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Carl Wark and Higger Tor from the Longshaw Estate

The Longshaw Estate, now owned by the National Trust, is a wonderful place to start a walk - not only that, if you don’t own a car, it is easily accessible by bus as it is located just off the main A625 from Sheffield and the A6187 to Castleton.  It is not too difficult by train either, as the Manchester to Sheffield line passes through Grindleford, two miles away - walk up the beautiful Padley Gorge from the station and you are there.

The walk described here begins from the Wooden Pole car park, on the Eastern side of the Longshaw Estate; it allows you to experience the spectacular views for longer and to enjoy a little more of the estate before heading onto the moors.

Head North along the obvious path through the trees and you will soon find yourself on a straight route below rocks.  After ¾ mile you won’t fail to notice Longshaw on your left - Derbyshire’s very own “Baskerville Hall”.  Unfortunately, it isn’t open to the public, but next to it is the National Trust’s visitor centre and tea rooms; there is outside seating which has wonderful views to enjoy whilst you sip your tea or coffee. There is also a well-stocked shop - perhaps best visited on the way home.

 

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After the distractions of the visitor centre, proceed in the direction in which you were heading and shortly you will reach the lodge gates by the side of the B6521.  Cross the road here and the footpath continues now, running parallel to, (but nicely below) the A6187 - a very pleasant stroll through a pine wood with large boulders; very soon, the way crosses this “A” road too, but from hereon you are on the open access land of Hathersage Moor.  There are many paths criss-crossing the moorland, but don’t worry if you take the wrong one, as the very obvious bulk of Carl Wark is your aim and you really can’t miss it.  The path for this walk is off to the left, just by Frank Innocent’s memorial bench and you will spot the well-walked route threading onwards, slightly North-West, towards the Iron Age hill fort.

As the path nears the top it splits into any number of narrower routes and it is up to the walker to decide the best passage through the tumbled rocks, in order to achieve the summit.  You are now clambering onto the very top of this prehistoric hill fort.  These rocks would have formed part of its defensive ring.  The views are stunning, of course, as centuries ago Carl Wark would have commanded the surrounding landscape, with plenty of notice of any trouble threatening the formidable bastion.  Look North West and you will see the cement works at Bradwell in the middle distance; just beyond this to the right you can see Mam Tor, another hill top fortification of the same antiquity and it is thought that there would have been much traffic between the two.

 

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The walk now continues on to Higger Tor, which, from the near side of Carl Wark seems like it must simply be a slightly higher elevation of the same hill, but the bad news is, (and this becomes apparent as you walk along the length of the fort) that you will have to go down a little way in order to ascend once more.  As you exit Carl Wark’s North gate, take time to look back at part of the defensive old wall that has amazingly withstood the passage of time, though the steps that take you downward are surely more recent?

Head now for the summit of Higger Tor; again, it is all open access land, so the route is up to you.  There are some wonderful rock formations to be seen up here; cubist faces leering down at you from one angle, flying saucers landing ahead of you from another.  And, of course, more great views to the West.  Having had your fill of these, turn to face the East and your aim is to find the path that follows the contour around the head of the wide clough, (a path which takes you nicely below the level of the noisy “A” road above - soon you will not know it is there).   Just past a massive square-shaped boulder, tilted as if a primeval giant had been playing at dice, you might turn down a narrow path that leads to Burbage Brook.  In wetter conditions, it might be wiser to follow all the way round the head of the clough, to the more obvious path that follows its Eastern bank; either way, our route now takes you along this delightful stream flowing through a wood of mixed pine, spruce and larch.  Once more, the exact line is up to you and your sense of adventure; at times you may want to explore the eerie forest, or perhaps you will fancy a pause by the babbling waters; this place can be quite a sun-trap on a day when a cold wind is blowing up on the tops.

 

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Wandering downstream, it will not be too long before you come across an ancient packhorse bridge, an enchanting sight set in the timeless landscape.  It is easy to imagine that this crossing must have existed at this same spot since the time when Carl Wark was an inhabited place - a focal point for the local tribes.  There it is, looming above you once more to the West.  History is almost tangible at moments like this.

The way home could not be more simple: Follow Burbage brook and in no time at all you are at Frank Innocent’s bench, at the point you peeled off for the hill fort an hour or two ago; all you have to do is to retrace your steps.  Perhaps you will head for the café at the NT visitors’ centre, (where quite substantial meals can be had), or, if you are after a pub, the Fox House Inn is up on the main road above the lodge, (just follow the signs).  You will have done a fair amount of ascending over the walk, so no doubt the appetite will be well whetted.

Simon & Judy Corble