Carl Wark Hill Fort and the Padley Gorge
The eastern edge of the Peak District is a continuation of the gritstone uplands to the north. This particular walk covers a section of moorland east of the village of Hathersage.
The walk starts amongst the industrial remains of the region, in millstone quarry. Climbing up onto the moorland the character of the walk changes. The heather moorland contrasts with the lush valley below. The views are stunning from the highest point of the walk, before dropping down into the tree lined gorge below.
The walk culminates in the landscaped remains of one of the regions biggest quarries. It is difficult to tell that the stone for two reservoir dams was removed from this idyllic spot.
The car park is fairly large, but requires a small charge to be paid. It tends to fill up quickly on sunny days.
Millstone edge is a former millstone quarry. It is believed that the edge has been used as a source of gritstone since mediaeval times, with the large faces we see today being exposed during the 19th century. Gritstone millstones were known by millers as “peaks”, and came in pairs. Grain was ground between the close fitting pair of stones to produce rough flour. Gritstone millstones fell out of fashion because they had a tendency to turn flour a grey colour. The were replaced with churt composite millstones, or “French” stones, which although more expensive to manufacture produced a white flour, and needed re-facing less often.
Millstones from this quarry are reported to have been transported to the river Trent by placing an axle through 2 millstones and driving them over the moors. From the Trent they were transported by river to Hull and then distributed around the country from that port.
The fashion for white flour was the end for this quarry, which probably closed towards the end of the 19th Century. The quarry gained a new lease of life in the 20th century when increased leisure time brought the early climbers to the quarry. Millstone edge now boasts some of the highest and hardest climbs on grit.
When the weather is warm this cliff is a climbers paradise, and when no climbers are about, there are still the tell tale signs of chalk over the more popular routes.
The path across the moors skirts below the tors on the skyline heading for the higher tops beyond.
The going is easy along this track, and early on a Sunday morning the only sound you may hear along this section is the distant ringing of the church bells in Hathersage. The solitude is amazing given how close to civilisation you actually are.
Looking behind you, out over the hope valley, the village of Hathersage is just visible, clinging to the hillside in the distance.
At the shoulder of the ridge, the path meets a wall on the left, and the road. Above you, in your direction of travel is the imposing bulk of Higger Tor, another gritstone outcrop, and your eventual destination.
At the top, the peak district spreads out before you. The southern views are magnificent, while the northern views extend onto the rocky moorland beyond. Below, to the south, there is a terrific view of one of the major features of the walk, the Carl Wark hill fort.
By now the full splendour of Carl Wark is very apparent, and this spur is the route to it. Take your time here; linger over the view, before you drop of the top.
Carl Wark hill fort occupies the top of a boulder-strewn crag, and is naturally defensible from three sides. The building of a drystone, boulder wall built from massive blocks and slabs, has defended the fourth side. The interior is full of boulders and rocky outcrops, which leaves little room for buildings. The date of the site has always been a mystery, as it is unlike any other structure in Northern England. The only other settlements in the immediate area are on lower land to the south and west, and are of late prehistoric type. The possibility that Carl Wark may be an early defensive work, perhaps as early as the Neolithic, cannot be ignored.
The view upstream is very pleasant, but the thinness of the footpath deters you from lingering too long.
A county boundary stone marks the centre of the bridge, with Yorkshire written on it. This would appear to indicate that the centre of the bridge separates Yorkshire from Derbyshire. This may have been the case when the stone was raised, but is not so now. The border now follows the road; the upstream side (where the walk has come from) is in Yorkshire, while the downstream side (our destination) is in Derbyshire.
The cobbles that make up this path are a modern version of the old turnpikes cobbles, to protect the area from erosion by walkers. This area of woodland and surrounding moorland is the northernmost extreme of the 1600-acre Longshaw estate, formerly owned by the Duke of Rutland, and now owned by the National Trust.
The terrain has now changed from open moorland to old woodland.
To the right of the gate lie the remains of a small upland farm. The farm enclosure was cleared out of the moorland common sometime in the medieval period. The infield is defined by a low bank and ditch, and was used for arable land. This is indicated by the narrow cleared strips and clearance Cairns, except in a small portion to the north, which was too stony to cultivate. In the eastern corner are two buildings and a yard; the larger building was probably a dwelling and byre, the other an outhouse. Unpublished excavations on the site over 35 years have produced pottery believed to be of 11th or 12th century date.
Bole hill quarry was first worked for grindstones in the late 19th century, but the majority of the stone was quarried from here between 1902 and 1910, for the 1.25 million tons of stone used in the Derwent and Howden dams. Stone from the quarry was taken down a zigzagged railway track, and then down an inclined plane. At the foot of this plane was the temporary housing for the quarry workers. At the bottom of the quarry was the Midland Railway's Sheffield to Manchester line, which was used to take the stone up the Derwent valley.
This is a bit on the thin side at first, but it soon opens out into a good grassy platform above the quarry. It is quite apparent that nature has been at work here for some time, this scar on the landscape does not stand out; it just appears to be a wooded hillside. For this reason care should be taken on this section, as there are some steep cliffs in this wooded wonderland.
This is a distinct corner with a large pond at the bottom of it. This is another set of large climbs, popular in the summer. Follow the top of the edge round the corner to get a better view of the climbers on the main face.
Stacked at the side of the quarry road, and in a number of other locations around and about this area is a huge quantity of finished millstones. They were stacked here for collection, and nobody came. Unfinished and broken stones are also to be found in the area, a notable unfinished stone is on the path on the way down. For those wishing to see more of the climbers, this road gives access to the bottom of the main cliff you have just been to the top of.
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