reservoir in the Peak District National Park. Derwent and the lesser know Ashopton villages have become synonymous with the Upper Derwent Valley. Few people realise that there was a third village in the valley, one with a greater population than the other two combined.

Birchinlee was sited on the west side of the valley between the Howden and Derwent dams. Most people now will walk or cycle through the village, perhaps take time to read the information board and maybe stare down into the remains of the pub cellar. Few will walk its streets running north south, the only evidence that something once existed here, is the raised platforms and occasional stone walling.

At its height over 900 people lived here. Schools, library, hospital, pub and homes all were built to house the workforce between 1902 and 1916. The buildings were made from corrugated iron, quick, cheap and sturdy, it is a material you can still find in old buildings today. The reason for the construction of Tin Town, as it became known, was in no small part to do with previous reservoir constructions over the hill in the Longdendale Valley.

thumb_P1070403_1024
St James’s church Woodhead, Peak District National Park

It was common at the time for workers on the reservoir and dam construction to have to fend for themselves, this included finding accommodation.  When the Woodhead reservoirs were built, living quarters for the men and their families consisted of makeshift shelters constructed out of whatever the men could find, peat, wood, stone, and sited  on the moors above the valley. There was no sanitation, no running water and no provision for health or hygiene. It was not uncommon.

An outbreak of Cholera in the workforce of the Woodhead reservoirs killed many and to add insult to injury the dead were buried outside the grave yard of St James’s church at the village of Woodhead, having been deemed to be socially unsuitable to rest with those interred within the church grounds.

This and other such instances caused a public outcry and it started the move towards better working conditions for workers. Birchinlee village came about partly as a result of such tragedy.

The tragedy today is that very little remains of Tin Town. There are plenty of photographs but little physical evidence. At the end of the construction of the dams the village was dismantled and sold off for scrap. A few buildings did survive and became garden sheds and workshops. Pieces of history that found their way in to the everyday life of surrounding communities.

The only surviving building from Birchinlee, in the Upper Derwent Valley. Peak District National Park
The only surviving building from Birchinlee. Hope, Peak District National Park

If you turn off the main Hathersage to Castleton road at Hope, just opposite the church as though heading for Edale, on the right hand side of the road is a small white corrugated shed. Today it is a hair salon, sat on stone, with white corrugated iron walls and roof, wooden framework painted black and a large window that takes up most of the side facing the road. This is the last remaining building from Tin Town, an important piece of social and industrial history that is all but forgotten.

 

St Giles, Great Longstone – Peak District

St Giles, Great Longstone, Peak District National Park. White Peak. White Peak Walks East. PBWalks. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press.
St Giles, Great Longstone, Peak District National Park

Harsh times in Great Longstone in the White Peak of the Peak District National Park.

From the Parish Registers of St Giles, Great Longstone

“From the Parliamentary Rolls, Vol. III, p518 petition dated 4th Henry IV –

From Godfrey Rowland , who styles himself “un pauvre et simple esquyer” praying “convenable et haste remedie” against Sir Thoma Wendesley, John Dean, vicar of Hope, and others who are stated to have come to the petitioner’s house at Longsdon, with force and arms; to have carried of goods and stock to the value of 200 marks; to have taken the petitioner prisoner, and carried him to the castle of the High Peak, where he was kept six days without victuals or drinks; after which they are stated to have cut off his right hand and then to have released him.”

 

 

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

The Inglorious Twelfth

Male Red Grouse
Male Red Grouse on the track above Abbey Brook

Jack the Red Grouse who inhabits Abbey Brook needs to be lying low today.

The grouse shooting season starts today in the country. In the Peak District National Park, the sound of guns will be heard on the shooting estates of the Dark Peak.

The sport is one of the few sports regulated by act of parliament. The Game Act 1831 allows grouse to be shot between the 12th August and the 10th December. If the 12th falls on a Sunday it must start on the 13th.

Shooting butt above Ramsden Clough. Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.
Shooting butt above Ramsden Clough. Peak District National Park

In the Dark Peak it is driven shooting that is practiced, driving the birds across a moor towards the people with the guns who are placed in a line of butts in the birds path.

Grouse moors in the Dark Peak can be closed during the shoot so it is best to check on closures by visiting the Crow Access website before you go walking.

Good luck Jack. Keep your head down buddy. See you near Christmas.

Read about Jack here

Walking in the Peak District

Dark Peak weather at the Humber Knolls. Peak District National Park. Dark Peak Walks. Author Paul Besley. Published by Cicerone Press.
Dark Peak weather at the Humber Knolls. Peak District National Park

Well hasn’t this been a fine summer so far. Blue skies, warm sun and dry as anything.

In truth this is pretty typical Dark Peak weather, probably typical British summer weather although I am sure come winter the weather men will be telling us what a dry year it was with below average rain fall and above average temperatures. The heating came on last night of its own accord, but I may have got the thermostat set a little high.

Wet weather in the Peak District National Park just means two things really, fewer pictures and muckier boots. Dark Peak and White Peak offer up different aspects of the muddy boots. In Dark Peak its peat, liquid now with all the rain, so it’s up to your thighs in the stuff. It takes some getting out of too, all that water creates a suction effect. There is no getting around it in times like these. The path across Howden Moor on PB Walk 16 in Dark Peak Walks will be an absolute delight now. You are not going along that without falling flat on your face in a peat bog and coming out looking like a character from a 60’s horror movie.

I once got stuck in a grough. I was an idiot for going down into it in the first place and remember thinking as much as I slithered down its banking, the peat folding like wet chocolate cake beneath my feet. At the bottom which had a surface as slick and shiny as gloss black paint my boots went into the peat and just carried on going down further and further until I was in up to my, well it would not have done to unzip my flies!

I was stuck and with nothing to claw at the only way out was a sort of rocking to and from, each rocking motion accompanied with a slight raising of a leg. Then, prostrating myself across the surface I peat swam out, rising panic, flailing arms, slightly hysterical squealing.

But I was not finished. I still had to get out of the grough. The only way I could do it was to kick steps as in winter mountain walking and jab my fingers into the grough wall. It was like ice climbing in a way, maybe I had invented a new sport. Grough climbing. Near the top my peaty fingers grabbed the flimsiest piece of heather and pulled. It’s strong stuff heather and can hold a huge amount of weight. Only this time it didn’t and I flew backwards, smacking straight into the liquid peat at the bottom with a satisfying slap.

I think I may have cried at that point, not sure really, but it is probable. Long story short, it took me the best part of 30 minutes to get out.

It was not elegant. But it is a good story to tell. Dark Peak gives you that.

PB Walk 16 can be found in Dark Peak Walks. You can buy a copy here.

You can read reviews from walkers here.

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. Author Paul Besley. Publisher Cicerone Press