Last weekend was our first Duke of Edinburgh training of 2023 and it is a sure fire sign that things are starting to get busy and our UK season is really starting to get going. With this in mind we thought we would try and get out for some walks in the Dark Peak before we became subsumed in work. The Dark Peak is an area of high moorland and gritstone and one of my favourite places to walk anywhere in the UK. Sandwiched between the major industrial cities of Sheffield and Manchester it always seems incongruous to me that there can be these tracts of rough, wild land so close to these major conurbations but that is part of the appeal, it’s less than an hour from South Manchester to the starting point of either of these two walks in the Dark Peak.
Hathersage is one of the larger settlements in the area and a great start/end point for any walk in the peaks. Walk one saw us leaving from the centre of town and heading up a series of footpaths and narrow lanes past the splendid Hazelford Hall and onto Eyam Moor. Just before we left the lane and entered the moorland we saw a flash of white around some derelict farm buildings and it turned out to be a Barn Owl, the first one I have seen for many years. It was a good day for birds with excellent views of a hovering Kestrel and numerous voluble Skylarks displaying all the way round. We had some great views across to Higger Tor and the gritstone edges as we stopped for a coffee in the sunshine, and then continued across the moor until we reached the broad track leading up to Sir William Hill (nothing to do with the bookies!!). We left the track and I nipped up to the trig point avoiding patches of snow still lying in the shadow of the wall. Our lunch stop was truncated by a nasty, squally shower but as we dropped from the top towards Mill Wood and Highlow Brook it abated and we finished our walk in lovely sunshine. The final section of the path bought us out near Hazelford Hall once more and we retraced our steps back into the town. We stopped at the Outside Cafe for a mug of coffee and some White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake and Bakewell tarts that had all the addictiveness of crack cocaine. It’s a cracking half day walk, quiet and with far reaching views and one that I am looking forward to doing in the height of Summer when the Heather is in full bloom.
The second of our two walks in the Dark Peak stayed in the same area but started out from Eyam itself. Eyam is known as the plague village after the residents decided during the Great Plague of 1665/6 to quarantine the village in order not to spread it to other neighbouring parishes. Over two hundred villagers died but the spread of the plague was halted. Unfortunately, on the day I visited the museum was still operating on weekends only as I would have been interested to visit. The walk started with a steep climb out of the village before I found myself on the Sir William Hill track once more. I followed it west towards Bretton before following a series of tracks and paths that led me down to the lovely wooded valley of Abney Clough. I followed this trail to the eponymous village with lovely views of a male Bullfinch and a Red-Legged Partridge, plus a close encounter with some very handsome Rams! The views across towards the Kinder Plateau were breathtaking and it was the kind of day when you really feel blessed to be alive. I stopped for a brew on the edge of Abney Moor before crossing it into a gusty headwind. At Abney Grange there was the very steep down and up that took me onto the Bretton Road and The Barrel Inn , not only a very ancient pub (dating from 1597) but also the highest pub in Derbyshire and the only pub sitting on the line between the Dark and White Peak. The food looked delicious but I restricted myself to a windswept pint with a view whilst I munched on my sandwiches. The remainder of the route took me past the grinding works on the site of the old Black Hole Mine and then after climbing through woodland dropped me back down a rough stony track and into the heart of this attractive and historical village. So, two walks in the Dark Peak which whilst crossing over with one another felt different in character but I heartily recommend both and, as always, if you’d like to come out on one of these or any of our other walks please don’t hesitate to get in touch.