The Lead Mines Above Peak Forest.
This quiet little corner of the Peak District was once a devastated, industrial landscape. But this was not the modern blight of large scale quarrying, but a mineral ore which has made men rich since Roman times, lead. Time has healed the worst of the scars, but as this walk will demonstrate, some of the natural looking features of the landscape were created by industry rather than nature.
As you walk through this landscape, especially if the wind is up, or the weather has taken a turn for the worst, then spare a thought for the miners of yesterday who had to walk from the surrounding villages of Peak Forest, Castleton, Sparrowpit and Bradwell to work in the mines sometimes many hundreds of feet under the paths that you now walk along.
When you have reached the summit of the hill, you will notice a line of grass covered hillocks that cross the path from right to left. These are the surface remains of one of the many lead veins of the limestone area and it is now known as Watts Grove Vein but in the 18th Century it was called White Rake.
Eldon Hole is Derbyshire's largest pothole at a depth of approximately 55m, but it was once a lot deeper but the lower levels have been filled in by rock falling from the surface. It is one of the original “7 Wonders of the Peak” described by Thomas Hobbes in 1636.
It was once considered to be the entrance to Hell and an old story tells of a goose that was thrown into it re-appeared at the entrance of Peak Cavern in Castleton with its feathers burnt. Another tells of a man who was lowered into the depths and returned to the surface a gibbering idiot. If you take the trouble to visit the hole and look into the gaping maw, you will realise that only a gibbering idiot would allow himself to be lowered into the depths in the first place. The hole was descended in 1780 by a geologist called Lloyd who reported that the hole was not the entrance to Hell and that it was not bottomless.
Many years ago Eldon Hill was thought to be where elves lived and local people stated that there are 'elves on t'hill' hence the name Eldon Hill. The summit of the hill at 1540 feet above sea level is the highest limestone hill north of the River Wye. Close to the summit of the hill is a Bronze Age burial mound which has yielded several skeletons and pieces of jewellery when excavated.
Good views are obtained from your present location, with the village of Peak Forest in the near foreground and the town of Buxton in the far distance with the Axe Edge moors beyond.
The hillocks and hollows are the continuation of the Watts Grove Vein and the mine of the same name is to be seen down to your right. The mine is marked by a single sleeper capped shaft overlooking the wide and deep Conies Dale.
Immediately to the left of this feature can be seen a flat circular area surrounded by a low wall. This is the remains of a horse-gin circle and the depression in the vein is where the engine or main shaft of the mine has run-in or collapsed. The gin circle is an important feature because it is one of the last to have survived in this part of the Derbyshire Mineral Field. These features were common on nearly all of the mines but because of quarrying and opencast mining operations only a few remain today. For example on Moss Rake near to Bradwell there were a total of 14 such features, but today only one survives at Hall’s Venture or Hartledale Bottom Mine.
In close proximity to the gin circle can be seen a fairly large and quite deep conical shaped depression in the ground. This is the remains of the water storage pond for the mine. This water was used to wash the Galena or Lead Ore, to separate it from the waste minerals. This waste was then thrown onto the tips to form the hillocks that we see today.
Adjacent to this are the remains of a crushing circle and two small coes or stone built sheds. These were used to store the miner's work clothes, tools and any lead ore that was mined. The large diameter engine shaft is about 200 feet deep and the remains of the gin circle lie adjacent but are not as clearly defined as the previously mentioned one. This mine as recently been found to be called Joule or Jowle Grove in old mining records kept at the Derbyshire Records Office in Matlock.
You have now crossed from one Mining Liberty to another, the wall is the boundary. You have left Peak Forest Liberty and entered Castleton Liberty.
This is the remains of a small lime kiln known as a 'pudding pie' and the tip of lime ash waste that lies adjacent to this is known as an 'ess' tip. In the Buxton area these tips were sometimes hollowed out to form small underground houses. One of these is still to be seen at Burbage on the outskirts of the town.
This is the remains of a complex of veins called Linicar Rake. These remains are untouched by modern opencast mining operations and are an important integral feature of the landscape. The mines here were last worked in about 1897 and the surface remains include numerous shafts, coes, belland yards, buddle dams and water storage ponds. The mines in this area were called Linicar Top, Two Rakes Head, Heath Bush and Thorn Bush. It is recorded that in 1811 Isaac Royse was killed by lightening in the coe on Linicar Rake.
This is Slack Hole Vein and one of the mines was known as Slacks Grove. Again this vein remains untouched since active underground mining ceased many years ago.
This is on the site of the Portway Mines. In the far distance, to the right of another obvious opencast, can be seen a line of hillocks that mark the course of the Old Moor Mines and Oxlow Rake. This is your eventual destination.
You are now in an area of land called Old Moor. If you look to your left you will see an area of utter devastation, this is the recently worked Hazard Mine opencast. It is at present being back-filled to restore the land to agricultural use.
Hazard Mine was one of the major lead mines of the area and old mining records show that approximately 5000 tons of lead ore was mined at this location. The workings of the mine go down to nearly 700 feet below the 'day' or surface. The miners would have attained this depth by climbing down a series of shafts, using pieces of wood or 'stemples' wedged across the shaft to form crude ladders. At the end of the shift or 'mineral day' they would have to climb up these shafts to return to the surface.
During the mid 1960's the surface remains at this mine consisted of several small coes, climbing shafts, a crushing circle, ore dressing floor, engine shaft and a walled horse-gin circle. Today after much reworking of the site only the engine shaft and gin circle survive. This is the last of its kind to have survived in the area. The shaft is in a good state of preservation and covered by an iron grill for safety reasons. It is in excess of 360 feet deep and is a perfect example of this type of shaft.
These are on the line of Hazard South Vein and Wam or Wham Rake. If you look into the field on the opposite side of the wall you will see several sleeper-capped shafts marking the location of Wham Engine Mine. This mine was descended a few years ago by local mine explorers who found a small wooden cart with iron rimmed wooden wheels. This was used to convey lead ore along a level to the engine shaft for haulage to the surface.
The large area is surrounded by a low dry stone wall called a belland yard. When the mines were operational this wall, which was originally higher than it is today, was built around the mines to prevent livestock from becoming lead poisoned or 'bellanded'. The area remains untouched by modern day mining techniques and consists of several shafts, a grass covered crushing circle and walled-up exposures in the vein. In the fields to the right of these remains a short parallel vein called Daisy or Dayside Rake can be seen. Again it is marked by undisturbed hillocks which contain the remains of a coe and several open (danger) shafts.
Incidentally you have re-entered Peak Forest Mining Liberty, the stile in the wall that you have just crossed marks the boundary between this and Castleton Liberty.
The hillocks and hollows to your right, at this point, are the location of Clear-The-Way or Stand-to-thyself Mine.
This is the western end of a large mineral vein called Cop Rake. The mines at this location are believed to be amongst the earliest worked in the Derbyshire Mineral Field, dating from the 12th Century.
This is the remains of an Ore Hopper or Bouse Teem dating from the mid-18th Century. This was used to store the lead ore that was mined from the nearby workings. This is an important feature being the last one to survive in this part of the orefield.
To highlight the perils of mining on March 5th 1752, Samuel Oldfield of Cop Farm, Peak Forest was killed in Bank Top Mine, Oxlow Rake (location unknown), by a fall of waste rock or 'deads or Old Man'. Almost 60 years later, on September 22nd 1810, James Clayton of Castleton was killed at Clear-the-Way Mine, Oxlow Rake, by falling about 14 fathoms (84 feet) down the Engine Shaft.
The reason for this is that a large sill or layer of dolerite underlies the whole of the Peak Forest area. This sill of volcanic origin would have contained no mineral veins so the rake stops at the point of contact.
All information contained within the Peak District Walks site is © Copyright, Andrew Nimmo. If you wish to re-use any of the information, walks or images, please contact the author.