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Peak District Walks

Carl Wark Hill Fort and the Padley Gorge

Peak District Walking - Climbers in quarry

Summary

Peak District Walks
Walk Distance
4.8 miles, 7.7 km
Total Climbing 917ft, 279m
Estimated Time 3hrs 15min
Starting Point Surprise View Car Park, SK 251 800
Last updated 25/05/1999

Introduction

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.

Instructions

  • The walk starts from the Surprise View Car Park on the A625 Sheffield to Chapel-en-le-Frith road.

The car park is fairly large, but requires a small charge to be paid. It tends to fill up quickly on sunny days.

  • Head for the western side of the car park and pass through a gate into the heather moorland beyond.
  • Follow the path through the heather towards the edge in the distance. This is the top of millstone edge.
  • Cross the stile and drop through the small valley until you reach a fair size track at the bottom.
  • Turn right and follow the track as it follows the edge. This track takes you below the former quarries of millstone edge, and arrives at a wide flat area below an impressive cliff.

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 main path drops down at this point, but this route follows a more rugged path along the base of the cliffs.
  • The path is easy enough to follow, as it is a thin sandy trail going up and down in the rough terrain below the cliffs.
  • Follow this path until the end of the edge is reached, and then climb the steep but obvious climb at its end to reach the top of the edge.
  • The rocky outcrop of Over Owlers Tor is obvious on the horizon in front of you. This is the same rocky outcrop seen from beyond the car park at the starting point.
  • Turn left at the fence above the edge and follow it to a stile in the corner. Cross the stile and enter the wild moorland beyond.

The path across the moors skirts below the tors on the skyline heading for the higher tops beyond.

  • Turn left after crossing the stile and pick up the grassy track that heads in a northerly direction away from millstone edge.

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.

  • The track contours around the slope for a while before beginning a gentle climb around the base of the ridge.

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.

  • Don't drop down to the road here, but follow the path that runs parallel to it across the flat rough moorland.
  • Pick up the obvious rocky track that skirts the western side of Higger Tor, and follow it as it makes its way to the left of the main massif.
  • As this path climbs and levels off it meets the road at a stile. Turn right at this point, and follow the path from the stile up onto the top of Higger Tor.
  • This is a less steep way up than around the front, but it is a fairly rocky route, and care should be taken.

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.

  • Follow the rocky edge in an easterly direction, until you reach a spur at the southeast corner of the Tor.

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.

  • The route down the spur is not very clear from the top. Pick your way through the rocks as best you can on the initial part of the descent.
  • A good path is soon picked up below the rocky top. Take care over the rocks, there is good grip on gritstone, but it should not be taken for granted.
  • Once the path is reached, follow it down the more gentle slop to the bulk of Carl Wark.
  • There is a path that skirts the bottom on the right of Carl Wark, but ignore this and make the short climb up to the wall on the eastern side of the hill fort.

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.

  • Pick up the path at the southwest corner of the hill fort, and follow the gentle descent into the small valley beyond.
  • The path soon reaches the flatter ground below Carl Wark, and this point is a bit on the boggy side.
  • The path is not very visible in this wet ground, so the best thing to do is aim for the slight ridge on the far side by the best means possible.
  • When you have climbed this small ridge, turn left and follow the fairly distinct path that traces the edge of the ridge.
  • This path links the rocky outcrops of the ridge, and is much preferable to the wetlands below. Finally the last rocky tor is reached, and the main road beyond it.
  • Cross the wall at the stile, and cross Burbage Bridge using the tiny footpath on the left hand (upstream) side.

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.

  • After crossing the bridge, cross the road and pass through the gate and follow the path down to the stream.

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 path drops through the trees and meets the river at a pleasant little footbridge.
  • Cross the bridge and follow the river as it meanders through the countryside. After a while the river bends round to the left and there is another footbridge.
  • This leads to another car park, and is of no interest to us. Continue to follow the river, and shortly you are rewarded as the river drops into the Padley Gorge.
  • The path through the gorge continues on the right hand bank, just above the river.

The terrain has now changed from open moorland to old woodland.

  • As the path drops into the gorge there is a gate to go through, before a meandering track drops down through the tree-lined gorge.
  • The track is sometimes close, other times far away from the river, but the sound it makes as it drops through the landscape is a constant reminder of its presence.
  • About ¾km from the point where you enter the woods the path forks, and you want the upper, right hand fork.
  • The only problem is that if you are not paying attention, you will miss this fork, as the branch you need is very indistinct. The best description I can give is that the path passes through the remains of a wall and then curves to the left and right in a sort of S shape. The right fork is on the outside of the first curve to the left. It is more easily spotted by looking into the distance and spotting the faint path that heads off into the trees.
  • Follow this path, once you are on it, it is fairly obvious. It gently climbs up through the trees until it reaches a significant track cutting diagonally down the steep hillside beyond.
  • Turn right (through about 150 degrees) and climb the hill on this track.
  • It is a steep hill, but this track makes light work of the climb. At the top, pass through the gate into the moorland beyond.

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.

  • The signpost in front of you as you pass through the gate tells of many footpaths over the moor, but ignore them all and follow the wall in a southwesterly direction (doubling back on yourself again).
  • This takes you through the fringes of the oak woodland and the moorland to the corner of Lawrence Field. You are now standing above the massive Bole Hill Quarry, even though you will have trouble realising it.

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.

  • Pass through the gate in the corner of the wall and follow the wall as it turns to the northwest.

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.

  • Follow the upper level of the quarry with the wall in view on your right, or explore nearer the edge, and some of the easily accessible lower galleries as you make your way northwards.
  • Bear in mind though that the lower galleries peter out the further north you go. Eventually you will end up back on the upper level, and come to the climber's bit of Bole Hill Quarry, know to the local climbers as Lawrence field.

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.

  • Across from this point is a stile leading back onto the moorland.
  • However take a short detour down the path opposite the stile. This path leads down to what was once one of the main quarry roads.

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.

  • Retrace your steps to the stile, and cross over it.
  • Follow the path on the other side as it runs parallel to the main road for a few hundred metres, before it finally joins the road opposite the car park and starting point.
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