Deepdale, A Classic White Peak Limestone Dale.
This walk travels through some of the lesser-known Dales of the White Peak District. Deepdale, Horseshoe Dale & Bullhay Dale are places of natural beauty with lots of interesting features from Derbyshire's Industrial heritage, evidence of occupation by early man and myths & legends. Deepdale, a tributary of the main Wye (river) valley, has recently been awarded SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest) testifying to the importance of the Dale.
This large quarry was opened in 1907 by Messrs. Newton Chambers & Co. and has been subsequently worked from this time by various companies namely Derbyshire Stone Ltd and Tarmac Roadstone Holdings Ltd. It is currently worked by Aggregate Industries.
If you look up to your left about half way along this track you will notice a line of disturbed ground that traverses down the steep dale side and ends at a large hillock of waste material that can be seen 30 feet above the track. This is the surface impression of a small lead vein located in a fault that crosses the dale, although its continuation on the right hand dale side as apparently been quarried away by the subsequent workings of Topley Pike. The accessible workings of the vein consist of a single small mined chamber with a shallow blind shaft in the floor.
You will notice whilst following the path that the dale floor contains a drystone wall that runs along the length of the dale. This wall in fact marks the boundary between two Mining Liberties, Buxton and the Combined Liberty of Taddington, Flagg, Monyash and Upper Haddon respectively. You are walking in the latter.
The water appears from a fault that runs diagonally to the right up the dale side from this point although its course is hidden from view by the adjacent scree slope.
It should be noted at this stage that this fault contains another short mine level or adit that as been driven along its course into the dale side for a distance of 160 feet in the search for galena or lead ore. This level is situated directly above the large scree slope.
It should also be noted at this stage that in winter months a fairly large stream appears in the dale, fed by this resurgence and another further up the dale below Thirst house cave. Therefore if the walk is done in the winter months the dale has a completely different aspect to the summer months.
For those walkers with a taste for adventure, and possibly energy to burn, a short detour here will give superb bird's eye views of the dale. Taking the path to the right, towards King Sterndale, and climbing the side of the dale by even a small amount affords excellent views both up and down the dale.
This is in fact not a cave but another short mine level that as been driven into a calcite vein with little or any content of lead ore that outcrops at this locality. Up until the late 1970's the level was almost full of crystal-clear water giving it the name of Pool Cave, a name which is still used in caving guides today. The level was subsequently drained by mine explorers to see if it continued for any distance into the dale side, it was discovered that the level soon ended at small rubble filled hole in the floor. The level is quite safe to enter being fairly roomy inside.
The cave consists of two chambers, the entrance chamber and the larger inner chamber. An old report in a local newspaper says that the cave contained a total of eight chambers, one of which contained a small stream and waterfall. These further chambers cannot be found today perhaps the route into them has collapsed. The entrance chamber is easily explored but beware of the holes in the floor and the low roof. It is not advisable to enter into the further reaches of the cave unless you are familiar with this sort of activity.
The local archaeologist, Mr Micah Salt from 1884-1899 whilst excavating the cave found a vast amount of Romano-British pottery along with bones of the great brown bear. Outside the cave two skeletons were found buried about 4ft below the surface. These burials are believed to be from the Neolithic period.
Also outside the cave entrance there is a spring of water and local folklore tells a tale that the water was charmed by an elf named Hob, who lived in the cave. It is now said that if the water from the spring is drank on Good Friday all your ailments will be cured. Many years ago the cave was actually called Hobs Thirst House on account of the resident elf.
Other tales are told of the dale being the home to the 'little people'. One of which tells of a local miner returning to his home through the dale in the dusk when he came across an elf, captured him and placed him in a sack on his shoulder. The elf created such a noise and commotion that the miner eventually, though reluctantly, let him go.
If you stand in the entrance of the cave and look across to the other side of the dale you will see another large cave entrance high up on the side of the dale. This cave is called Deepdale Cavern, a name that is very misleading because there is no cavern to be found in this cave only a low winding passage that ends after 80 feet.
The path that you are following in Horseshoe Dale is in fact an old route called the Priests Way. Legend suggests the name came from the priest of King Sterndale Church used the path as a short cut to get to Chelmorton Church and vice-versa.
Looking across you will notice that the mine as been driven into the dale side on two levels, upper and lower. It appears that the upper level was the working area while the lower level was used to haul the mined mineral from the workings. It is not advisable to enter the mine because of loose rock and waste materials.
Chelmorton is a typical upland village with a single street lined with buildings down either side and strip fields that radiate from each side of the village.
Above the village can be seen the high hill known as Chelmorton Low on top of which are located two barrows or burial mounds dating from the Bronze Age. The Low is in fact 1442 feet above sea level making it the highest limestone hill to the south of the River Wye.
The church stands at a height of 1200 feet above sea level and is therefore considered to be the highest parish church in England. The church was built in the 13th Century and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It contains some interesting relics, these include several stone coffins, the 14th. Century chancel screen and the stone font that dates from the 15th. Century. The tall spire that is a landmark for many miles is topped by an unusual weather vane in the shape of a locust, in commemoration of the church dedication to St. John the Baptist.
This spring is known locally as Illy Willy Water. It issues from above a layer of volcanic lava and then runs down into the village below where it fills several roadside troughs and then suddenly disappears underground to continue its journey to an unknown destination, possibly in Deepdale.
This road is known as Old Coalpit Lane on account that it was once the main route from the Axe Edge coalfield, to the Southwest of Buxton, to the main Buxton-Derby turnpike.
This unusual name is an old term used by lead miners to describe a very hard bed of rock encountered when driving a mine level. It as been noted earlier on the walk, through Deepdale, that several levels were driven in the direction of Chelmorton Flats perhaps this is why the location is named 'The Burrs'. Perhaps a yet to be discovered mine level lies hidden under this location.
When you arrive at the dale floor you are at an area known as Churn Holes. In amongst the jumble of rocks that occupy the dale floor at this location there is hidden a small cave that once housed Romano-British people. Also in the immediate vicinity is another larger cave entrance that ends after a few feet. These caves were excavated by Mr Micah Salt in 1898 and yielded an old Roman brooch, bones of stags, pigs & sheep and burnt bones of the same.
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