Penistone Stile – Peak District

Penistone Stile and Howden Edge
Penistone Stile and Howden Edge

Looking out over a failed attempt at using land for agricultural purposes. This land, Penistone Stile, sits between the higher former common lands of Featherbed Moss which lay beyond the most southern of the Howden Edges and the 1811 enclosures lower down the slopes of the Derwent Valley, known as Hey’s, Upper, Nether and Cow.

Hey’s fell between the Outpastures and the enclosed lands with tenants of the Hey lands having greater rights than in the Outpastures higher up the slopes, where the number of stock was tightly controlled for each farm, Tenants could cut peat on the Hey and apply lime to improve the peaty soil. Walking across this landscape today peat cuttings and and sled ways can be spotted as well as the occasional pile of lime, the only remains that can now be found.

The experiment in improving the land for crop production by the introduction of lime and other soil improving chemicals proved that the land was unviable for agrarian uses and the trials were terminated in the 20th century.

John's Field Howdens
John’s Field Howden. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

A little further down the valley at John’s Field Howden, can still be viewed the remains of the crop trials, in a large mound of lime, now overgrown with grass, contained within a rectangular dry stone wall structure. The enclosure protected the crops, probably black oats, from livestock and provided a controlled environment for the experiment. The structure is not easy to find, even though it is marked on modern day Ordnance Survey maps. Its walls, quarried from a nearby outcrop, are almost at ground level now and they are easy to walk over. It is a regular favourite for navigation courses, the student, expecting to see a 5 foot high enclosure is perplexed when they arrive at what they think is the spot, only to find a flat field, or seemingly so.

All of the items mentioned in the post can be found on or near Walk No.14 of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press.