The Peak District was Britains first national park. The Dark Peak is formed from the gritstone and peat landscapes of areas such Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. The White Peak is formed from limestone with deep gorges such as Dovedale.
There is something solid about a tree. Something that is timeless. Trees do not work by our clocks and it is for this reason that they hold a special place in my view of the natural world.
There is a tree that sits at the side of an ancient track leading from Hope, up through the fields to Eccles House farm. A map from 1880 shows trees lining both sides of the track that led to Batham Gate, the old Roman road. Now the hedge is gone but the tree remains.
This is the allure of the singular tree, standing like a sentinel over the landscape. It has quietly stood and watched the passage of centuries. People passing by underneath, working on the land nearby. The seasons and ages of weather, warm and cold, wind, rain and drought. Generations of animals and birds will have made it their home, a symbiotic relationship that seems beyond the intelligence of humans. In all that time is has destroyed nothing; spent its energies growing at the expense of no one.
The tree has no view on human activity excepting in one matter and that is its access to food and water and air. We are the only creatures that can affect this, save for a plague of oak eating insects. All things being equal the tree will outlast us and many of descendants to come.
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.”
Its raining cats and dogs in Sheffield this morning. Scout my trainee Search and Rescue Dog and I are off down to Dartmoor where it seems to be just as wet.
We are going for a weekend of training on the moors with lots of other dogs, handlers and most importantly the bodies. People and dogs will come from all over England to spend the days training in the techniques of dog search and rescue in hill and mountainous areas.
Scout is a Border Collie, the most common dog used because of their intelligence, hard-working attitude and hardiness in the face of all kinds of weather. Both of the parents of Scout are working sheepdogs on farms in the Lake District and Scout has a few half brothers also in Mountain Rescue.
The training I guess, is really about the handler, the weakest link in the team. It is the handler who has to find the right combination of rewards that promotes the behaviour required in the dog. Training is reward based, infinitely better than any other option. The dogs want to do it.
When Scout sets off on a run to find a body, he is really wanting his toy, a ball on a string. If he gets that he is happy and will repeat the behaviour time and again.
Some say it’s a bit like training men.
It’s mostly women that say that, but only to each other.
One Book or One Wapentac Map’n’Lite to be won over the Easter Holiday. Competition closes Sunday midnight. Email your answers to email@example.com
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All triangulation pillars, points and benchmarks appear on or near the walks in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press and available HERE
Identify each Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar or triangulation point. Name of triangulation pillar and grid reference required. Also which one is the odd one out. Wins a Wapentac Map’n’lite of Froggatt Edge
Alphin Pike Triangulation Pillar
Ordnance Survey Triangulation Points and Triangulation Pillars
Identify location of each Ordnance Survey benchmark or survey mark . Grid reference would be superb. Wins a signed gift wrapped copy of Dark Peak Walks. Closest answers will win.
I managed to catch a little bit of winter yesterday in my monthly ascent of Parkin Clough to Win Hill in the Peak District. It was one of those days when the weather makes all the difference to a photo.
I shot this photo as Scout and I were descending from the trig pillar. Scout was frolicking in the snow near to the boundary wall and I just happened to look across at Crookhill to see light moving across the landscape and illuminating Crookhill and then onto Crookhill Grange and the barn. It was a wonderful sight, one of those moments that I hope for in winter, something of nature and the elements touching me.
Looking at the photo now, I see the hand of man going back thousands of years. Nestled to the east of Crookhill, almost in line with the centre of the saddle is a neolithic stone circle or curbed cairn. Inside the circle sit to mounds which could have been separate cairns. The circle sits amid other ceremonial features indicating this place was of some importance.
The circle and features date from the neolithic and bronze ages. Interestingly the monks of Welbeck Abbey chose this same spot to build Crookhill Grange/ now farm. The establishment of religious settlements near to ancient sites of ceremony is not unusual in the Peak District.
You can find a lot of history in a couple of hours walking on Derwent Moor in the Peak District National Park. Starting at Cutthroat Bridge on the main Sheffield to Glossop road, the bridge itself home to two murders several centuries apart, you immediately come across some Ordnance Survey history.
A benchmark right where the footpath drops down to cross Highshaw Clough. It is chiselled onto a gritstone boulder just before the footpath crossing the stream below meets up with the bridleway. The 1880 map has it at a height of 945.5 feet above mean tidal level at Liverpool, which was then the datum for height in the UK. The benchmark, an arrow below a line was also used as the survey data point for mapping the area. A second benchmark near to Whinstone Lee Tor is marked the same on the ground, but is marked on the map as a triangle with a dot in the middle indicating that this position was used to fix height (1492.0 feet), latitude and longitude.
Further from Highshaw Clough heading north east towards Moscar House is a stone milepost giving the distances to Sheffield and Glossop. This sits on the old Sheffield to Glossop road, before the present day course of the road was established in the early 1800’s. It gives the distance to Sheffield as seven miles. I like following the old roads as they weave their way across the landscape. Sometimes the way is lost which is when it becomes more interesting. Navigating a route that is not there makes me look at the land form and decide which way I would go if I had to choose. Using the natural lay of the land is often a good way of finding the route again.
There is a footpath a little further on that heads directly west up on to the grouse moor and then on to Derwent Edge. The way is full of interest the most prominent being a large standing stone on the right of the path, it is shown on the map above on the left of the path, so the path has moved in the last 160 odd years.
This beautiful stone stands looking out towards Stanage Edge and the moors of Moscar and Bamford with all their ancient history, stone circles, hut circles, Glory Stones and the fluted gritstone of The Old Woman Stone, an ancient standing stone menhir vandalised by the owners in the last century and brought crashing to the ground to stop walkers using it as a guide across the moor. Does this standing stone on Derwent Moor have a connection with the ancient places across the valley. It is evidently placed there by man judging by the large stones that are around the base keeping it in place. Did it mark the footpath or was the stone there before the right of way. There are no markings on the stone save for the fluting from erosion, which can also be found on The Old Woman Stone.
The footpath heads straight over the top and down in to Upper Derwent Valley by Grindle Barn, following the line of the old packhorse route to the village of Derwent. Before that where the path reaches the top by the final, or first shooting butt, the trail along Derwent Edge going left leads you to Hurkling Stones which judging by the lack of erosion around it is little visited. It has some interesting gritstone erosion with wonderful soft curves like the ones seen on Bleaklow.
As I was mooching around trying to find evidence in the way of chiselled markings that this place was the same place as mentioned in my post about the 16th Century Perambulation I came across a lovely stone trough.
The stone trough must be well hidden in summer. I wonder why it is there. No quarrying activities have taken place there and the area shows no sign of any other industrial workings. So I wonder if it is something to do with transportation. It is too far out of the way for the old Sheffield to Glossop road, or so I thought. As we moved away towards Whinstone Lee Tor I saw another stone trough maybe some 50m away from the first. Which leads me to thinking if it was some sort of stopping place and the troughs were for horses, but they are so small, so perhaps not. Worthy of more exploration and research I think.
All this in a two-hour walk. It is amazing what history there is at my very feet in the Dark Peak.
All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.8 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.
Winter is just rubbish this season in the Peak District National Park. Too warm, too wet underfoot and calamities of calamities not enough snow, any snow, snow that stays around for days and weeks, not just a few hours creating mayhem then slinking away like an errant child.
I have had some wonderful winters in the Peak District. Proper winters, with cold and snow and the Snake, Woodhead and Cat and Fiddle closed and blocked with stranded vehicles. Winters where you have to pinch yourself because you are the first person, ever to walk into Dovedale went it is covered in snow from the previous days snowstorm. All the snow just drapes across the trees and the walls and the fields, great billows of cotton. And not a single foot print in sight save for those of birds and sheep.
Walking around the Upper Derwent Valley and having to post hole for 9 miles, wishing you’d brought a slower companion. Cant he stop and look at the scenery, its magnificent. The groins paid for it after though. A full six months before I could walk normally again.
Sitting in Grindle Barn and just looking at the scenery down the Upper Derwent Valley. Snow covering Bamford Edge and Win Hill. Snow in all the fields, right down to the reservoir edge. Drinking spiced Bovril from the flask and thinking last time you did this was in the bird hide at Ditch Clough I gave my Ranger mentor for the day a cup because she loved the smell.
Walking along the pastures below Rocher Edge and seeing a truly gift card scene. A monochrome landscape in perfect balance. Nothing out of place at all. Later the dogs getting snow balled up as they dived in and out of the snow.
Ice crystals at Kinder Downfall, but far too soon for any ice climbers. A day on Kinder in the winter, planning a walk that was far too long for some and using the short cut to get back on track. Then into the Snake Inn and meeting friends old and new, all having had a great time in the Dark Peak snow.
How the wind blows snow against the walls and leaves the opposite side clear. Great drifts forming where the wind packs the snow. Suddenly having to navigate without walls and fields and boundaries for reference because there aren’t any, they are all under great big piles of washing. Bright white, a brilliant blue white like in the washing powder commercials.
Thinking, next year I am going to get snow shoes or learn to ski. And next year comes and will there be snow this year, perhaps not, so don’t waste my money. Then I remember the time I nearly got stuck on the Snake, but managed to make it back to Glossop and a 8 hour round trip via the M62 to get home.
One of the nicest ways to spend time at lunch is sitting viewing some wonderful wildlife. And one of the best spots to do this is in the bird hide at Alport Castles in the Peak District National Park. From within the hide you can watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons tending their nest or their young. The birds fly to and from the crag face, the nest being out of site of the hide. Alport Castles is a perfect place to watch their flight. It always amazes me and I love to hear the calling. They are often joined by Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Long Eared Owl, although they may not welcome these visitors.
I am not very good with identifying birds. One of my long suffering fellow Rangers is often subject to a very brief interrogation by me as I thrust a photo across his eyes. “Whats this bird, looks quite rare?” “Its a blackbird Paul” is generally the reply.
The last time I was in the bird hide a couple came in. They were in their late 70’s, well togged out for a windy day, obviously seasoned walkers. We got to talking and they told me they had been walking in the Peak District since their late teens, so getting on for 60 years. They had met on a rambling weekend, he’d seen her striding across the Manifold river whilst everyone else was tip toeing and knew she was the one. They walked every weekend and once mid week, went on holiday in any mountain range in the world you could care to mention and generally had a ruddy good time. He had worked for the council and she was a librarian. I find people like this fascinating, love meeting and talking to them.
He picked up the bird log book and looked inside. Same as before he said, always the same. We’ve been coming here a fair few years now and the logs are always the same. Didn’t see the bird. No birds. People just need to stay awhile and look at the view. Everything is a rush nowadays.
I left them to their bird watching and went on my way. I’m missing out, I know it. So I am going to get a book, or an app on birds and when they put the hide back up at Alport I will sit there in the peace and quiet, munching my sandwiches and ticking off the birds. Not a bad way to spend the next 60 years.
You can find the bird hide when in season on Walk No.13 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press
As I look out of the window a few flakes of snow are drifting around, the first real snow flakes this year and the only second lot of snow this winter. Walking in the Peak District National Park when there is snow on the ground is a real joy. Care has to be taken as the weather often changes quickly from a nice winter scene to one of life threatening survival.
I have a friend out on Kinder Scout today, running the Kinder Dozen, a gruelling route up and down the flanks of the plateau. In winter conditions this is one serious undertaking, but well prepared can be a fine way of spending a day out on the high moors.
Some of the best days out walking have been in winter. Back in 2013 I was leading a group of walkers around the White Peak. It snowed heavily in the night, fifteen foot snow drifts were not unusual, so there was no use of the car. We elected to walk from the hotel down in to Dovedale and follow it up to Milldale. We were the first people in the dale. All was white and quiet, and curves. Not a single footprint existed, the land was formed by white billows of snow, obliterating walls and footpaths. It was like walking into Narnia. We all walked without talking, just enjoying the surreal experience.
The picture above was taken a few years ago on Hathersage Moor. When we set out it was just a normal winter day, no snow, but a heavy sky. By mid afternoon it had all changed and as we dropped down from Higger Tor the scene changed to a complete whiteout, unusual in the Peak District. We were heading for the enclosure but that had disappeared. Walking on a bearing we found the walls and then on to Mother Cap. At all times, literally just a few hundred meters away from a road, but we might as well have been in the middle of Bleaklow for all we could see.
Monty and Olly enjoyed it hugely and collected huge great balls of snow on their coats. A day never to forget. Getting out there is what makes the memories.
Hathersage Moor appears on Walk No.5 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press
Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley
Walk No.5 Dark Peak Walks, Peak District National Park
This is a Post Office lamp box. I never knew it had a name until I started to research Derwent Village. It is called a lamp box because it was designed to be attached to lamp posts. You can also find them attached to telegraph poles as this one is in the village of Derwent in the Peak District National Park. Some were also placed into walls, in fact I used to have one in the bathroom of my old house.
Along this section of the walk you can find lots of historical heritage. The old school is just on the opposite side of the road, it was a catholic school and still has the Virgin Mary statute above the doorway. A little further along the road is the old gateway to Derwent Hall and going the other way is the gateway to the old vicarage.
If you look carefully along the roadside you can spot benchmarks placed there by Ordnance Survey surveyors in the 1852 and 1896 surveys.
The Post Office lamp box appears on Walk No.12 in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press