DISTANCE: Approximately 8 ½ miles
DESCRIPTION: This walk is a fabulous outdoor experience in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. Hidden and secluded from the rest of Derbyshire by high mountainous mounds of gritstone and steep escarpment, the only vehicular access to the wonderful Vale of Edale is either through an alpine-style pass or along a winding valley road that follows the River Noe between the ancient battlegrounds of Win Hill and Lose Hill.
This walk is weather-dependent as it involves hiking over isolated moors around Edale, so be sure to leave instructions with someone as to your intended route and take adequate clothing etc. In good visibility and clear skies the area will appear spectacular, bit if it rains heavily or mist descends then you may find yourself lost and disorientated and at risk.
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 floor of the valley are called Booths. This term came about in the 16th/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 formed the hamlets of Over, Nether, Barber, Lady, Grindsbrook and Ollerbrook Booth. Grindsbrook Booth is the main settlement in Edale where the church was erected.
In 1894 a further form of access to Edale was achieved with the opening of the Dore and Chinley railway line. It is a thrilling ride through hills and tunnels!
1. Your walk starts close to Edale station where there is a pay and display car park.
2. Head up the road into Grindsbrook Booth passing on your left the Church of the Holy Trinity which was rebuilt 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 having been built in 1633. Before the churchyard was consecrated for burial it was necessary for coffins to be carried from Edale to Castleton by way of the bridlepath past Hollins Cross, high on the ridge top. The mourners then had to enter Castleton Church by the Devils Door which was also the entrance reserved for paupers. Reference is made to the font from Edale church which was found in 1908 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.
3. Head to the famous Nags Head in Edale, start or finish of the Pennine Way long distance walk 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 down the road 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 at Edale also served for a time as the base for Tom Tomlinson who was the first National Park Warden.
4. With the inn in front of you, go left between two cottages and through a gate which forms the start of the official Pennine Way. There are alternative routes for bad weather conditions, but on Ordnance Survey maps this is the recognised route which after 250 miles ends at Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. However, it is not a walk to be undertaken without training, good organisation and conducive weather conditions. In his ‘Pennine Way Companion’, A A Wainwright wrote: “Better a postponement than a post mortem”!
5. Walk up the picturesque pathway with its canopy of branches and go over a stile at the top before heading on the path bearing slightly to the left which takes you across fields and stiles below Broadlee Bank Tor and on to Upper Booth at the top end of the Vale of Edale. Descend into and go through the farmyard to emerge onto a lane. If you now turned right you would begin the long and steep trek up Jacobs Ladder which was named after Jacob Marshall who lived at Edale Head House in the 18th century at a time when it was known as Youngit House. He was a ‘bragger’ which was another name for a pedlar, and took wool to Stockport to trade for other goods. Because the climb up to Edale Cross was long and stony he cut steps into the hillside and took a shortened route whilst his packhorse ponies followed the lane.
6. DO NOT go right but cross the lane and head instead down to the little bridge over the infant River Noe. This watercourse started life high on the moors in the cloughs on Kinder Scout before uniting into Crowden Brook and cascading down the hill from where it will flow gently down the Vale of Edale to merge with the River Derwent at Shatton.
7. Climb up the bankside and pass the huge roots of a fallen tree on your left whose branches have set themselves into the ground and become reincarnated. Cross a field to a stile which takes you to the right of Highfield and then continue on towards Tagsnaze Farm. Here you follow the path through the yard and to the rear of the property and then follow a wallside heading past The Orchard and on to Dalehead where you are in fact walking over the top of the Cowburn railway tunnel. Over to your left are ventilation shafts and spoil heaps known locally as ‘the tips’.
8. On reaching Dalehead where there is an interesting Peak Park shelter, go through a gate at the top of the lane and turn left. Head towards and into Whitemoor Clough by going over a stile in the top right-hand corner of the wall by some trees. Cross Whitemoor Sitch and start your ascent to Rushup Edge on a steep path. Eventually you should come to a footpath sign on Chapel Gate track, so called because it leads to Chapel-en-le-Frith. Turn right and follow the bridleway around the hilltop from where you can see towards Hayfield.
9. At a further junction turn left along Rushup Edge. For nearly a mile your view to the north is limited by the higher ground, but you can see Eldon Hill and the top of Winnats Pass over to the east. After a while you will come to a tumulus or Bronze Age burial mound on your left known as The Lords Seat. At 1806 feet, this Peak is a fantastic vantage point to look out over the Vale of Edale which appears below like a patchwork cover stitched with hedgerows. The hilltops of Blackden Moor opposite are a purple haze when the heather is in flower.
10. Continue along Rushup Edge and see Mam Tor looming towards you. It is possible to make out the remains of the ramparts of the Iron Age fort on the side of the hill. This fort dominated and protected the ridge path which leads on to Lose Hill. At the alpine pass known as Mam Nick, cross the road and head down the hill towards Edale and to a gate which is slightly lower down on the right. Head straight down the path which is in fact an old holloway as you will discover, and drops down to Greenlands. Go through a gate to continue to descend the lane, finally emerging onto the valley road where you turn right to return to the car park.