Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Walk 4. Stanage Edge and Burbage Moor - Following in Ancient and Literary Footsteps

This walk follows the eastern boundary of Derbyshire with South Yorkshire. In addition to stunning and atmospheric views there are some interesting historic and literary sights, as you follow perhaps in the footsteps of iron age people and more recently, perhaps of Robin Hood, Little John and Charlotte Bronte.  For more of Robin Hood and Little John see paragraph 1 of the walk description below.  Charlotte Bronte visited Hathersage in 1845, to stay with her friend Ellen Nussey in the vicarage of St Michael's parish church, while Ellen's brother, the vicar was away on honeymoon. She was inspired to use Hathersage as the actual setting for  her novel 'Jane Eyre', (Morton in the book). Stanage Edge was also recently used as the setting for part of the film 'Pride and Prejudice', where Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightly) stands proudly surveying the countryside below, before conforming to societal norms and marrying Darcy. 

This is a circular walk of moderate difficulty. The full walk starts and ends in Hathersage village in the Hope Valley. It is a trail of approximately 10 miles. A shorter version, which would allow the walker to visit Stanage Edge and Burbage is approximately three miles shorter but involves some walking along minor roads. For either walk you should carry Ordnance Survey Dark Peak Explorer Map OL1. 

The longer walk starts and ends in Hathersage. You can come by rail or park in the car park opposite the swimming pool on Oddfellows Road, S32 1 DU. 

For the shorter walk drive through Hathersage until just before the sharp bend where the A6187 bears sharply right, towards Grindleford and Sheffield. Do not go around this bend but turn left onto School Lane. Drive past the Primary School on the right and Hathersage Parish Church on the left and head uphill towards Stanage Edge.  You will reach a point where there is a sharp left turn and a car park. Turn left here and drive past the first car park. Park at the second car park you come across - OS 237840. The instructions for walking the shorter walk are at paragraphs 4 to 15 below.  

1. For the longer walk - turn  left and left again out of the car park, heading for the centre of Hathersage village. If you have time before the main walk, or at the end, visit St Michael's Church, Hathersage, where the main interest is the grave of Little John, the reputed right hand man of Robin Hood. In the late Middle Ages Sherwood Forest stretched to this part of the Peak District and it  is said that Robin Hood was Robin of Locksley, an area now known as Loxley. It would have been a country area in the middle ages, but is now a suburb of Sheffield. Little John came from Hathersage, and, as legend has it, after Robin Hood's death, he returned to Hathersage, where he lived until his death.  There is an old headstone which is now too worn to read, and a more modern headstone next to an old yew tree in the churchyard which bears the inscription:
'Here Lies Buried 
Little John
 the Friend and Lieutenant of 
Robin Hood 

He died in a cottage (now destroyed) to the east of the Churchyard. 
The grave is marked by 
This old headstone & footstone
And is underneath this old Yew Tree.'

Some people dispute that there is any factual basis for Robin Hood or Little John. However, as many of us can recall, Little John was said to have been named such by Robin because he was extremely tall.  When the grave was opened in the 19th century a skeleton of a man of around 7 feet tall was found. Also, for many years a very ancient longbow and cap hung inside St Michael's Church.  

2. Retrace your steps back into the centre of Hathersage and head up Baulk Lane, which is signed as a public footpath. Continue on this footpath for nearly a mile, heading gently upwards, through the meadows until you see a rather grand building with many tall chimneys dating back to the 14th century. This is Brookfield Manor, now a popular wedding venue. In Jane Eyre it was the setting for Vale Hall. In the novel the owner of Vale Hall, Mr Oliver, was a needle manufacturer. In 1845 Hathersage had a large needle producing industry. Continue along the footpath until it ends at a road. Then turn right onto Birley Lane. Shortly after this you will see a public footpath sign. Take this path as it is leading you up a  narrow drive  to North Lees Hall. North Lees was  used by Bronte as the template for Thornfield' the home of Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. It is a manor house, built in the 16th century by Robert Eyre with a tower  and battlements. Follow the footpath as it passes behind the hall. Then turn sharp right by the information board and cross a field until it turns sharply left. To your right you may notice a small standing stone. This was once the site of a Romano-British village 2000 years ago. 

3. Continue uphill and along a woodland path. Towards the top, through a clearing in the trees, you get a tantalising glimpse of Stanage Edge. Turn left along the road and you are at the car park where those choosing the shorter walk will start from. 

4. Walk up the path that leads onto Stanage Edge. You can now get a good view of the Edge, cliff- like, stretching over into the far distance. The name 'Stanage' comes from 'Stone Edge' and as my painting below shows it could not be more aptly named. It is the most northerly of a line of cliffs,   these include Burbage Rocks, Froggatt Edge, Curbar Edge and Baslow Edge.

'The Edge, Stanage'
 (framed) oil on canvas 101 cm x 50 cm, £650

5. As you get closer to the rock of the edge itself look up at the rock face of Stanage Edge. Often, particularly in the better weather of the summer months these rocks are crawling with the tiny ant- like figures of climbers, as this is one of the best known British climbing venues.  

'Rock Face, Stanage Edge'
 (framed) oil on canvas 76 cm x 61 cm, £550

6. Ascend on the path to the top of Stanage Edge. There is a very well marked path at the top. This route was formerly a paved packhorse road, and, as you walk along you will see the stones in many places.  The path here forms the boundary between Derbyshire and South Yorkshire for a short distance and is part of the Sheffield Country Walk.  Walking along here, with the wind in your face,  you might be reminded of Keira Knightly,  'on top of the world', overlooking the land below as she stands on what is now called 'Keira's Rock', in the 2005 film  'Pride and Prejudice' . The views from the edge are truly spectacular. On a clear day you can see not just the patchwork of field below but over the Hope Valley towards Edale. You can also see along the top of the Edge in places, looking over in the direction you will be walking, towards Higger Tor and Burbage. In the early autumn, when the heather is still out the views of the countryside below are also spectacular.

 'From Stanage Edge - Patchwork of Fields' 
(framed) oil on canvas 30cm x 24 cm, £270

 'Across the Moors - Stanage'
(framed) oil on canvas 30 cm x 24 cm, £270

7.  Approximately half way along your route, just over the edge, there is a cave known as 'Robin Hood's Cave'. It is one of many caves which have been used over the years as a makeshift overnight shelter, but it is not known whether Robin was one of its visitors. Here is a painting of near the edge of Stanage, looking back a little down the path. 

'Close to the Edge, Stanage'
(framed) oil on canvas 75 cm x 46 cm £500

8. For anyone needing a really short walk, there is a minor path to the right shortly after this, which takes you back down to the nearest car park. If you do this you would then need to walk northward along the road for approximately half an hour to reach the car park I directed you to at the start of this blog. Below is a painting I did of the start of this path leaving Stanage Edge. This painting was inspired by a visit at sunset in early November, when there was a smattering of first snow on the ground and the bracken which still covers much of the Edge at this time of the year, remains warmly russet-coloured.

'Stanage, First Snow' 
(framed) oil on canvas 51 cm x 51 cm, £400

9. The main path soon continues slightly to the left, over White Path Moss and past the Cowper Stone, towards the road and Upper Burbage Bridge. Below is a mixed media drawing I did of the path and the view across here on a crisp and very icy January day. I started a painting after this sketch but decided I preferred the mixed media piece. 

 'Path Across the Moor, Stanage, January' 
(framed), charcoal  oil  and gesso on paper 106 cm x 73 cm, £450

10. On reaching the road across from Upper Burbage Brook, cross the road and take a moment or two to enjoy the view down and along the brook. You can see Burbage Moor before you, and over to the right, Higger Tor and the iron age fort, Carl Wark Fort. 

'Burbage Brook, Higger Tor and Carl Wark'
 (framed) oil on canvas 30 cm x 24 cm, £270

11. Take the path that heads out to the right of Burbage Brook. This path goes along the ridge called Fidlers Elbow. Then this path carries straight on and over Higger Tor. This next painting shows the view across the top of Higger Tor, inspired by a walk in September, when the heather was still in flower. 

'Looking West from Higger Tor'
 (framed) oil on canvas 76 cm x 76 cm, £600

12. As you walk down the other side of Higger Tor, straight ahead you can see Carl Wark Fort, where you are going next on this walk. 

'Carl Wark Fort'
(framed) oil on canvas 51 cm x 51 cm, £400

13. Approaching the fort from Higger Tor you can still see a wall and steps up.  The other three sides are steep, almost vertical cliffs.  The fort juts out into the surrounding moorland. Little seems to be known about the fort. Historians also disagree about how old the fort may be. Many think it is likely to date from the 8th to the 5th centuries BC. It is a scheduled monument now and there is a sign reminding everyone of this at the site.  It is  certainly a great vantage point for views of the surrounding moorland and has a fantastic atmosphere. Here is a mixed media piece of mine that shows the view looking west across Hathersage Moor. 

  'Hathersage Moor from Carl Wark Fort'
(framed) oil, charcoal and paper 52 cm x 50cm,  £270

14. Retrace your steps down from the fort and head due west. If you look at the OL1 Ordnance Survey map you will see your path heading west towards a place called Rain Gauge. You will have to pick your way across the moor at this point. It is often boggy and the path is sometimes not that easy to follow. As you near Rain Gauge you should find yourself passing the short end of a rectangular sheep enclosure. Just past here the walk takes you onto a minor road.

15. For anyone taking the shorter walk, at the minor road turn right and head north, back up the minor road to the top of the hill, where there is a junction with another minor road that passes around the side of Stanage Edge and down to the first car park (mentioned in paragraph 8 above). Turn right at the junction of this road, walking across the cattle grid and past the car park,  and follow the road back to the next car park where you parked.

16. For those walking back to Hathersage. cross the minor road at Rain Gauge, walking through a meadow that is also a conservation area called Mitchells Field. The meadows here are lovely in the spring and early summer when many species of rare wild flowers can be seen. Turn sharp left at   at Mitchell Field Farm, which is at the bottom of the meadows. Head on down past Scraperlow Hall. This is the third interesting building on this walk (after North Lees and Brookfield Manor earlier). This one is a rather eccentric looking farm house with crennelations, and a central doorway, just where you would think there should be  drawbridge. This is probably one of the best illustrations of the phrase 'An Englishman's home is his castle' that I have ever seen!. The path near the wall of Scraperlow is frequently muddy and slippery underfoot. There is an alternative footpath available that actually takes you through the gate of Scraperlow, past the well manicured lawns, and out the other side.

17. After Scraperlow, keep walking down hill. You will go through a gate and then down a track through a small wood and then down a rough track.  The wood is particularly beautiful in springtime when it has a carpet of bluebells and bright green. The path and track take you around the side of High Lees and onto A 6187 at the bottom. Once there turn right and return into Hathersage.

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