Head Stone – Dark Peak – Peak District

The Head Stone on Round Hill in the Peak District
The Head Stone on Head Stone Bank in the Peak District

Travelling from Manchester to Sheffield along the A57 Snake Road you crest at Moscar and begin the long descent towards the Rivelin Valley. At Hollow Meadows on the right hand side of the road and prominent on the moorland skyline sits a tower of rock. It makes an impact on the eye because it stands perpendicular to a landscape that is for all intent and purpose flat along the horizon. This is the Head Stone. A tower of coarse red grit and conglomerate sitting on more of the same but adding in red sandstone, shale and coal to the surrounding areas.

It is a lovely spot to visit and of course try a hand at tower climbing. Access can be made from the Snake Road at Hollow Meadows but I prefer walking up from the Rivelin Reservoirs through Reddicar Clough and along Head Stone Bank, on a Sunday afternoon in summer this is a wonderful stroll. The tower sits at the western end of a long rocky promontory along a geological fault line with wonderful panoramic views.

Directly across the Snake from the Head Stone is Hollow Meadows, housing now, and expensive housing at that, but once an Industrial School,  meaning truant school, and before that a Sheffield Workhouse, looking beyond you can see the quarries where the inhabitants worked. I wonder if the poor unfortunates looked out at the Head Stone with longing for freedom or was the landscape viewed as a place to be avoided.

Head Stone is a place a pilgrimage too, judging by the small plaques screwed to its surface here and there and the bunches of flowers laid around. Which probably means it is a place well-loved by lots of people although I have never encountered anyone when visiting.

It sits amidst a boulder field that is well worth exploring for it contains the last of George Broomhead handy work for William Wilson the snuff magnate, who had George carving water bowls out of the rocks to provide drinking water for his grouse. George numbered each one in three sets stretching from Stanage Edge to Wyming Brook. Number 19 on this final set, the Oaking Clough line is a beauty, probably one of my favourites.

The grouse water bowls of Stanage Edge. Number 19 in the Oaking Clough line. Peak District
The grouse water bowls of Stanage Edge. Number 19 in the Oaking Clough line. Peak District

 

Peak District Walk

Fancy a good walk in the Peak District National Park this weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday look to be good for the weather.

PB Walk 7 out of the book Dark Peak Walks is a real beauty. A circular walk from Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge, it leads you down a stunning gorge filled with Scots Pines, dippers and the tumbling Wyming Brook.

On the way round there is much to see and spot, old mile posts on the original Sheffield to Manchester Road. Ordnance Survey benchmarks on random rocks around Stanage Edge. Two trig points, one, a pillar and the other a pole! Then the weird and wonderful water bowls carved into the Peak gritstone. The views will be amazing as will the experience.

You can buy Dark Peak Walks here

More about Wyming Brook

More about Stanage Edge

More about Grouse Water Bowls

 

 

Ordnance Survey surveyor marks

Lots of discussion on social media this weekend about Ordnance Survey marks on the gritstone of the Dark Peak in the Peak District. A topic that fascinates me with every walk including a foray into the wilderness to try to find some elusive mark made more than a century and a half ago.

Top left is a benchmark used to establish height at a point on the footpath to Stanage End from Moscar.

Below that is a benchmark used to mark a survey position on Higger Tor.

Top right is a really interesting one. An arrow below a square box with a dot in the middle. This denotes a survey height taken from the ground and not estimated. On modern maps today these are denoted as a black dot with a height number as opposed to an orange dot which denotes a measurement taken from the air.

Bottom left is a lovely levelling bolt, indicating a survey position near Laddow Rocks.

Bottom right two survey marks, one for levelling and one for triangulation found on Back Tor on Derwent Edge. On the left hand mark is a benchmark made by Lieut Barlow RE when he carried out the triangulation in 185. The right hand mark denotes a spot height taken in 1854 by Capt Kerr RE to establish the contour lines.

All heights back then used the Liverpool datum and approximate average of the sea height there. Nowadays the OS maps use the Newlyn datum taken from the tidal measuring station in Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall.

 

This weekend in the Peak District

The weather is looking mixed this Easter bank holiday weekend. Saturday sunny-ish, Sunday and Monday cloudy with a bit of rain, wind is forecast gentle to moderate all three days.

So what to do. If you have my book Dark Peak Walks here are some suggestions to escape the crowds.

Walk No.7 Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge – 11 Miles

A superb gorge with a tumbling stream, a lot of history and then Stanage Edge. Throw in some benchmarks, trig pillars, Stanedge Pole, and those water bowls and you have a great walk.

Walk No.15 Low Bradfield and Dale Dyke – 6 Miles

A relaxing walk, that can be done in a morning or afternoon. Huge amount of history, beautiful woodlands, lots of raptors to be seen and ice cream at the end. What more could you want.

Walk 23 Kinder Scout – 10 Miles

Its been really dry of late so how about a venture into the centre of Kinder Scout, test you navigation skills and not get your feet wet. It can be done.

Walk 26 Dunford Bridge to Ramsden Clough – 11.5 Miles

The chances are that you will have the place to yourself on this walk. Famous last words I know, but rarely do I see anyone and this walk has some magnificent views in a little visited area. Try something new.

Four walks all with mixed terrain, ascent and distance with plenty of things to see along the way. Easter holidays and something for the weekend.

Beats decorating. So Alison tells me.

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The Buck Stone – Stanage Edge

The Buck Stone below Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park
The Buck Stone below Stanage Edge

This is the Buck Stone below Stanage Edge in the Peak District National Park. It stands within its own walled enclosure, a little way down from the Long Causeway that rises up to the top of Stanage Edge from Dennis Knoll.

This large boulder was once used as a sort of transport cafe for the packhorse trains that used the Long Causeway to deliver goods to and from Sheffield. The holes in the boulder were sockets for a primitive timber shelter and around the boulder are runnels, grooves chiselled into the surface that deflected rain water away from the structure. The trains used to stop here, the walled enclosure useful for holding the ponies, whilst the Jagger, the man who guided the packhorse train, would take in refreshment and rest.

The boulder is often ignored now, being off the beaten track, but its past is of importance tot he trade routes that criss crossed the area. It has some nice bouldering problems, quite easy even for old people like me. There is a reward at the top, but I will leave it for you to find out for yourself.

The Buck Stone appears in Walk No. 6 in Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press

Peak District Gritstone Graffiti

The mixed “VM” appears on lots of Peak District gritstone from the 17th and 18th century. Of the possible explanations three seem to be the most probable. The first is that it is a Catholic sign for the Virgin Mary in the era of the Reformation, when persecution of Catholics was rife following the Glorious Revolution of 1689 when James the second a Catholic sympathiser was overthrown.

Practicing Catholics marked boulders and buildings with the ‘VM” inverted or otherwise to signify places where people gathered for worship. Which may fit with the markings on the gate post that sits in a dry stone wall above Marsden near Standedge Tunnel. Close by is an old farm with mullioned windows from the same period.

It could also be used to signify supporters of the protestant William and Mary who became joint monarchs in 1689 following the Glorious Revolution. The use of the intertwined WM was seen as a denouncement of the Catholic VM. As may well be the case with the markings at Stanedge Pole near Stanage Edge in the Peak District. Or perhaps these signified Catholic markings and were connected to the Catholic Chapel at Padley where the priests were caught, hung drawn and quartered and became Martyrs in the process.

Of course it could just plainly be some ones initials and they liked chiseling it on to gritstone.

Grouse Water Bowls

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Grouse Water Bowl No.8 on Stanage Edge

I had a wonderful walk recently up onto gritstone edges then home across moorland, no more than 8 miles with less than 200m of ascent over the whole route, this gentle saunter gave me time to appreciate a unique aspect of this particular landscape.

Alison dropped me at Moscar on a Snake road cloaked in low cloud so that I could get easy access onto Stanage Edge. This is the easiest way in, with little ascent and a good view across the Moscar moor to Derwent Edge and Win Hill to keep the eyes occupied. I got on to the Edge by the old quarry, passing the boundary stones marking Mr Wilson and Mr Mappin land ownership. Didn’t they trust each other I wondered, Stanage Edge is a pretty obvious boundary line surely.

By the old quarry are some fine grouse water bowls, carved by George Broomhead, no relation of the Wilsons of Broomhead Hall, who are no relations of the Wilsons of Moscar Moor who didn’t have a hall but did have and to my knowledge still have a snuff mill in Sheffield. Wilson, the snuff one, had young George carve out great long lines of these bowls to, it is said, provide water for the parched grouse that were the moors only inhabitant. They say there are 108 of them, how long it took I don’t know. These are little works of art in a way. Beautiful bowls of all shapes and sizes carved into the gritstone boulders of Stanage Edge and the moor beyond. Each bowl has one or more runnels, exquisitely chased into the stone to channel water into the small reservoirs. The skill to produce these flat-bottomed ‘Vees’ and the lozenge-shaped bowls is evident to see. What is not so apparent is the choice of boulder and the position of the bowl. George Broomhead must have watched during downpours to see which would be most efficient at collecting the water, for these are not like the dewponds of the White Peak, these rely on rain water. And then have worked out the best position and shape of the collecting bowl and where to position the feeder runnels.

Each bowl is numbered, although these are not consecutive so I suspect the whole were not completed in one go, but in stages as the moor was developed for grouse. As yet I have not found one that bears Georges name or initials or that of his employer, but I live in hope.  Many of the ones away from the edge are overgrown with heather and moss, making it difficult to locate them, which all adds to the day out, a bit of detective work and a frisson of excitement at a find. I have spent a good few hours in such activity and as a consequence have covered the moor more deeply than I would normally, which has brought other delights too.