This is not intended as a walk guide
It was a ‘grand’ day during the school holidays and I wanted to take Max and Grace somewhere special. We therefore headed to Castleton for a hike up the Great Ridge.
After parking roadside up the road from the Visitor Centre, we followed a fingerpost sign and footpath through fields following Odin Sitch that took us past Knowlegates Farm and on to the remains of Odin Mine which is thought to have been worked in Roman times. It was lead ore they were after, throwing away the funny blue, purple and orange looking stuff which was discarded as waste. Ironically any surviving veins of Blue John are now far more precious and profitable.
After a few minutes explaining to the children how the ore crushing circle once worked we moved on, heading up through the gate to the closed road. Buzzing around the pond at the base of this weird and wacky former highway were two massive dragonflies like striped helicopters skimming above the surface of the water.
Max and Grace loved the ‘earthquake movie road’ with its melted toffee tarmac. We sat up by the top turning circle to eat our rucksack snack of supermarket meal deal sandwiches, crisps and pop whilst gazing at far reaching views over the Hope Valley.
The Blue John Cavern looked busy. On their website it states that the eight working seams here are known as Twelve Vein, Old Dining Room, Bull Beef, New Dining Room, Five Vein, Organ Room, New Cavern and Landscape.
We walked along the road toward a junction before heading up the steep footpath leading to Mam Nick. A procession of visitors were either stepping up or stepping down the long flight of steps to the summit of Mam Tor and we joined them. I’d not been up there for a few years now and felt my age as the grands ascended with ease whilst I laboured to the top, glad of Nellie pulling me.
Mam Tor reaches a height of 1,696 feet and although known as the Shivering Mountain, it is technically just a big hill. Another name given to it is the Mother Hill, evidently because of all the frequent landslips beneath its eastern face that have resulted in a multitude of "mini-hills" like babies. These landslips are caused by unstable lower layers of shale and grit.
The day was clear, warm and with a gentle breeze. Happy hikers were sat all around admiring the views whilst getting their breath back. I’ve been up there in the freezing cold of winter and when strong winds have tried to blow me away, but on this day we could savour the satisfaction of being on top of the world and having climbed Mam Tor together.
Paved with gritstone slabs to combat erosion, the Great Ridge walk is a spectacular experience for all the family to enjoy. However, there are still trip and slip hazards to watch out for and the descent can be challenging to say the least. Due to commitments later in the day we didn’t have time to go all the way to Lose Hill, instead heading down from Hollins Cross to follow the Coffin Trail. Before Edale had a churchyard, residents who died were carried over the ridge to Castleton for burial, which must have been one heck of a trek.
In 1792 Richard Arkwright built a cotton spinning mill in Edale. Women from Castleton would use this path to get to and from work each day. Sometimes in bad weather they would sleep overnight at their machines rather than make the treacherous journey home! Steep and slippery with lose stones we slowly descended this well-worn and eroded path and it was a relief to arrive at Hollowford Lane where we could finally step out with ease on the return to Castleton.
The village was buzzing with visitors browsing around its numerous shops, eyeing up Blue John souvenirs, dining in and out at pubs, restaurants and cafes, and hiking up to the remains of Peveril Castle or heading off underground into one of the caverns. Castleton really is a little honey pot village and picture postcard pretty to boot!
Our walk ended with a large scoop cornet of Castleton Maid ice cream in their brightly coloured speciality of Blue John bubblegum flavour. It was the perfect end to a wonderful walk and some real quality time together.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I love spending time with our family but it’s been so hot recently that we haven’t been able to go many walks together. I’m notorious for being over-excited, pulling on the lead, and jumping up everyone. I love to give flying kisses and can’t understand why not everyone likes my exuberance and slurps. But I’m great on a picnic because I hoover up all the crumbs and crusts and I love the tail end of a cornet, especially if there is still a bit of ice cream in it. Happy times again.
Love Nellie x