Grindleford Cafe

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A sign welcoming you to Grindleford Cafe in the Peak District National Park

I saw an article  recently entitled The Ten Best Cafes In The National Parks or some such. On the list was Grindleford Cafe, at Grindleford Station in the Peak District National Park.

It’s very well-known to all Peak District visitors. Not because of its food, which is simple, filling and, thankfully, of the none healthy variety. Its reputation comes from the plethora of signs and the grumpiness of its previous owner one Phillip Eastwood. The cafe is now run by his son, again Phillip, he is of a much more benign nature.

I remember the elder from my school days when he had, I think, a garden shed on the side of the Snake, selling bacon butties, tea and Kitkats. The station ticket office and waiting room became available and he sets up a cafe for all the walkers, not many bikers in them days, and the climbers. It was a no frills set up, hardly any decoration, the seating and old lights still in place, gas lights too but unused. The food was of the transport cafe variety, huge portions you ordered, sat down and then waited for your number to be called. The food was passed, there’s a euphemism, more like slid across a pass to you. If you didn’t hear your number it just sat there, that was your half of the contract, they cooked, you took away.

The order counter had signs of what you could and could not do and eat. Mushrooms were a favourite target for angst. STOP ASKING FOR MUSHROOM WE DONT DO THEM. HOW MANY MORE TIMES. READ THIS. Or similar. In later years the same invective was aimed at Latte. No but we do milky coffee, was often the reply. Or THIS PASS IS FOR FOOD NOT YOUR EMPTY PLATES. ITS SIMPLE.

When I had my business if we finished early on a Friday we would go there for dinner, not lunch, that was pretentious in Sheffield and if there was one thing Phillip disliked it was pretensions. A full blowout with pint mugs of tea loaded with sugar, sliced white with marge, brown sauce from a giant dispensing unit, was the best thing. In winter you could have that in front of a roaring fire. Can’t do that in Costa McDonalds.

Phillip would come and sit with us, us all in overalls and plaster dust and chat about this and that. I got the feeling he liked us more than the Sunday morning brigade who had driven out from Sheffield and walked no further than the distance from the car, maybe they pushed a little one in one of those massive carts they put babies in nowadays. Go on a weekday and it’s still walkers and now cyclists eating the same food, it’s almost a stolen pleasure in today’s health obsessed culture.

I miss Phillip, he was a character and he was real. There are few of those around today. He didn’t pretend to be something else, and he built a business that has become loved. Grindleford Cafe is as much a part of the Peak District National Park character as is its emblem the grindstone wheel, and that’s not a bad legacy to leave.

Changing landscapes

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Derwent Village, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park.  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland     http://maps.nls.uk/index.html

A changing landscape has always fascinated me. I think the interest comes when I find out things are there that I never even knew about. I have a boyish attraction to the man made artefacts that were once of use and even important but now are long forgotten.

Benchmarks are a particular delight when I find one. A friend and fellow Ranger sent me a picture of one this week and it prompted me to look for more, so I got out my old maps and started to look.

The map above is from a survey in 1880 and it shows the now submerged village of Derwent. You can still walk around the village when the waters or low, discerning streets and boundary walls. Some of the village still exists, the school for instance, the one at the top, not in the village, I had not realised there were two. The gates to the Vicarage can be seen but the building along with Derwent Hall and the church have long gone. Grindle Barn is still there although the path up now sets off from a different place.

What is interesting are the OS benchmarks. There is one by the road between the upper school building and Wellhead at a height of 712 feet and 4 inches. Something to go and seek out next time I am there.

 

Becoming a writer

 

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Image courtesy of Mark Richards. By permission

I am moving to the point of becoming a full-time writer, currently I have a small part-time job which pays for a few things, but it isn’t a job that is satisfying. Having just delivered my first manuscript to the publisher, the sense of fulfilment this has given me has pointed the way forward. Walden said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation”, very true.

The book was commissioned by Cicerone November 2015 and had to be delivered by 30th June 2017 so quite a long project. I got the commission by one of those acts of fate. Sometime back I thought it would be good to take people out on a walk and then have an evening meal and a guest speaker. It didn’t come off, but in approaching a speaker I struck up a friendship with guide-book author Mark Richards.

It was Marks wonderful book of the High Peak that I had picked up in 1988. I loved the hand drawn pictures and the hand written text. So Mark was a natural choice to ask as guest speaker. As I say the event didn’t take place, but Mark wanted to explore the Peak District again and asked if I would like to accompany him. We had a few days out, a memorable one on Bamford Moor where I dragged Mark through chest high bracken to have lunch on a stone, whilst all the time hoping he didn’t realise that I had lost the path.

One day Mark broached the subject of me doing the new book. I couldn’t believe it but grabbed the chance. A walk and a meeting with the publisher and then a contract landed on the doorstep and I was off a running.

Lots had changed since Mark wrote High Peak. CROW for one had opened up many new areas, including Bamford Moor. Environmentally the moors were changing too. Now it wasn’t about draining them and denuding the land. Today it is about regeneration, seeding, natural species, wildlife. So lots to do.

I deliberately did not read Marks High Peak book or any other on the subject. I wanted this to be a personal view. Hopefully that is what I have achieved.

The image above is from Marks book and shows a volunteer Ranger stood by the Ashway Cross above Dove Stones. I remembered the image and thought it would be nice to recreate it as I am a Ranger too. So I hung around until three old boys came along and agreed to take the photo.

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Me by the Ashway Cross. It didn’t look safe enough to lean on!

Weirdly, one of the old boys said, “There is an image in my guide-book like that”, and out he got Marks book, the only guide he needed. The image in the book is the one at the top of this page. The photo below shows the man holding his treasured possession, Marks High Peak Walks.

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So there you have it. The whole thing comes full circle. I cannot thank Mark enough for launching my writing career, having faith in me and most importantly penning those beautiful books that started it all off.

If you want to view Marks work, visit his website here

The Grand Hotel

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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.

Spring

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Its 7:30am on a beautiful Sunday morning and spring has finally arrived. Winter is hanging on by the finger tips, photos from friends in the Lakes and Scotland showing fresh falls of snow, but here in the Dark Peak snow has long since gone.

Feels likes its been a long wet dreary winter here, no real snow to talk of, not like last year when I post-holed my way around Howden Moor with a friend, on a blue sky and white landscape day. That was a good winter. Two good winters in succession the previous year bringing a walk with fifteen foot snow drifts in Dovedale and no walls to mark the way, guiding a group who thought it was just great fun.

I am off out with the dogs to do a walk that my mind found just the other week, although I have walked this area many times. It suddenly occurred to me that it would be a good walk to include in the book, and there were no thoughts of keeping it to myself. Sometimes there are, then I have the internal debate on whether or not to divulge some of the secrets of the Dark Peak. I opened my mouth about a secret not long back and immediately knew I had done wrong. Some things should remain closed inside.

But not today.

High Moorland

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Years ago I was afraid of the high moorlands, they struck me as places to be avoided lest I got lost, there being no markers and few landmarks around.  It isn’t like that now.

I spent a day on a moor a week before last, a whole day just looking, exploring, experiencing something of the nature that makes a seemingly featureless place abound with possibilities. Taste, touch, smell, see.

You can still find the odd Crowberry tiny little ampules of juice that sit low to the ground. I once ran out of water on a moor and these saved me until I could reach a stream and recharge. In winter they shine out against the white snow as dots of colour against the white and green backdrop.

Scrambling to get out of a peat bog is one of the more challenging past time for moorland walking. Peat has a consistency of one of those chocolate puddings with the gooey centres. As soon as you start to try and climb out, whilst berating yourself for being such an idiot in getting in to the grough in the first place, your feet start to slide down and the peat bank dissolves in to a shiny black sludge. You jab fingers in to the bank, trying for purchase, boots kicking steps as if on snow. It is not elegant. The peat smells of mustiness, rotted vegetation and has a slight chemical smell like a disinfectant. Of course this matters little whilst you are desperately trying to reach the top.

I sat on the moor after a storm had passed over the country, we seem to have more and more of these now. The tail end of the storm was still travelling across the moor and I suddenly became aware that I could smell the sea. The wind came from the west so the sea was probably the Irish sea. It was heavily ladened with salt, so much so that I could taste it on my lips. It was wonderful. I stood still, my face held in to the wind with my nose high to get as much of the sea air in to my lungs as possible. The odd thing was, I became transported back to my childhood, summer holidays on Blackpool central pier and the green sea and the salt.

There is a large channel on the moor, noted on the OS map as a drain. A pool stands at its head, the pool much larger now since the Moors for the Future project has stopped up a lot of the groughs and made the moor much wetter. a narrow ribbon of water works its way down the channel and soaks away in to the moor at the bottom. I am unconvinced it is a drain. There is evidence it may have been caused by peat cutting and if you stand on the opposite side of the valley you can detect sledways working up the valley side all leading to the channel. This would seem a more plausible reason for the channel. The channel has vertical cut sides and is not consistent in width, the top end being wider and also having access to vehicle tracks back down the hillside. I like to imagine people cutting peat and stacking it for drying, a hard days work in desolate land. My mind always says it is winter for some reason when the peat cutting is done, but this cannot be right, surely you would cut in summer and autumn to help drying.

 

 

Safety in the Dark Peak

On the subject of my Facebook Post
regarding the family I met yesterday who were wanting to go on Kinder. There have been quite a few replies to the original post all offering views, some in agreement with each other. Here is the conversation between me and the parents.
Dad.. You look like a person who knows what they are doing. Can you tell me the way to Kinder?
Me… You cannot drive on to Kinder
Dad… We wanted to walk up but cannot find the way.
Me… If you park here you are likely to get hit, the tractors are quite big and your car is sticking out a bit. You might find it safer to park in the car park 50m down the road..
Dad.. Oh Ok.
Me….Have you been up onto Kinder before
Dad… No we wanted to take the kids up
Me… OK. Do you have a map
Mum… No. But I know how to use a compass
Me… You really could do with a map, there are no signposts on Kinder and its easy to get lost . The cloud is quite low so visibility will be poor. Do you have your compass with you. You could buy a map from the visitor centre.
Mum… No I dont have my compass but my phone has googlemaps
Me… That wont be really any use Im afraid. Look to be honest, if you are asking me how to get to Kinder from here its a fair chance you might get lost and Kinder is not a place to be lost on with children. Why not go on one of the low level walks around here, there is some really nice walking, you could even get a leaflet from the visitor centre with them in.
Mum… We could buy a map for Kinder.
Me.. OK if you want to do that then the easiest way up from here is up William Clough its about 3 miles from here and the route isnt clear and it can be rough underfoot. If you do go up and the weather turns, come straight back down the way you came. Whats your name….tells me name.
Mum.. we will be alright
Me… well you have a good day, if you feel you are getting lost just stop and turn round and come back. it will be cold on top so make sure you and the children keep warm and dry. If it starts to rain or snow get down as quick as you can.
That was the conversation. I am a park ranger and that kind of conversation is not unusual and to be fair it is usually the woman who is more adamant about continuing on. I think people should be able to make their own decisions and being in the outdoors means accommodating different weather conditions, we as walkers know that. I do think I have a responsibility, children or otherwise to explain the facts to people, but I cannot stop someone from taking their own decision. I did not come across the people on Kinder nor when I returned so maybe they took my advice. One of the problems the Peak District has is that so much of it is near roads. You do not have hours of a walk in to get to the start. This gives people a false sense of security and people are just not aware of the possible dangers. Only if you have been in a tight spot, and I suspect we all have, are you aware that things can very quickly go wrong.
With regards to reporting to the police I am not sure about that. Naivety and ignorance are not really a crime. For sure the addition of children into the mix makes it a little more serious. So I did the best thing I could think of, ask their name and take note of the car reg when I walked on. If needed later on it could be useful information. As a ranger I always ask where people are coming from and going to. It may come in useful if they are reported missing and it helps me give them some interesting info about where they are going. Its what I do and its nice to have a conversation with people about the Peak District.
People should be encouraged to get out on to the moors more, but it should be tempered with education about the reality.
Thats my thoughts. You comments are welcome.