I spent time walking up and down a 580m length of the Long Causeway last week. I wanted to get a feel for the old packhorse route, to see if today there was any resonance of the past, any connection that placed me in the same sense of being there as someone two hundred years ago.
The section between Stanage Pole and the junction with the bridleway from Stanage Plantation is still beautifully paved with the original stone setts. The setts have a concave surface, worn by hundreds of years of cartwheels as they trundled between Sheffield and Hathersage. The causeway is a strong feature in the landscape, a line placed by human hand but perhaps following thousands of feet before.
Stanage pole bears the mark of the Virgin Mary, VM, a signifier of a place of worship by the Roman Catholic community who in the time of the reformation sought out of the way places to practice their faith. Three and a half miles directly south as the crow flies sits Padley Chapel where priests were found celebrating mass. For their pains, they were hanged, drawn and quartered at Derby. Directly north of Stanage Pole is said to be the place where the Catholics worshipped, a rock. It has yet to be found. So there is much that resonates in the surroundings.
The line of the causeway must have been surveyed for
the setts form perfect lines running slightly off an east-west axis away from the boundary of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, Mercia and Northumbria. The same boundary exists today, has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years and much nearer to our own time. A little further along Stanage Edge is a stone bearing the markings, CP96, a boundary stone that had to be beaten during the annual perambulation by the great and good of the Lordship of Hallamshire accompanied by members of the church. They would have first called at Stanage Pole, beaten the rock with their sticks, said prayers then moved on along the line of the Long Causeway to the rock sits near High Neb. It is a route thousands of people walk today, perhaps we never walk anywhere new, but are guided by unseen ancient hands.
So as I stand there thinking all this and looking, walking back and forth along the stone way I wonder if people back then thought someone in the future would be trying to touch their existence. I wonder if in two thousand years time someone will try and touch my thoughts and feelings that day. I headed back east towards the pole and my eye was caught by a small homemade plaque screwed to a fence post. It was beautiful in its simplicity. A memorial to John Hartle facing south-west over Stanage Edge. A modern-day signifier of who had gone before me. I wondered who he was, a runner perhaps, maybe a walker. Why in this age of data and information do we know so much about the past yet so little about today?
Is this an indication of our disconnect with the landscape or our relationship with it that defines it as an amenity to be used and enjoyed at our will. Did the Mercians, Catholic, burghers of Hallamshire view it in much the same way? Is this the connection I have been looking for or have I missed the one I truly wanted, not the people who used the Long Causeway but those who made it?
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.
Wildlife Marker in Wyming Brook, Peak District National Park.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The other day I came across a rock on Stanage Edge and carved into the rock were the letters CP and the numbers 96. It looked quite old and got me to thinking what it all meant. Bill from the Peak District National Park, who knows more about this area than anyone I guess, provided a map from 1723 showing the rock and carvings marked on it, suggesting it marked a Civil and Parish Boundary. So I did a little digging in the bowels of various archives and came up with a perambulation, which is a legal walk to maintain the boundary of land.
Extract from a perambulation made in 1574
A Boundarie, or brief notes, of all the Meares and Bounds of Hallamshire between Whytley Wood and a place called Waynstones, namely between the Lord’s lands pf Hallamshire and the Lords of Ecclesale and Hathersage, beeinge overviewed and seene the sixt day of August Anno Dei one thousand fyve hundreth and seaventy and fower, by these men whose names are here underwritten:
“Viz. Anthony BLYTHE of Birchett, gent., James TURNER, Bealife of Sheffeld, William DICKINSON, William UPTON, Thurstone KIRKE, William HARRISE, George SKARGELL, Adam GILL, Ralphe MORTON, Gregorie REVELL …
On the 6th August 1574 9 men walked along the boundary of the Lordships of Hallamshire and that of Ecclesale and Hathersedge to check the boundary markers and defining the dividing line of their masters lands.
Meares (meares, old English earlier than 900AD, possibly from the Norse mæri, which would fit with the area being a Wapentac, meaning boundary between two lands).
A perambulation was a requirement in traditional English Law and means Walking Around. Specifically, walking around the boundaries of a parish or legal area, to maintain its legal status and ownership.
The walk started at Whitely Woods and worked its way across Ringinglow before starting its traverse of Stanage Edge from Burbage Head, which today could possibly be Upper Burbage Bridge.
[Burbage Head. Item, the said Sicke or Ditch leading or goeing from Ringinge Lawe to a place called Burbage Head which is a Meere between my Lord of Hallamshire and the heirs of Padley and the lord of Hathersage.]
Could the way today be from Ringinglow at the Toll House, joining Houndkirk and following that, to what is today the footpath that leads over to the Packhorse Bridge crossing Burbage Brook. The Brook being the “Sicke or Ditch” leading to Burbage Head. Certainly it would be a natural division of the land between two owners. But then why not just walk along the top of Burbage Rocks and not descend into the valley at all.
[Hurklinge Edge. Item, from the said Burbage Head to a certain place called Hurklinge Edge, being a mere between Hallamshire and the Lordship of Hathersage.]
There is no Hurklinge Edge in this area on any maps going back to 1852. This could be an erroneous naming of the place or it may well have changed. From the description it would seem a possible route would be from Upper Burbage Bridge up onto the moor and follow Friars Ridge across to what today is Stanedge Pole. Friars Ridge today is a Metropolitan Boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire, it is also a natural watershed and leads from the east to Stanedge Pole and the Long Causeway.
[Stannedge. Item, from the said Hurklinge Edge as forwards after the Rocke to Stannage which is a mere between the said Lordshipps.]
From Friars Edge to the Rocke is this the present day Stanedge Pole. There are certainly large rocks there and it would have been a well-known marker. The rocks have many surveyor markings carved into their surface included one dated 1697 which may be useful in dating the next boundary rock. In the 1852 survey it was marked on the map as Rock. By 1880 the surveyors were calling it Stanage Pole.
The Parliamentary and Municipal Boundaries run right through it, and if they followed the boundary of Hallamshire and Ecclesale, then marking the boundaries would have necessitated visiting this spot. Their route then progressed on to Stannedge. Probably following the Long Causeway to where it starts its descent to Hathersage the route eventually meeting what we now know today as Stanage Edge.
[Broad Rake. Item, from Stannedge, after the said Rocke to a place called the Broad Rake, which is also a meere betweene the said Lordships of Hallamshire and Hathersedge.]
From where the Long Causeway descends they would have followed the edge along until they came to the second “Rock” which has a simple carving of “CP96”. A recent map sent to me dated 1723 shows the rock and the carving along with the name Broadrake, so it predates that. There is a date carved into the Stanedge Pole rock of 1697 so the second boundary rock predates that it may well be 1696 or even 1596 as this walk took place in 1574. The rock sits inland from the edge path but quite close to it so would have been a prominent marker. Is the “CP” Civil Parish or is it County Parliamentary?
[Seaven Stones. Item, from the Broad Rake streight downward to a place where certain stones are sett upon the ends haveinge marks in them called Seaven Stones, which old and ancient men said that the same is a meere betweene my Lord and the Lord of Hathersedge.]
Are the “Seaven Stones” the stone circle on Bamford Moor. There are seven standing stones, maybe more depending on how you define a standing stone. There is no mention of the Old Womans Stone so either I have the wrong route or the Menhir was not standing at that time. There is a Civil Parish boundary running close by on todays maps.
Or are the “Seaven Stones” the stone circle on Moscar Moor? But these have 9 stones or 10 depending on how you count.
[Waynstones. Item, from the said Seaven Stones streight over the Brooke or Sicke there to a place called the Waynstones, being distant by estimacion three quarters of a myle.]
The next and final legs of the route present a problem. What and where are “Waynstones”. The brook could be the one by the standing stone on Bamford Edge, Upper Hurst Brook, and it does follow a boundary line, but where is Waynstones . Is it where the quarry now exists on the end of Bamford Edge, the next leg also talks of going straight over the edge so perhaps this is the place.
The other option is Ladybower Brook from the Stone Circle on Moscar Moor and “Waynstones” is Whinstone Lee Tor. The only difficulty with this is the distance which is more than ¾ of a mile, but it does still follow the County and Parliamentary boundary on the 1891 map, which leads up from Cutthroat Bridge. Interestingly there is a Hurkling Stones near by, could this be the same as mentioned earlier in the route and they have just forgotten where it was.
[North Waynstones. Item, from the said Waynstones streight over the Edge to a place, or certain stone, called the North Waynstones.]
Finally where is North Waynstones which is reached by going straight over the edge to a place or certain stone called North Waynstones. Is this Wheel Stones and “streight over the edge” means straight along the edge. That would fit.
It would be interesting how the walk fits in todays landscape and mapping.
Mixed weather last week meant walking in sunshine or low cloud if you picked your days right. I picked both, sun along the Chew Valley edges and low cloud along Stanage Edge. I could have done with sun on Stanage but who am I to argue.
I like Stanage Edge especially the Plantation and the Popular End. Lots going on with climbers on any day and at any time crawling all over the set menu. Climbers always seem to have that little bit extra fun over walkers, as though they have unlocked the secret of the land whereas walkers are merely bystanders looking on wistfully. The verticality of a climbers walk is the thing I guess. It just requires a bit more skill than walking, even though it’s still one foot in front of the other, and you have to use your hands, which you don’t have to in walking. Climbers go where walkers cannot and that makes them a little more special. Of course once you have climbed to the top, especially on Stanage, then all you can do is going back down and climb up again, sort of Groundhog Day repetition, with walking the scenery keeps moving past you on a conveyor bringing you new delights all the way through.
I invariably stop off at Robin Hoods Cave as I work my way across the edge. I am still amazed people do not know about this place. It’s on the map. Dropping down from the path and working across to that great slab still brings excitement, particularly on a day with good weather, dark clouds or bright, it’s all good. Always a relief to get inside and find no one has used it as a toilet, there is usually the odd can or two to clear up before settling down with a brew and gaze out of that window. It really is magical. Read enough climbing history and you can place the people at the side of you, have a meeting if you like, discuss the finer points of how to name a route, Christmas Crack is still my favourite here, but best of all time has to be Ed Drummonds, A Dream of White Horses. (Between the sea and sky, a white sheet. Ed Drummond). But that’s in Wales by the sea, which Stanage definitely is not these days.
They called it The Grand Hotel in the 60’s, all those names that became icons. It’s a good and fitting name. Smacks of sticking a finger up to the establishment whilst at the same time accurately describing the lodgings for a nights bivvy. Its a shame the sun doesn’t rise through the balcony, you have to be content with seeing the valley reveal itself in the dawn. Worse ways to wake up of course. It has a sandy floor which comes as a surprise and with the balcony has the effect of being on a beach looking out to see over a sandcastle wall. On the walls if you look carefully you can see the calling cards of many who have booked bed and breakfast here over the years, climbers, perhaps lovers even, achieving ecstasy in the moonlight, with a view.