Hidden gems in the Peak District - Hucklow Edge, Birchenough Hill, Blake’s Boulder

Smerrill Grange stone face

The stone face beside the road near Smerrill Grange, Youlgreave has references to the work of William Blake - Credit: Steve Waring

Where, in the Peak District, was social distancing carried out in the 17th century? 

Where can you stand, legs apart, place your hand on the floor & be in 3 counties at the same time?  

Where can you read William Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’ (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And Heaven in a Wild Flower…….”) carved on a rock? Read on…… 

Waterfall Swallet

Waterfall Swallet - Credit: Steve Waring

Atishoo! Atishoo! We all fall down 

Everyone knows the story of Eyam & the Plague 1665-ish. Brave villagers led by the Reverend Mompesson isolate their village in an attempt to contain the Plague, none of them go to the beach or a rave, none of them head abroad or throw parties. Mompesson realised that the Plague was being spread when the villagers all gathered for Sunday Service, so he took it outside and held them in a nearby small valley called The Delf (or Cucklet Delf as it’s also known). It’s reached by a path from Eyam hall car-park. 

Mompesson preached from a natural limestone arch, his pulpit, and the villagers were scattered about the head of the valley. Imagine the horror they must have felt as gaps appeared every week in their ranks. The sadness and terror they felt in this place hangs in the air still. It’s a small, overgrown, gloomy little dale and, just to add to the atmosphere, there are several abandoned lead-mines lining the upper cliffs and as we know, all lead-mines are haunted by ‘T’owd man’. I remember walking down the Delf on my own some years ago. Now, I have two walking speeds, ‘Slow’ and ‘Treacle downhill’ and was therefore, not surprised when I heard footsteps behind me and closing. I stopped, stepped aside and turned to greet my fellow walker only to see……nothing! Usain Bolt could not have beaten me down to the main road! 

To make a good walk of it, head back to the car-park then left (west) on a footpath that takes you through houses heading off towards Foolow. After about 9 fields, look for a gate and track to the right. This takes you out onto the road (narrow and busy so beware) between Foolow and Eyam. Turn left and opposite Waterfall farm you’ll find a shakehole surrounded by trees. If it’s been wet, there should be a gorgeous waterfall cascading into it. There are a couple of potholes there as well but not recommended for the amateur. A muddy scramble gets you in then out of the shakehole.. Just to the right of the shakehole, you might make out the course of a narrow gauge railway which served the various mines below the edge.

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You can carry on along the road to Foolow or return to the footpath the same way you came. If you do the latter, you’ll drop in and then out of Linen Dale and reach the road running south out of Foolow. This is the site of a tragic air-crash when on 7th December 1956, an Avro Shackleton crashed into these fields killing the 3 crew members. There is no sign of it now unless you can spot the slightly different darker stones used to rebuild sections of the field walls. Through Foolow and across the fields to Grindlow and Great Hucklow then climb steeply up the lane past the school and eventually reach the road on Hucklow Edge. This whole edge is honeycombed with old mine workings. Occasionally the weather plays it’s part and results in chaos. The photo of the road was taken in 2013 after severe rain loosened the soil on the hillside. 

Hucklow Edge

Hucklow Edge - Credit: Steve Waring

A short way down a track to the right will bring you to the site of ‘Silence mine’ complete with its interpretive board. Return to the road and press on along up to the edge. The ground at the bottom of the slope to the right was the site of a massive sinkhole in 2013 caused when excessive rain opened up old mine-workings. As you approach the ‘Barrel Inn’, the ridge narrows and you get a wonderful opportunity to compare the ‘White’ and ‘Dark’ peak. To the left (north), the underlying millstone grit results in the crags and edges and conifer woodlands. To the right (south) the much softer outline of fields with stone walls and the dales is a result of the underlying carboniferous limestone. 

When you manage to leave the Barrel, you can take any of several routes down to Eyam, all of them making the walk about 7 miles. 

As for the ‘Atishoo…’ reference at the beginning, that was said to be one of the symptoms, along with a rounded red rash (,…ring-o-ring of rosies…). Flowers were thought to help combat the disease so people stuffed them in their pockets but the survival rate was not good and most victims….’all fall down’!  

6 great walks near Eyam

You put your right leg in…..Cheshire, (the left one’s in Staffs).  

There is a spot where Cheshire, Staffs & Derbyshire meet so, if you don’t mind a paddle, you can place your hand on to the stream-bed and have it in a different county to your right and left leg. It’s called, unsurprisingly “Three Shire Heads” and is a bit of a beauty spot. A good but challenging walk round and about is a bit of a stunner.

Leave the A537 a mile west of the Cat & Fiddle to park up at the picnic site near Clough House (987699). Walk south toward Wildboarclough then pick up a path on the right which turns right heading to the right of & then the top of Shutlingsloe, Cheshire;s Matterhorn – fantastic views (1660 feet high). Leave, carefully, via the opposite side(south) to rejoin the path you came up on but now swinging right into Wildboarclough, allegedly where the last wild boar in England was killed. The bridge displays past flood level indicators and the old Post Office is probably bigger than all the other current buildings put together. Head up the road past Crag hall and carefully cross the A54. About 650 yards along the path, you’ll spot a very small old quarry site on the left just before a wall. Head up the rim of the quarry and there’s a small memorial and a few fragments of a B17 Flying Fortress which crashed here on 2nd January 1945 killing all 5 crew members. 

B17 crash-site, Birchenough Hill

B17 crash-site, Birchenough Hill - Credit: Steve Waring

Head across the moor (no path) due east for a short while and you should come across the bare patch where it burned out. Carry on in the same direction to soon reach a path and turn left then swing right around Cut-thorn Hill to reach Three Shire Heads. It will probably be busy but it’s a beautiful spot. Leave to the north following the infant river Dane to climb up past Holt farm and cross the A54 again. A good track heads north to Cumberland Brook where you turn left and back down to the car-park, pausing briefly at a wooden gate at the end of the trees which presents a great photo opportunity with Shutlingsloe as a back-drop. 

Great walks in and around the Cheshire Peak District

Great walks in and around the Staffordshire Peak District

Middleton’s meaningful millennium mirth.  

The residents of Middleton-in-Youlgreave decided to mark the millennium by commissioning carved stones to be placed at all 17 entrances to the parish and christening them ‘The Sites of Meaning’. They form the basis of a very pleasant and interesting walk in a quieter part of the Peak District. 

Park up in the square in the centre of Middleton and look for the Wellington air-crash memorial plaque on the side railing of the small park. You’ll pass the crash-site later on. Before you set off, have a quick look at the site of Middleton (Fulwood’s) castle at the rear of Castle Farm, although there’s little to see apart from a few bricks and remains of low walls. It was a fortified manor house built 1608-11 but knocked about a bit in the Civil War and eventually demolished in 1720. Just across the road, up a short path by the former chapel, is the tomb of Thomas Bateman. He was the ‘Indiana Jones’ of the mid 1800’s. From 1845 to 1860 he excavated over 100 burial sites in the Peak District. Sheffield Museum is the place to see his archaeological collection. 

Now head west on Rake Lane but soon turn left (south) onto Whitfield lane (track). Just after Little Rookery Plantation, opposite Kenslow farm, bear left to climb up to the wooded Kenslow Knoll where you’ll find a toposcope and human sundial, the first of the ‘Sites’. Back to the path, over fields to pick up the lane to Friden. All around you was once a vast mining area, mostly for silica, and you might make out old pits & tramway lines, depending on the time of year. When the lane drops and bends left in about 1/3 of a mile, before the High Peak Trail, go left on the footpath to Long Dale. The next pair of inscribed stones, “The Road Up and…” stones are only about 100 yards along the path. A further 1.5 miles and you drop down from the eastern edge of the dale to another set of stones, the ‘Tryptych’ – “We meet to create memories…”. 

 Now, a choice, longer or shorter? For “longer”, carry on down Long Dale for about 1 mile, turning left (NE) into Gratton Dale and walk all the way, nearly 2 miles, to the road (Weaddow Lane) at Dale End farm, looking for the lime-kiln near the end. Turn left on the road and in just under 1 mile, reach ‘Blake’s Boulder’

Blake's Boulder

Blake's Boulder - Credit: Steve Waring

Just opposite is the potential site of the deserted mediaeval village of Gratton but not confirmed. Carry on just past Smerrill Grange and take the footpath right. 

The shorter option means climbing back up the way you came down to the Tryptych, then taking the path/lane (N/E) across Gratton Moor to Weaddow Lane. Turn right and walk past Smerrill Grange for about 600 yards to Blake’s Boulder then return to Smerrill Grange to take the footpath right. 

The path by Smerrill Grange crosses a couple of fields, with Weaddow Lane to the left, then turns right on reaching a small tree covered dale. In a few yards, you reach a small, flat limestone outcrop so look for a geocache (and our entry from 2018 in the log). As you drop down, look for a circular, flat carved stone on the ground, another ‘Site of Meaning’.  Down, through the stile/gate and turn right towards the stream. To the left though is a gated entry to the small dale mentioned above. It’s of interest to archaeologists as there are several caves and rock-shelters thought to contain stuff they would be interested in but none of them yet excavated. I find it a spooky, atmospheric place and never tarry very long. To the right is the wooded small valley of Rowlow brook and it’s here that Wellington BJ652 crashed on 21/1/44 killing all 6 crew members. You used to be able to find a few fragments of the geodetic frame but it now seems to have all gone. 

On reaching the stream, look for another carved stone, “ The peace of running water…”. From here, either take the lane to the left back to Middleton or the footpath (north) by the stream and turn left up to Middleton, on reaching the top of Bradford Dale. 

So, happy walking. Remember, take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. 

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