Moorland Walking

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Looking from Westend Trig to Barrow Stones

Yesterday was a Ranger Patrol day. The first duty was to marshall road traffic whilst the Remembrance Day service was being conducted at the Derwent Village War Memorial. It always stirs something when I hear the bugle reaching out across the valley to the sunken village below Derwent Reservoir.

After with a trainee Ranger we walked up to Hagg Guide Post for a spot of lunch, whilst we looked out over the Woodlands Valley up into Blackden Clough. No matter what perspective you look from, Kinder Scout always has something to offer. We sat and traced the old routes, from Hope Cross some say a Roman Road, the shooting track up to Jubilee Lodge, the best shooting lodge in the area and always locked. The aqueduct path following the course of the water stolen from the River Ashop and poured into Derwent Reservoir just by the dam. We could see the line of Jaggers Clough where, sitting above and a little up in to the Vale of Edale sits a small cairn that used to be named on the 1850 maps as the site of an altar.

Below us lay the Snake Road, and between us a landscape not often explored. The track going down passing by Hagg Farm and across to Haggwater Bridge on the River Ashop. Another track leading down to Rowlee Farm, one of the oldest and passing Bellhagg Barn on the way, with the Alphabet Stone opposite, a favourite for navigation assessments. Hagg is an old word meaning clearing, where the farms were situated in forest clearings.

We left our lunch spot and ascended to Bellhagg Tor, on our way walking by a bronze age barrow, letting sleeping ancients lie. Then on to Pasture Tor, moorland taking over now, opening up, below us and ahead Alport Dale gradually coming into view, the scene of the worst of tragedies when young lives were lost and still today the scene of many a find of a lost walker as they take the wrong turn off the Pennine Way coming down from Bleaklow Head. An easy thing to do when conversation or visibility take the mind away from the path.

As we walked along the Dale edge the wind picked up a little, but amazingly still quite warm for November. We meet a large group from Lockerbrook and I regale them with tales of the Love Feast at Alport Hamlet and one of the Dark Peaks great daughters Hannah Mitchell who escaped cruelty from that Hamlet and her mother to rise in prominence in Manchester and become a light in the Suffragette movement. On we go, the ground becoming wetter after the recent snow and rain. We can just see the West End triangulation pillar gleaming in the sporadic beams of sunlight.

At Ditch Clough we turn into the moor and begin our descent. The shooting cabin has now returned and I show my companion. We sit inside and feel the warmth and I tell him of bringing a young couple and baby in there to warm up, one harsh winter ago. Ill dressed for the terrain and the weather, the baby struggling in the conditions, the father holding it inside his coat, looking frightened. Then out and past the grouse butts and through the gate into the forest. I noticed the wall, with crenellations and marvel at the neatness, even after all these years, the wall being at least one hundred years old.

They laid a new track up Ditch Clough, to get the landy’s up there with their expensive cargoes of shooters. It makes for a nice descent down in to Westend coming out on the track nearby the remains of Westend Farm, now long gone.

A good days moorland walking. One to remember.

Edale Vaccaries

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Upper Booth in the Vale of Edale, a medieval Vaccarie

Running from east to west along the Vale of Edale is a network of medieval settlements known as Vaccaries. Today they all carry the name Booth within their title starting at the eastern end with Nether Booth, then moving west along the valley, Ollerbrook, Grindsbrook, Barber and finally Upper Booth.

They were formed when the area was part of the Royal Forest and used for the intensive production of cattle, Vacca is Latin for Cow. The Vaccarie held a small isolated dwelling used to house workers and materials the herds being held out on the moors surrounding the Vaccarie. Disease was the prominent killer at that time in herds, Wolves in that period would have been a nuisance.

After the Black Death the Vaccaries fell in to disuse and were eventually rented out by the landowner to locally farmers, who developed the area into small settlements over time.

The buildings today date from the 16th century, after the establishment of the settlements. It was in this period that enclosure took place further up the valley sides with pasture being developed for sheep rearing, which produced better returns, by adding dry stone walls and hedges to make the patchwork of fields seen today. Lower down by the Vaccaries enclosure had been carried out much earlier.

This long linear valley is quite isolated, surrounded as it is be high moorland, which possibly led to it being named Edale, which mean Island Valley. Travel along its length would have meant passing through the individual Vaccarie, leaving the final one Upper Booth to ascend the packhorse route up Jacobs Ladder over to Hayfield and beyond.

Nether Booth used to be known as Lady Booth and sits by Lady Booth Brook, Lady Booth Farm sited close by. All of the Vaccaries were situated by sources of running water. The first documented evidence of their existence is in the mid 1300’s when Grindsbrook Booth was mentioned. The Booths were divided by hedge, wall or brook from each other, the divisions more clearly seen today on the upper northern side from the bottom of the Vale.

Further away from the Booths the valley was developed in the 17th and 18th century and remains much the same today. Further farms were added as land ownership and requirements changed. Boundaries were moved as farms grew or diminished. In the 19th century roads and rail arrived and the Vale ceased to be an island.