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.
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.
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.
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
(If you do not want your email to be used for future competitions and offers please state so in the email.)
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.