The first of my Peak Challenge walks was close to home, and allowed me to tick off 8 new grid squares.
The walk began on Gilroyd Lane, on the edge of Midhope Reservoir right at the boundary of the Peak District National Park. There are a couple of parking spaces in a lay-by at SK 220 991, and a couple more on a stub of un-used road at SK 213 995. The weather was cold and gloomy, and the moors looked particularly bleak. Sounds like a good day for a walk!
I set off in good spirits along Gilroyd Lane, looking for the stile over the wall to get onto the Access Land. The first thing I noticed were the grouse butts in a neat line, guiding me along the first leg. As I continued up the hill, I could see more grouse butts sprinkled across the moor, in every direction. In fact, for the first 2km of the walk, I was never more than a couple of hundred metres from one, and there must have been more than a hundred in total.
When I was planning the route, I had wondered whether the wall would be easy to follow, as the map shows a large section of it as being in ruins. In my experience, walls are often in ruins even when they are shown with a solid line on the map, and if they are shown as a dashed line on the map then it’s 50/50 whether you will be able to see it on the ground at all. I needn’t have worried, as the wall was in good repair and very easy to follow, until it stopped abruptly. Someone had made a very deliberate choice about where to end the wall, and from that point, as shown on the map, it was indeed a ruin. There were odd sections still standing, looking extremely precarious.
Although no footpath is shown on the map, there was a rough path connecting the grouse butts, which I followed until it ran out. Then I reached knee-deep, then waist-deep heather, and the walk really began! On the GPX track, you’ll notice a wiggly section by Earnshaw Ridge, and this was me attempting to make my way through the heather and peat by following the odd raised bank of earth, or the bare patches that haven’t re-grown since the last swaling.
As I headed up the hill, towards Pike Lowe, I came across a strange patch of ground. It was a very neat oval shape, with a border of rocks, and there was no heather. Instead, there were large roots coming out of the ground, as if there were once trees there. I checked the historical maps, back to around 1900, but the whole area is shown as open moorland with no trees at all. I also spotted some lichen, which caught my eye because of the bright red spots. I think it’s Cladonia Diversa.
I finally reached Pike Lowe, the highest point on the hill, shown on the map as having a cairn and a walled enclosure. It’s shown on a variety of historic OS maps as “Barrow” until around 1950 when it changes to “Heap of Stones” and then “Cairn”. I think it looks like a small broken-down building. I wonder whether it used to have a roof? I sat in it, and had a snack. I had a Quaker Oats porridge bar (golden syrup flavour) which was a bit dry, but washed down nicely with some hot blackcurrent cordial. Top tip: Take hot water in a flask, and one of the small squeezy bottles of concentrated squash, so you can have hot cordial without tainting your flask with the flavour.
Once I’d finished my snack, I continued down the other side of Pike Lowe. I looked back and could see that the “summit” was much more pronounced from this direction.
I passed two marker stones, shown on a historic map from the 1900s, but not shown on the modern map. The stones are marked with “RRW” which, according to John Fielding on Geograph,
is an old boundary marker for the Rimington-Wilsons of Broomhead Hall. According to Yorkshire Chess History,
James Wilson Rimington-Wilson was a “gentleman” chess-player who was Lord of the Manor of Bolsterstone. I also found Catherine Clarke’s Myers Family History website, which includes a selection of images and a full genealogy of the Rimington-Wilsons, who have a long history in the area. Another interesting fact is that Wing Commander Guy Gibson, leader of the infamous 617 Squadron, lived with the Rimington-Wilsons at Broomhead Hall during preparations for the Dam Busters operation.
The path descends into Candlerush Dike (a wonderful name for a dike) into what is shown on the map as a ford, and what is in reality, a pond. One hop later, and a careful ascent up the peat bank on the other side, and I was only a few minutes from Cut Gate, a bridleway dating from at least 1771. As you can see on the photo, it was snowing a bit, but not sticking.
I followed Cut Gate north, and passed a wide strip of plastic matting has been laid across the entire valley, including the bridleway, presumably to allow vehicle access. I searched online and found a series of articles by Paul Besley where he investigates this plastic matting in more detail. Paul’s opinions on the matting are clearly very negative, and I can see why, but I don’t really mind other than the re-grading of Cut Gate itself which had taken place to make it easier for vehicles, but definitely made it more difficult for walkers, cyclists and riders.
I continued along Cut Gate, and enjoyed seeing one of the Peak & Northern Footpath Society’s lovely green and white signs. It provides directions to the now-closed Flouch Inn (demolished and replaced with houses) and the now-closed Hazlehead Station (converted to a house). So not very useful, but charming nontheless.
I continued along Hingcliff Common then turned right and headed towards North America Farm. This area has strong connections with the military and was used as a tank firing range for a long time. My circular route misses out two grid squares in the middle, which is intentional, as I’d like to come back and focus on this area in more detail. The excellent Langsett & Midhope At War has plenty to read about if you’re interested.
From North America the route follows the track along the edge of Langsett Reservoir, then through the woods along Thickwoods Lane, and ends with a short walk along Shaw Lane back to the car parking spot.
I really enjoyed this walk, because although the area looks empty on the map, and bleak at first sight, in reality it’s packed with interesting features. I’ve learned a bit about flora, plenty about local history, and there’s a part that I want to come back and explore further in the future. All in all, a good day out.