Every once in a while I enjoy a walk with grandchildren. I get to show them somewhere special and share their obvious pleasure and sense of achievement either by reaching some high hilltop or reaching the end of a good few miles of trek training.
And so it was that Grace, Max, their mum Helen and miniature schnauzer Nev, joined forces with Nellie and myself for a proper family ramble around Hayfield.
Having parked in the pay and display at the start of the Sett Valley Trail, we ventured across the main road bypass constructed in 1978 at a loss of several buildings including the old village school and a chapel. However, the advantage of traffic being able to avoid Hayfield’s narrow streets is a godsend. We then ventured into the heart of the village passing the church dedicated to St Matthew and along streets lined with characterful terraced houses, typical of High Peak Derbyshire in appearance.
Hayfield was recorded in the Domesday survey as Hedfelt. This name evidently derives from Anglo Saxon times and means heathy open land where hay was obtained. By 1307 there is a record that it had become known as Hayfeld.
A dip down into the impressive playground took us to the first of a series of steep uphill pathways that were to dominate our day and test our stamina. After a zig-zag of paths and lanes we re-crossed the main road to access a bridleway leading to Phoside Farm. Next to this were the derelict remains of Phoside Mill, one time owned and occupied by Aaron Rangeley. This was a cotton mill constructed around 1780 and thought to use processes invented by Richard Arkwright of Cromford fame. Trees were now growing where spinning frames once spun, powered by Phoside stream alongside. As we wandered up the drive which at times was part paved, I told the children to imagine the chatter of workers wearing wooden clogs or primitive leather shoes treading wearily on their way to a long day of work.
We continued to follow the bridlepath as it climbed up and over Ollersett. From this elevated position there were fabulous views across toward Kinder which looked very dark and sombre. We found a sunny bank that was the perfect place to enjoy our picnic lunch before descending a very straight roadway that led us from moorland to the valley floor, emerging at Birch Vale. Station Road opposite took us down past the Sett Valley Café and The Crescent beyond, being a miniature ‘Bath’ line-up of gorgeous former millworkers cottages.
Now followed a serious uphill as we ascended a section of the Pennine Bridleway, climbing up and up and up to the very top of Lantern Pike where the kids loved using the topograph at the summit to identify distant landmarks. In particular I wanted them to see the cityscape of Manchester appearing like a distant oasis amongst northern hills.
The down part of our walk was not as dramatic or intense as the up had been. In fact, it was more of a gentle meander to Blackshaw Farm and then a lovely grassy footpath past fields full of sheep, lambs, horses and ponies followed by a narrow eroded footpath lined with bilberry bushes just coming into flower. This eventually brought us to Clough Mill at Little Hayfield which I thought was reminiscent of Litton Mill, converted into posh apartments. Hayfield is rich in industrial archaeology. An abundant water supply and high rainfall made it the perfect location for establishing a variety of mills. What began long ago as cottage crafts of spinning and weaving wools from locally reared sheep, progressed to factory mills and the mass production of textiles, cotton, calico, paper manufacture and wood-turning. Grotto Mill in the village was a bump mill, bump being flax or cotton waste that was spun to make a yarn known as candlewick. This was used for the wicks of candles or oil lamps as well as woven to make candlewick bedspreads. The last mill to close was in 2010.
The aptly named Calico Trail took us back to Hayfield. It had been a walk packed with history, geography, nature study and healthy outdoor fun, all packed in to some seven glorious miles. I think Granny might have excelled herself with this one!
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: From Mum’s office window I can see visitors setting off on walks down into the Dale. They don’t know I’m watching them at first because I’m upstairs and staring quietly. If I see a dog or person I don’t like the look of I might grumble and sometimes bark. However, if it’s a dog or friendly face, then I might squeak and squeal with delight. Just recently though I’ve developed a new trick to get their attention - I tap on the window with a paw. I’ve had some funny glances and smiles, so my little trick seems to work. Knock, knock, who’s there? It’s me, Nellie! xxx