Birchover – Barn Farm – Stanton Moor – Birchover

DISTANCE: Approximately 3 ½ miles

Birchover is a village of well-built houses and cottages, many fashioned from locally quarried stone. The gritstone ‘island’ topped by Stanton Moor is covered with the remains of numerous quarries most of which are now disused. Time and nature have healed the scars and the area now provides a rich habitat for all manner of flora and fauna.

The views on this walk are extensive and far-reaching with an almost aerial view of the Derwent valley

Start your walk at the tiny village green at the top end of the village where there is a junction with Winster Lane, and notice the old stone ’tank’. Head off up the hill on Birchover’s main street, passing the village pinfold where stray sheep and cattle would have been held for collection when their owners had been established.

Part way up the steep section of road leading out of Birchover you turn right along the drive to Barn Farm camping site and walk to the right of the farmhouse where there is a stile. Going through gates and stiles you will walk around the front of the farmhouse and to the far side before heading up a footpath towards the moor and emerging onto a narrow lane.

There are several paths leading onto Stanton Moor, parts of which have now been deemed as Access Land in the Countryside Rights of Way Act a few years ago. There are two well used paths from the lane which both lead up onto the moor and you can take either of these. However, when your chosen path starts to level out you should make your way to a huge stone boulder (The Heart Stone) and mass of rocks over to your right which will put you on the correct path around the outer perimeter of Stanton Moor, with a fence to your left.

Stanton Moor
was given to the National Trust by Mr F A Holmes of Buxton in 1934. It comprises of 27 acres of moorland at a height of 1050 feet and is often associated with mysticism; its weird rock formations and stone circle giving it a supernatural charm.

You will pass numerous standing stones on this walk, all of which have been given names. The next one you come to should be the Gorse Stone. Continue along the path which circles the edge of the moor and notice the wonderful views towards Riber Castle and Crich Stand. Also the little sugarloaf hill at Oker with its lone tree on the summit. If you are really lucky you may even make out the nostalgic sight of a Peak Rail steam train running along the short section of track from the new Rowsley South station to Matlock

After a disused quarry area you pass on a path named the Dukes Drive with the Cat Stone just off to the right on a sharp bend. Shortly afterwards is the tower – a distinctive landmark from the valley below. The Earl Grey Tower commemorates the passing of the Reform Bill under Earl Grey in 1832.

You should now be entering an area patched with larch and birch trees. Between the tower and a stile it is possible to find some large stones on the edge of the bank on your right which have carvings including a crown and a date of 1826. These were done as a tribute by the Thornhill family of nearby Stanton-in-the-Peak in memory of the Duke of York.

After the stile head straight across the springy turf to the famous Nine Ladies stone circle. This was reputedly given this name because so called legend has it that young women from nearby villages who went against the church and danced in pagan style were petrified in stone where they stood. Their priest was also turned to rock and is known as the King Stone which can be found a short distance away.

Stanton Moor
is covered in prehistoric monuments and tumuli (ancient burial grounds). About 3,000 years ago the ‘Urn’ people dwelt here. These Bronze Age dwellers believed in cremation and afterwards placed the ashes in a vessel or urn then topped it with a mound of earth. Stanton Moor was a huge cemetery dotted with giant ‘mole hills’ some of which contained mass graves of up to 15 humans. In the last century these remains became of interest to local amateur archaeologists who systematically searched the sites for objects of interest – long before the introduction of the metal detector! Stanton Moor’s buried treasures can now be seen in Sheffield Museum and are said to include bronzes and flints.

Follow the main track out of the sparse wood but after about 100 yards bear right on a little path towards the distant trig point which forms a good marker or guide if you get lost.

Over to your right you can see Stanton Mast which currently provides the local television reception.

After the trig point you should wend your way down through the heather to the Cork Stone with its footholds and metal grips. Take the path on the right at the junction near the stone which leads you down to the road.

Across the road and isolated amongst the fields (no access permitted) is a small walled enclosure surrounded by rhododendron bushes. Here you can just make out the Andle Stone, whilst in a wooded plantation a short distance away is said to be another stone circle known as Doll Tor where remains were unearthed which included urns and beads of blue faience thought to have come from Egypt around 1300 BC.

Turn left and walk along the road past the quarry buildings and turn right into the car park area opposite. Now follow a footpath which winds its way through trees and rocks above Birchover before descending to emerge at the Druid Inn at the bottom of Birchover’s main street.

Rowtor Rocks stand behind the Druid Inn. This natural rock formation was exploited by a local parson named Rev Thomas Eyre who died in 1717. He expanded upon the rocks complex series of tunnels and caves and incorporated carved stone seats and a study. However, Rowtor Rocks stands on private land and permission has to be granted for access to the site.

Down a lane in front of the pub is the little church of Jesus Chapel which was founded in the 18th century by the aforesaid parson. It was extensively rebuilt in 1869 and has a modern stained glass window which was completed by Brian Clarke in the late 1970’s. Brian is renowned worldwide for his work with stained glass and lived for a while at the nearby Vicarage.

There is also a plaque at the church to a young blind woman named Joan Waste whoat the age of 22 was burnt at the stake in Windmill Pit, Derby in the belief that she was a protestant martyr.

To complete your walk simply walk up the village street, taking the time to look at the lovely houses and cottages, some of which hold an ‘open garden’ day in the summer to raise funds for the village.