Hidden Lanes from Monyash – 9 to 11 miles (with options)
Monyash, once a nerve centre for lead mining in the middle portion of the Peak District, is connected to its outlying farms, neighbouring villages, ancient mines and monuments by a complicated network of lanes. Some of these have evolved into present day roads for vehicular traffic, while others have fallen into decay with the passing of industry and exist only as footpaths and bridleways. Others still have vanished altogether.
This circular walk explores just a few of the lanes leading South from Monyash.
Surfaces are mostly very easy, but there are some stiles to climb. It is best attempted during the Summer months, when the wildflowers put on a magnificent display; other times of the year will find some of these rutted lanes waterlogged, or full of drifted snow.
Starting at St. Leonard’s parish church near the centre of Monyash, (just along the road towards Bakewell), go through the main gate and pass beneath the church tower on your left. Before doing so, you may wish to pay a visit to the interior of this historic church, which is usually open during the daytime. Take time also to inspect the huge yew tree on the South side of the tower. From the girth of the trunk it is calculated to be between seven and eight hundred years old; a dating which makes sense, as the church was greatly enlarged during the thirteenth century.
Continue in the same direction, through the far gate and down the lane between cottages to arrive on Rakes Road. Turn left, passing the imposing frontage of Manor House Farm – but do not follow the “main road” up the hill to the right, nor Milkings Lane, the stony track further on to the left – take the middle way, known as Derby Lane. This curls to the right past a smaller farmhouse, which is above on your left.
This is very easy walking on a quiet, metalled road, but you are climbing fairly steeply now. Admire, but don’t be taken in by the stone circle set on a lawn to your left as Derby Lane takes a right-angled turn – this is of quite recent construction, but very well done. Admire also the views that start to open out as you climb, extending far to the North across the central limestone plateau of the Peak District.
As Derby Lane continues past Summerhill Farm, the metalling disappears and older surfaces show through. You will notice that it is still wide enough to support a major highway, and indeed, as the name suggests, this was once the main route connecting Derby and Manchester. It is not difficult to imagine carriages rattling along here, before the construction of the new turnpike, (now the A515) which tended once again along the course of the old Roman Road, following the highest ground.
Eventually you will meet with a large gate across the way leading into a field. The old Derby Lane has vanished into history, but a concession footpath continues along its route, to link walkers with Arbor Low stone circle, the earthworks of which are now visible on the Southern horizon. (The Derby Lane concession path is not currently marked on the OS maps).
Stick close to the wall on your left, through two large fields. On entering a third field, you should just make out the footpath to Arbor Low crossing our route on a diagonal.
At the point where this meets the wall, join it, turning left towards Cales Dale and Cales Farm. On meeting the farm track, continue along it for a few yards and then turn right onto a footpath that hugs this side of the wall to the field corner, before leaving the line of the wall very slightly, through the next field to meet the Youlgrave road.
Turning left onto “Long Rake”, this is a section of mildly busy road – which in this neck of the woods might mean a car every two minutes on a summer weekend.
“Rake” is now a dialect word for a path or a way, being from the Old Norse “rak”, meaning a stripe or strip; in this part of the Peak District in particular, it is often used for a long, straight descent into a dale. “Rake” was also used to describe a vein of lead ore, running vertically in the limestone. After half a mile of this Long Rake, turn right down the much quieter lane towards Middleton, which is signposted.
We are now on the shady section of the walk, with mature beech, ash and sycamore trees making for a very pleasant atmosphere on a warm summer’s day. Look out for woodpeckers and other birds of the broadleaved forest. The tree-lined pastures look so lush, it is easy to forget that this landscape is well over a thousand feet above sea level.
Descending towards Middleton, after another half mile cross the more serious highway to Youlgrave, with care – though, again, it could not be described as “busy”.
A further half-mile of steady descent brings you to a “T” junction, and another rake; turn right, uphill, onto this. According to the map you are now on Rake Lane, though there will be no street signs here.
Ascending once more, yet another half-mile sees Rake Lane crossing the Youlgrave road for a second time. You are heading for “Mere Farm” now, down a lane with the warning sign “Unsuitable for Motors”. Nevertheless you are quite likely to encounter a small convoy of 4x4’s, as this is one of the Peak District’s more interesting “Green Lanes”.
The atmosphere gets steadily more tranquil, as you pass through a landscape of long abandoned mine workings, ruined barns and towering trees. At a beautiful stand of beeches above Green Lane Pits, you are meeting another long vanished highway – the Roman Road to Buxton. Its course ran along the far edge of this beechen belt, so as the lane emerges into the open, give a passing salute to the centurions who must have crossed this path.
Green Lane descends now, the surface becoming more and more uneven, before rising slightly to meet the High Peak Trail (also the “Midshires Way”). This can be quite busy with cyclists, so beware! Now, if you are feeling the heat and want to cut things a little shorter, then you have an option to turn right at this point, along the trail, meeting up with the longer options of the walk in a mile or so. If you are still up for it, (and perhaps looking forward to a pint and snack at The Jug & Glass, just half a mile further) then cross the trail.
The wayside of this whole section of Green Lane, from the beech woodlands far behind you, all the way to the A515 just ahead, is a fantastic seed bank of wild flowers, from the lilac Scabious to scarlet Poppies, with such Peak District specialities
as the creamy-coloured Dropwort. There are Spotted Orchids and Meadow Cranesbill adding notes of purple to a mix straight from an impressionist painter’s palette.
On meeting the A515, you obviously want to take great care – though not madly busy, traffic does come along here at a hell of a pace and, especially at weekends, be extra cautious of speeding motorbikes. If you are not planning to visit the pub, cross over immediately. However, it would be crazy to miss the opportunity, as there are some fine ales and an impressively broad menu awaiting you. Turning left a short way along the grass verge, (without crossing the road) will very soon bring you to a long lay-by, making the experience bearable, at least. By the time you reach the end of the lay-by, you are almost level with the pub; cross carefully here.
The Jug and Glass has a very relaxed atmosphere – though the service can seem a little too relaxed at times and you may need to ring the bell on the bar for attention.
The food is of really excellent quality, however, and reasonably-priced too.
Continuing the walk, unless you are returning to the shortest option, keep to the grass verge on this side of the road, having turned left from out of the pub. Very soon you are turning left again, onto a track, opposite Green Lane. The views now open up to the South, across the Dove Valley and beyond to the Staffordshire part of the Peak District. They are all sublime. You will notice how each of the modest local peaks is topped with a small burial mound – a round barrow, or “tumulus”; evidence of this landscape’s continuous occupation since the Neolithic times.
After a third of a mile, you will meet with the B5054, heading towards Hartington.
Continue downhill along this a short way. Soon, a footpath leading over fields sharply to your right gives the option of passing through meadows to meet the A515 again, crossing this then down a farm track to meet up with the High Peak Trail.
This is not a well-walked route, however, and you may find that there is some nettle bashing to be undertaken, especially around the stiles, while the route of the footpath has also been (cheekily) diverted a little. The rewards are the meadows themselves and a very interesting section of former railway line when you turn left onto the trail.
(Look out for the bridge-cum-tunnel passing overhead, with a stone plaque showing a very early style of train and the date of 1825). If you have taken the easiest of all options, missing out the Jug & Glass route, you will of course already be enjoying this deep cutting. There are many species of fern growing in the very porous limestone.
Back on the B5054 and decision time: If you want a slightly easier day of it, then just below you the Tissington Trail crosses the B road on an old railway bridge, clearly visible. You will have to cross the road at the bridge to get onto the Tissington heading North (I.e. doubling back on yourself) and soon you are on one of the easiest walking surfaces imaginable. A mile-and-a-half brings you to the junction of the two trails, at which point all our options have reunited. Just beyond here is Parsley Hay, where there are bicycles for hire and a good range of refreshments for sale at a café, (though this not always open throughout the year – and plan to be there before 5pm).
There is also an information centre within the bike shop, selling maps and guides.
Less than half a mile after Parsley Hay, turn right onto a footpath leading uphill from the trail. (This is your last climb of the walk, so bear with it).
There are some awkward stiles to negotiate and beware of cows with calves on
this working dairy farm. Ignore the farm track, which you will be crossing, as the footpath skirts around the buildings of Moscar Farm, going steeply up to meet the A515 for the last time. Turn left, walking on the grass verge for a few yards, before crossing with the most extreme caution – traffic can appear very suddenly around the blind bend to your right, so use your ears.
Once over the road and onto the footpath, take the left-hand fork, aiming diagonally for the last in a line of sycamore trees. After crossing a few fields, on this well-walked route, you will hit “The Rake”. This is the rake leading to Monyash; turn left down this lane for about half a mile; it is not that busy and you can easily walk on the grass verge when traffic approaches. The views of the surrounding countryside, away to the moors on the Eastern horizon and the woods above Bakewell, are really special, especially in the light of early evening, as the sun slants across from the West, picking out the walls that criss-cross the limestone plateau.
Just before the second set of power lines, take the track to the left and then, almost immediately, the small wooden gate that opens onto a footpath to the right. This cuts across the corners of two fields to join an ancient, but little-walked lane, (indeed you may have to slash a few nettles in summer, but you’ll be doing everyone a favour by keeping this path open). The lane will eventually bring you out opposite Frere Mere in Monyash. (Don’t call it a “pond” as this upsets the locals). If not too tired, enter the enclosure around the mere to perform slightly more than a semi-circuit of this really charming and historic feature. Emerging onto the small triangular green, turn sharp left past the front of a domestic garage for our last hidden lane, the delightfully named “Icky Picky Lane”; (you may have noticed the sign at the beginning of the walk). It is not only the last, but a very short lane. Turn left at the top to go back through the churchyard. Turning left again onto Church Street will bring you to the village green and the welcoming sight of The Bull’s Head. If you need cooling down, The Old Smithy Café next door to the pub, not only sells beer and food, but ice- creams too!