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The Vale of Edale is an isolated valley tucked away in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park, surrounded by huge mountainous hills and bastions of gritstone topped with wild and exposed moors.
Access to the Vale of Edale by car is either by the winding road from Hope which follows the River Noe or by descending the sharp twisting road which leads steeply down from Mam Nick, a natural gap in the hills between Mam Tor and Rushup Edge.
Edale is in fact the common name given to the whole valley. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Aidele, but the settlements along the valley bottom are now called Booths which is a term that came along in the 16th and 17th centuries when foresters and boothmen built shelters for their cattle and sheep. A booth was an enclosure rented from the Crown where a herdsman or settler could protect his stock from wolves. The shelters expanded to permanent dwellings and now form the hamlets of Over Booth, Nether Booth, Barber Booth, Lady Booth, Grindsbrook Booth and Ollerbrook Booth. Grindsbrook Booth is the main settlement of Edale where the church was built.
In 1894 a further form of access to Edale was achieved with the opening of the Dore and Chinley railway line which is a wonderful way to travel through the National Park from Sheffield to Manchester or Stockport.
Edale Church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and was built in 1885-6. It is constructed of stone quarried on Nether Tor two miles to the north and is the third place of worship to stand on this site, the first being built in 1633. Before Edale acquired a church it was necessary for coffins to be carried over the hilltops to Castleton for burial by way of the bridlepath past Hollis Cross, the route now referred to as the Coffin Track. The mourners then had to enter Castleton’s Church by the Devil’s Door which was the entrance also reserved for paupers.
Reference is made to the original font from Edale Church which in 1908 was said to have been located in the churchyard where it was in use as a flower vase. It is also said to have been the punchbowl used by grouse shooters to brew their hot toddy before setting out onto the cold bleak moors!!
The famous Nags Head in Edale is the start/finish of the Pennine Way, a 250-mile long distance walk to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland which was created in 1951. Built in 1577, this inn must have satisfied the needs of countless weary travellers over the centuries. Fred Herdman who was a former licensee of the inn acclaimed fame to ramblers and hikers as a mine of information, an experienced guide and a mountain rescue organiser. For 15 years he held both the licences for the Nags Head and the Church Inn which resulted in an amusing story when a drunk was refused a drink at one pub and so staggered to the other, only to be thrown out by the same landlord! The Nags Head also served as the station for Tom Tomlinson who was the first National Park warden.
There are many old paths, packhorse routes and even a Roman Road leading through the Vale of Edale. One of the most popular paths onto Kinder Scout from Edale ascends Jacob’s Ladder. This was evidently named after Jacob Marshall who in the 18th century lived at Edale Head House, although at that time it was known as Youngit House. Jacob was a bragger which was a name given to a pedlar. He took wool to Stockport and traded it for other goods. Because the climb up to Edale Cross was long and stony he cut steps in the hillside and took a shortened route whilst his packhorse ponies followed the longer and winding lane.
The River Noe which runs through the Vale of Edale started life as rain falling on Kinder Scout which accumulated in the deep groughs and trickled off the high moors to unite with Crowden Brook before flowing down to merge with the River Derwent at Shatton.
Edale Mountain Rescue was established following incidents in the 1920’s resulting in a Mountain Rescue Committee being formed which then became the Mountain Rescue Council. In September 1955 a Rescue Post was established at the Nags Head that became the first Edale Mountain Rescue base, its first exercise taking place on February 20th 1956.
Edale Mountain Rescue operations are required throughout the year in all weather conditions, day and night. On Christmas Day 2008 voluntary rescuers from both the Buxton and Edale Mountain Rescue teams were called to help with the evacuation from the hillside near Mam Farm of a male with a suspected fractured ankle.
Edale lies within the ‘Dark Peak’ area of the Peak District National Park, bathed in the beauty of the surrounding hill sides. Located along the river Noe the village is surrounded by settlements called booths, areas where herdsmen of old were able to protect their livestock. Over Booth, Nether Booth, Barber Booth, Lady Booth, Grindsbrook Booth and Ollerbrook Booth. Grindsbrook Booth Edale all reflect the this agricultural heritage which gave birth to Edale.
The local geology includes grit stone, limestone and shales. Indeed much of the landscape owes its character to the underlying shales. Once these shales decayed back to their original to mud form, they allowed the land to slip and nature to carve this beautiful valley.
A speculative oil well was even drilled in 1938, with the hope of bringing riches to the valley. It proved to be a fruitless exercise and ensured that the landscape has remained untouched and available for all to enjoy to this day.
The most notable aspect of Edale is its claim to be the starting post for the Pennine way, a 270 mile trail that has challenged walkers for decades. The Nags Head Pub has long been established as walkers first watering hole along this popular trail. Built in 1577 the pub has its own collection of tales to tell, including that of airmen who are claimed to have been seen by many visitors. The poor souls were lost when a bomber crashed on Kinder Scout and locals brought the bodies back to the pub. The Nags Head is also noted for being the base station for the National Parks first warden, Tom Tomlinson.
Stout foot wear is the order of the day as Edale is walking country with a variety of walks that offer easy strolls to challenging hikes. Many walkers are tempted by the challenge of Kinder Scout, but be aware that the weather conditions can change rapidly on this noble mount. With this in mind it is reassuring to know that Edale is also the home of Edale Mountain Rescue; the first organised rescue team in the country. After incidents in the 1920’s, a rescue team was identified as being essential. But it wasn’t until 1955 that the first rescue post was established. The team can now be spotted fundraising around the Peak District most weekends, rescues allowing of course.
Edale is accessible via road or rail. By car, it can be located along the road from Hope taking in a glorious drive through the Hope Valley following the course of the River Noe. Alternatively, there is a steep winding road which navigates its way through Mam Nick, a natural gap in the hills between Mam Tor and Rushup Edge; the view from this approach is by far one of the grandest that the Peak District offers. If you are travelling by car, Edale has an easy to locate central car park which has its own toilet facilities.
As you travel west into Edale from Hope there lies the site of Edale Mill. Hidden away from site the only clue to its existence is a row of mill Cottages. The Mill was a major employer in the area up until the 1940s and was renovated in the 70s into apartments some of which are available as holiday lets.
The Railway Station, which is a 5 minute walk from the centre of Edale offers a treat to rail enthusiasts. It was opened in 1894 on Mildland Railways old ‘Dore to Chinley’ line which is now the Hope Valley Line. Sadly, it became unmanned in 1969, but the views from the platform certainly let the traveller know they have arrived in the Peak District.
Due to the height of the station there is an underpass to allow travellers to navigate between platforms. In order to navigate its way through the landscape a tunnel need to be dug for the railway beneath Colborne Moor. Named The Cowburn Tunnel it was at the time the 9th longest in the country. Today there are regular rail services from both Manchester and Sheffield.
There is also a bus service from Castleton which offers a varying seasonal service throughout the year, however It is always wise to check on times ahead of visiting.
Edale Parish Church was built in 1885 by the Manchester Based William Dawes who also supervised over the additions to Manchester’s Victoria Station. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity it has a broach spire and is without aisles.
Edale is served by a Post office and general store and there are many bed & breakfast establishments which will offer a comfortable night after a hard days walking.
Camping is a great way to enjoy Edale and there are a number of Peak District campsites that are available in the local area. Each offer full facilities including hot showers and sheltered pitches.
The Edale Visitors Centre (The Moorland Centre) is the pride of the National Park and comes with its own eco friendly ‘living roof’ of sedum turf. As you approach the centre there’s a waterfall emanating from the roof and cascading onto the ground at the foot of the main entrance. Centre staff offer plenty of helpful advice on the local area and there a range of interactive displays which tell the story of the surrounding landscape. The Visitors Centre is open throughout the year with limited opening times between October and March.