This is not intended as a walk guide
Sometimes I like to be guided on a walk, to follow instructions and a route that have been compiled by somebody else for a change. So when I came across the leaflet ‘Warslow’s Field Barns and Forgotten Farmsteads’, created by the South West Peak Landscape Partnership, I was inspired and enthused.
After parking roadside in Warslow with consideration to local resident parking spaces, Nellie and I made our way to the Village Hall start point. We then headed off past the village’s ancient stocks, being a pair of iron manacles set on a stone plinth.
This wonderful walk led me on a four mile hike over fields and stiles, wandering past a succession of barns that dated back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Being still winter there was little to see on the ground other than mud and grass, but in summer these footpaths pass through wild flower meadows.
By far the best barn was Littlers Barn just a couple of fields down from Hobcroft Farm on the edge of the village. It was restored by the SWPLP in 2021 and is accessible to the public. The barn provides a fascinating insight into farming in times gone by. Still retaining original features, little slate signs point out the fodderbing, hay cratches, niche, ratch-stake, boskin and groop – all old fashioned farming terms.
Situated on a slope above the Manifold Valley, there were fabulous views from Littlers Barn across to Ecton Hill with the former engine house and spoils visible in the distance.
After retracing our steps to Warslow, Nellie and I then headed up Leek Road with St Lawrence’s Church to our left until just past the Greyhound pub. We then took a right into Stacey Close and followed the public footpath past the former cattle market building. The market was held on the third Friday of the month until its closure in the 1950’s.
In the following mile or so we passed a succession of no less than six old barns, some still in use but others either ruinous or reduced to an almost footprint of stones.
Then it was time for some magnificent views and the high point of our walk in more ways than one as Nellie and I wandered through heather-clad moorland to the trig point summit of Revidge. From this Staffordshire vantage point we could look over to Derbyshire and see a string of reef knoll peaks that define the county border.
Forkhill ruins were once part of an isolated farmhouse and small field barn located beside what had once been the old 18th century turnpike road from Brierlow Bar near Buxton to Butterton Moor End. As we walked along the now grassy path, it was hard to imagine horse drawn coaches coming this way.
After crossing a road we were instructed to head over fields again to an old track and to pass Water Gap Farm. A detour then led us down a wonderful hollowed away concessionary drive to Oils Heath Barn and Oils Heath Outfarm where a redundant metal elevator stood in the field. Long ago this had lifted small rectangular bales up to the hayloft. It made me reminisce about my childhood and times spent on a farm as a teenager when I helped out with haymaking. We used to grab hold of the bales, held together with two tight nylon strings, and either put them on the elevator or stack them in the top of the barn. It was hard work and nothing like the totally mechanical processes of today’s bumper bales. These monster-sized, shrink-wrapped in plastic bales are generally stored outdoors or in huge sheds. Fifty years ago when I helped with haymaking the loads were carted on a wooden dray, pulled by an old grey Fergi!
As Nellie and I wandered back up the track on our return to the village, I realised that during my lifetime I have witnessed more than half a century of change in farming life and farming practices. This wonderful walk had certainly taken me back in time.
My thanks to everyone involved in producing this fabulous little guide which is available from Bakewell Visitor Centre for anyone wanting to follow in my footsteps.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: My furry dog friends come in all shapes and sizes and there’s a hierarchy or pecking order of behaviour to be followed when we meet. Chase me, chase me, rough and tumble times are reserved for best friends and my twin brother who lives up the road. You can sniff my bum but don’t get carried away is for handsome male dogs that I like the look of, whilst a bit of face licking is allowed only from Emma, my retriever friend. Zac the collie sometimes has me spinning in circles but Bentley the handsome German Shepherd has me squeaking in delight. A quick wag of the tail but walk past without any contact is generally how I greet strange dogs, but arch enemies get my tough dog display when I pretend to be fierce with hackles raised.
I suppose we’re not that dissimilar to our humans really! Big smiles, Nellie xx