Hathersage, Derbyshire Sunday 1st September 2013

Today’s Walks

Strenuous Leader: Dag Griffiths     Distance: 11.2 miles

Highest Point 458 metres, total ascent 550 metres.

The objective today is a walk along Stanage Edge. From Hathersage we ascend steadily north on paths to Brookfield Manor and Green House before swinging east, then north again to join Stanage Edge. Next we walk along the edge in a north-westerly direction past High Neb to Crow Chin (lunch stop – weather permitting). We then begin our return on a lower path, parallel to the edge before rejoining it. We then walk the south-east section of the edge. Just after Cowper Stone we head south to Higger Tor and the remains of a Roman fort. We then take paths basically in a westerly direction back to Hathersage.

Moderate Leader: Peter Denton     Distance: 9 miles

This is a hill walk with some terrific views of the Peak District. We will set off from the public toilets on the High Street.

Our ramble starts with a tough walk up out of the town. Through some woodland. We then join an excellent path that will take us up to our highest point where we will lunch, hopefully in the sun, before we head down back to Hathersage for well earned tea and tiffin.

Leisurely Leader: Norma Carmichael     Distance: 6-7 miles

Half the route is alongside of the river through Goose Nest Wood. There are two footbridges and numerous stock gates through fields towards some steep steps into a wooded area. Care must be taken as the path is near to the edge at times and has quite a drop on one side. Leaving the river path we will walk through open pasture towards Shatton. There is one stretch of this walk on the road for about 15 minutes before we turn into the field and head back towards the river. This walk has a few stony paths, hilly in places, but on the whole is a pleasant walk of about 6/7miles.

Easy Leader: Derek Lee     Distance: 5.5 miles

We start on the main road for about half a mile as far as Hathersage Booths, climbing 200 ft, then drop down to follow paths through fields and woods to Grindleford Station with its famous cafe. Then, after retracing our steps for a short distance, we cross the railway and follow a pleasant riverside path and a short stretch of field paths back to Hathersage.

Notes On The Area

Stanage Edge divides featureless moorland from the verdant River Derwent. Prehistoric pathways, Roman roads, and packhorse trails criss cross the moors and converge below the confluence of the Derwent and the Noe. On the raised south-facing shoulder of the valley lies Hathersage (Heather’s Edge), a village built on passing trade and farming. Millstones were a local speciality in the 18th century, hewn directly from quarry faces. Then came the industrial revolution and five mills were built, to make pins and needles. The mills had a short life, as did the men who ground the needle-points and had to breathe in the dust.

The most interesting buildings in Hathersage are along the main road and off School Lane. Past 15th century Hathersage Hall and Farm, and up the narrow Church Bank, it is possible to walk around Bank Top, a knoll overlooking the alder-lined Hood Brook and valley. The church crouches on the grassy brow. To the south stands Bell House and The Bell Room, once an inn and barn beside the village green and stocks. To the west stands the Vicarage, and to the east is Camp Green, the ramparts of a 9th century stockade. The north wind whistles through the tall lime trees in the churchyard, a reminder that Stanage and the high moors are only a couple of miles away.

Hathersage’s lasting fame rests on two romances. The first involves Robin Hood, whose name can be found on anything from a nearby cave to a megalithic monument. Hood Brook divides the Dale (the old, interesting part of the village) from the new estate to the west, and in St Michael’s churchyard is the grave of Little John. The other romance revolves around Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte stayed at the vicarage for three weeks in 1845 and spent much of her time listening to local gossip and visiting nearby houses. She wove truth and fiction together to create a parallel universe for her heroine. Tourists today like to chase the shadows by visiting North Lees, where Agnes Ashurst, the model for mad Mrs Rochester, once lived, or Moorseats which was transmuted to Moor House. In the Bronte novel Hathersage is called Morton, a name borrowed from the landlord of the George Hotel.

Whether there was ever a real Little John, or John Nailor, hardly matters, clearly there should have been, and most visitors want to believe that it really is his grave they see in Hathersage’s churchyard. There is no doubt that a suitable cap and bow once resided in the church, but they were of medieval rather than Saxon origin. The grave close to the south porch has been excavated several times without producing any bones, though there is a story that a huge thighbone was unearthed here in 1784. In fact the half hidden stones at the head and foot of the grave were probably set there as the village perch, the standard measure used to mark out acres of land in the days of open-field or strip farming.