I chose high ground yet again for my walk with Nellie, heading to one of the most elevated parts of the White Peak, on a scenic ramble that combined quiet roads and grassy bridleways in an attempt to avoid as much mud as possible.
I parked up roadside in front of Earl Sterndale’s church which is dedicated to St Michael & All Angels and has a claim to fame as being the only church in Derbyshire to be bombed during WWII. The Quiet Woman pub opposite is currently closed and undergoing an extensive restoration and regeneration project.
Nellie and I headed off down Dale View to the crossroads with the B5053 and then straight across to follow a quiet lane from where there were glorious views over to the Dragon’s Back and neighbouring string of reef knoll hills.
This virtually straight road with only occasional puddles and potholes did turn out to be a far better proposition than to follow field and stile footpaths. Along the way we passed Harley Grange which is a late 18th century farmhouse, its name a reminder that in medieval times, land hereabouts belonged to Basingwerk Abbey that established monastic granges where monks farmed sheep for their valuable fleeces.
We walked for over a mile to access a bridleway on the right that follows the boundary of the Peak District National Park as well as running along the outer rim of no less than four massive limestone quarries that have significantly shaped this part of Derbyshire’s topographical landscape.
Quarrying must surely rate as being one of the County’s most important economic industries, and this walk turned out to be a fascinating overview of a string of limestone ‘super’ quarries positioned high up on the White Peak plateau.
I firstly looked down into the vast void of Hillhead and Buxton Quarry’s where in June 2024 there will be a quarrying, construction and recycling exhibition said to be the biggest of its kind in the world and celebrating its 40th anniversary.
We headed east, skirting around the hilltop summit of Hind Low before descending through fields to the road, just above a quarry works where a long conveyor belt was making a clickety clack noise as it carried stone to a processing plant, whilst another conveyor belt dribbled out chatter onto a mini mountain pile.
Nearby Brierlow Bar was probably named after a gate on the former Ashbourne to Buxton turnpike road. Now it is more famous for its bookstore which claims to be the largest bargain bookstore in the country.
Crossing over the Buxton to Longnor road we headed up a green lane that we then followed for more than two miles. Looking over to my right towards the Staffordshire Moorlands I could see an enchanting land of large green fields, deep valleys and strange shaped summits. Stretching as far as my eyes could see to my immediate left was a high fence with warning signs over which was a scene of stone extraction and activity on an epic industrial scale, where man and machine have delved deep under the surface through layers of solid rock laid down millions of years ago.
Beside the pathway but behind strong fencing I came across two redundant concrete igloo shaped structures which were originally used as boltholes for quarrymen to shelter when blasting took place.
A strange towering curtain of tall rock appeared to separate Hindlow Quarry from Dowlow Quarry, where in the deepest depths was a huge aquamarine coloured pool of water.
Lots of limestone from these quarries is now transported by rail rather than road, utilising the track bed of the former Cromford & High Peak Railway which curves right before Harpur Hill on a line that passes through central Buxton on its way north.
Toward the far end of this quarry path were views toward the conical shaped hill of High Wheeldon with its trig point summit. Eventually we arrived onto the road to Hurdlow which is signposted as being section number 68 on the National cycle network. Here we turned right to follow yet more quiet roads back to Earl Sterndale.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: Anyone who knows my dad will understand why he gets called Mr ‘High Vis’! On hooks by the back door is a line-up of coats ranging in scruffiness from ‘ready for the bin’ to ‘Sunday best’ and in colours from bright lemon to tango orange. Mum even has one of his cast offs for when she takes me on ‘tiddle’ walks around the village in the dark. So what did Santa bring me this year? Yes, you guessed it. I’ve now got my very own high vis ribbed puffer jacket that fits as snug as a bug. In fact, I look a bit like a fluorescent-coloured, roly-poly maggot if truth be told! Slurps and kisses from your glow in the dark little Nellie xx