Peak District (from 2016-09-02 to 2016-09-09)

Creative Commons License
Peak District, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

On the second day of September I began a holiday and drove to the hotel in the so-called Peak District. Although the word Peak nomally means the pointed tops of mountains, the district contains no such peaks. According to our guide, when the Romans arrived they found a tribe called the Peacs (Pron. Pee-aks) and the name has stuck. Whether that is true, I will leave to you to decide.

After a good supper and breakfast, we took a coach to the starting point for the day's walk among the hills known as The Roaches, which unsurpisingly and tediously merely means The Rocks. We got off the bus in the rain, which despite not being heavy, saturated everything, and it continued the whole day with only few pauses, not seriously, but sufficiently annoying to soak boots, socks, shirts under our protective jackets. It got everywhere. Unfortunately it also affected my camera with the result that several photos have a misty blot in the picture. It cleared only after three days. I didn't notice anything on the small screen on the camera; it was only after seeing them on a larger screen taht I saw the problem.

We soon passed a cottage dedicated to climbers, and named after Don Whillans a famous local climber; the area is well-known for good rock climbing. Some climbs here are very difficult, even though they are not high. In this picture you can see the weather, but also one of the many rocky tops on the wide blunt ridge, and here remarkable strata in the rocks.

Climbers' cottage Prominent rock through the mist Strange strata in a boulder

The next place of interest was an unusual natural formation, Luds Church. Who or what was Lud? No one knows, it is a mystery. After going through a very narrow entrance we came out into small open area, about which there is a legend.

During the time of King Arthur (c. 500 CE), who is himself a half-legendary figure, he had around him several courageous knights. One of them, Sir Gawain, according to the fable, met “The Green Knight” in a “Green Chapel”. The Green Knight blocked the way and challenged Sir Gawain. He gave Sir Gawain his sword, saying “You may cut off my head, provding you allow me to do the same to you after one year has passed.”

Sir Gawain took the sword and rmoved the Green Knight's head with a single blow. But the knight did not collapse, but knelt down, took the head in his hands and reset it on his shoulders. He let Sir Gawain pass with the words, “I will see you in a year!”

A year later, the day before the fateful day, Sir Gawain met a beautiful woman, who tried to seduce him. But after a single kiss, he said that he would have to die on the morrow, and so would not be able to fulfil any promises that he might make. Consequently, he took hs leave of her.

Again he journeyed to the green chapel, where the Green Knight was waiting. Sir Gawain knelt down expecting the mortal blow. The Knight swung his sword towards the unprotecte neck, but as soon as it touched it, he stopped. “You returned here knowng that you would certainly die; also you did not yield to the blandishments of my wife yesterday. You are an honourable man, and I will save you life.”

That was the story our guide told us. A mediaeval poem has a slightly different version, but is essentially the same.

Rumour has it that Luds Church is the Green Chapel. It is dark, and always green, with plants hanging from the rocky walls. The exit is narrow too, but not as much as the entrance we used. I thnk it was here that the camera succumbed to the damp weather.

View of very narrow passageway Small place surrounded by high rock walls View of a narrow passage

On Sunday the rain continued, but eased off when we set out to explore the local valleys. Many of the slopes looked like this, apparently with terracing. However they had been formed completely naturally by the rain falling on the hillside with the appropriate angle, and pushing it down over the years to create these quasi steps.

Some of the valleys are open and green, and others are dark enclosed by high cliffs. In fact the main dale Dovedale gets its name from the old Celtic word Dubh, meaning dark. Because the limestone erodes easily, the area has a lot of caves and caverns, both large and small. Further along Dovedale there are spires of tougher sandstone, e.g. Ilam Rock named after the local village. Even further we came to the “Lion Rock”, which, when seen from the right rirection, loks like the outline of a lion.

Natural terraces on hillside Open green dale Entry to a cave Rocky spire Rock silhouette

Other interesting objects are the hydraulic ram pumps, usually housed in low brick constructions. During the 19-th century many such pumps were built. They were a Fench invention, which uses the force of rapidly flowing water to raise some of it high up to the animals on the farms on the tops of the hills. Some of them, even after more than 100 years, and without maintenance, still work, although this one was renovated recently. Some of them were even buried; those engineers knew what they were doing.

Elsewhere in the path one could see fossils, called “Derbyshire Screws”. They could be seen everywhere where the local stone was used to build, for example in the pulpit of the local church, but the dull light deterred me from getting a photograph.

Brick construction Small fossil in the rock

On Monday no walk was planned, we all had the day off, which appeared to please most of them. I decided to look at two Natural Trust properties not too far away, and which I had never visited before.

The first was Isaac Newton's place, where he did his experiments while staying away from the university during the time of the great plague in 1666. Robert Newton, the grandfather of the famous Isaac, became wealthy on his farm by breeding sheep for their wool, and built the modest mansion. On his death his son Isaac inherited it and married Hannah, but unfortunately died before his son was born. Hannah called her son Isaac as well, and so he immediately became the Lord of the Manor, while Hannah continued to manage the farm, with considerable success due to the good quality of the wool, which she could sell at a good price, not only in Britain, but also abroad.

The young Isaac grew up in a quiet hosue some distance from the village. (I took the picture at the edge of the garden around the house, but the problem with the rain two days before makes it less than clear.) The place consists of the small house with a small adjacent apple orchard. Inside, the rooms are ordinary; in fact the great man left nothing behind that hinted at his contributions to science. However, a local artist Charles Read put in the garden an interesting clock. If one stands on the mosaic at the mark for the current month. ones shadow will point to hour among the circles. Supposedly the idea came from the fact that, during Isaac's life the villager's talked about the time by “Mr. Newton's sundial”, which he created by hammering pegs into the ground at the edges of the shadow from his house. When I was there the sun did not shine.

In one of the outbuildings there was an exhibition describing the principles which Newton discovered about light, motion and physics. The staff called it the play room and certainly it was popular among the visiting kids.

Modest mansion View of the distant village Mosaic showing names of the months Circular marks for the hours Physics playthings

The second house was Calke Abbey, where I did not have enough time. The estate grounds are enormous, one approaches the mansion only after 1.5 km long driveway among the sheep grazing on the wide green terrain. Although at some time a religious building (abbey or priory) stood there, probable since about 1200 it was used entirely for agriculture. Little is known about the early times, up to the 16-th century, When the abbey at Repton, who owned the estate, let out parts to local farmers. Finally the Harpur family acquired it in 1622, and held it for over 300 years, successfully extending it by means of clever marriages with other rich families. They demolished the old building and built the present one, and then began a long lasting hobby collecting specimens of birds and beasts, which they had stuffed. When the National Trust took it over in 1985 in place of death duties, they did not change it and the collections remained as they were. For example, one of the lounges is full of stuff and paintings, but each room looks similar. One of the wings had been closed, so when they re-opened it, they found a mass of damaged items from various eras. Apparently they could not throw anything away.

Elsewhere in the grounds are stables, an ornamental garden and the kitchen garden, Which looked small compared to the size of the house.

Large mansion Large saloon full of stuff Stables Gardens Kitchen garden

The next three days we spent on the moors and among several small villages, some of which are well known by name, if not in fact. The walk over the moors started by going passed an ancient circle of stones, called The Nine Ladies. They have to have some meaning, perhaps ceremonial, or similar; and the best estimate is that they were set up during the Bronze Age, perhaps 4000 years ago. It sits at the edge of a true heathland with abundant heather. But during the 19-th century the whole area was planted with trees, which were felled during the first world war to build the trenches in France. They were not replaced. The heather now hides several other circles.

In addition the district is famous for its good quality stone, which is dug out from many small quarries, even to this day for local use. The stone is hard, and in some places erosion has left remarkable examples like this one, which the locals call the Cork Stone, now used for beginners to practice rock climbing.

Nine stones in a circle Heather Cubical boulder

Further on our guide told us about the slabs on the path, which were old local stone and perhaps had lain there for thousands of years. Personally I'm doubtful but it's a good tale for tourists. Here is another small circle in a grassy field near where we first glimpsed our destination, the town of Bakewell, which is famous for a recipe of a type of cake, made from raspberry on a pastry base and under a sponge cake with almond flavoured topping. Of course throughout England there are variations on this theme – but only in Bakewell is seen the authentic sweet according to the inhabitants there.

Before the end, we walked past the village of Youlgreave on the banks of the river Bradford, where we heard about the the bridge spanning it. Originally, maybe 500 or 600 years ago the bridge consisted of only the lowest layer up to the hin flat slabs without the upper walls. That enabled horses carrying wide loads to cross the narrow bridge. The walls were added perhaps about 150 years ago.

VPath made of slabs Small stone circle Distant village Path by a stream Stone bridge

On the following day, Wednesday, we set out by bus to the village of Eyam (Pronounced: Eem) the so-called plague village. The story is this. In 1665 the Great Plague, which in fct was the bubonic plague, was raging in London. Hidden in a roll of cloth, an infected fleas arrived at the local tailor early in September. One week later his assistant died, and the illness spread rapidly. The villagers wanted help, and turned to the local pastor, to ask what they could do. He set forth rules for everyone in the village. First he moved the church services to a wide field, where there was enough space that people could attend while avoiding touching one another. Each family had to bury their own dead, and avoid contact with other families wherever possible. But the reason for its reputation resides in the fact that they also put the whole village into quarantine. No one came in and no one left. Of course they did not know then that the disease was not passed on by touch, but by fleas, but the intent was correct. Source disagree on how many died, but the local church records 273 deaths in 14 months from the pestilence from about 800 inhabitants.

The services were moved to Cucklett Delph, where there is a natural rock arch now covered by greenery, near a slope very convenient for meetings. In the middle of the village they have preserved one of the old stocks often used in the middle ages, but certainly now only for amusements at village fairs. The cottage where the tailor, Mr Cooper, lived is still in use, but now with information on the old events. I suppose that the present owner does not want a lot of tourists knocking on their door.

Soon we set off through the dales for a day of fresh air.

Natural arch Arch covered by greenery Stocks Notice about the plague General view

We spent Thursday walking bck to the hotel after the bus dropped us at a village of no interest. We followed the marked paths until we saw across the valley to the pyramidal Thorpe Cloud. Thorpe is a stupid name for the village, where our hotel was. I say “stupid” because the word “thorpe” means “village” and appears in many placenames. And Cloud is a local word meaning “hill” and derives from Old English. Our hotel is hidden behind the pyramid.

For centuries the boundaries between fields were stone walls, but the state of some of them nowadays disappointed me. It costs a lot to repair them, because only experienced masons can put one stone on another without mortar so that the result can stand for tens or hundreds of years. However the picture also shows that the walls are made from the plentiful local limestone, which easily breaks into pieces of a suitable size; but to make the gateposts they use the harder sandstone brought from several kilometres away and had to be chiselled to shape.

The next viewing opportunity was the manor house and garden of Ilam Hall, which also has a story worth repeating. The estate was sold to a developer for housing. But after the builder had demolished two thirds of it, Robert McDougall, who had made a lot of money from flour, decided to buy it, made it safe, and gave it to the National Trust on condition that they use the house for the benefit of the young. That is why it is now a youth hostel, where tourists can see the garden, eat in the cafe, but not enter the building.

View to a pyramidal hill Stone wall and pillar Hall entrance Manor house garden

Near the house is a church which also has a long history, which one can see by examining the stones in the walls. Here is the first and oldest part, perhaps 900 years old. Note the somewhat crude manner in which the stones were shaped and placed. And here is the second phase, built during the 17-th century, where the methods are clearly more careful; and finally the 19-th century addition one can see on the far side. The village of Ilam is orderly and pretty.

The cross was erected in the middle of the 19-th century by the local grandee Jesse Watts Russell in memory of his wife Mary. He took the idea from King Edward I, who, after his wife died in 1290 in the city of Lincoln, had her body carried to London. The group paused 12 times for the night, and King edward wanted to remember her by memorials at each overnighting place, and so ordered that the best sculptors of the day should erect these so-called “Eleanor Crosses”.

Old part of the church Comparing the ages of various parts of the walls House in the village Tall stone construction

Andy Pepperdine


Creative Commons License
The Peak District, and all the linked pictures, by Andy Pepperdine is made available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.