DISTANCE: Approximately 8 miles
This walk reaches one of Derbyshire’s highest hilltops. After a lengthy climb from Hathersage you may well get a buzz from standing on Stanage Edge and looking out over the far reaching views. These extensive Edges are escarpments which stretch for miles and were formed by glaciers in the last Ice Age.
Hathersage is a large village commonly known for its busy T-junction where the Hope Valley, Derwent Valley and Sheffield roads meet. Hathersage’s size was greatly influenced by the introduction of the Dore to Chinley railway line resulting in traditional Derbyshire stone cottages being intermingled with Victorian and Edwardian villas using brick and coloured tiles in their construction.
Industry has also played an important part in the development of Hathersage. In 1566 Christopher Schutz came from Germany and set up an iron works to draw wire for knitting needles and sieves used to wash lead ore. In the 18th century Robert Cocker produced needles and this industry continued until around 1857. However, due to the metal dust created by the continuous grinding in these factories the life expectancy of the workers was thought to be only 25 years. Button making was also a local industry with an old factory at Dale Mill near the Church.
1. Start your walk in Hathersage where there are various car parks (some pay and display) and make your way to the junction on the main road and the George Hotel which is a 16th century coaching inn.
2. Head up Hathersage’s main street and turn left up Baulk Lane in the vicinity of the public toilets. Walk past the cottages and houses followed by the cricket pitch and continue until you have left all the houses behind. You will now begin to gently climb and the track becomes gated.
3. Leave the track at a footpath sign just before a farm and head left towards Brookfield Manor. This was built in the 16th/17th centuries and reputedly has a datestone 1656 over a blocked doorway. It was extended around 1825 when it was given a gothic façade and there are now modern extensions which incorporate a conference centre. Brookfield Manor was ‘Vale Hall’ in the book ‘Jane Eyre’ written by Charlotte Bronte when she stayed with her friend at Hathersage. Many of the early buildings and places you will pass on this walk were renamed and referred to in the book. In fact, ‘Morton’ was based on Hathersage itself.
4. Pass to the right of the Manor on a path and then cross a field and emerge onto a narrow lane just next to Hoods Brook which flows under a beautiful bridge by your side. There are many references to Robin Hood and Little John in the vicinity and this could well be how this particular watercourse acquired its name.
5. Turn right and walk along the road until the steep drive on your left which leads up to North Lees Hall. The present Hall dates from around 1594 although an earlier hall is thought to have stood close by and was probably attached to the range of farm buildings. To the north are ruins of an early Roman Catholic chapel. North Lees was ‘Thornfield’ in ‘Jane Eyre’ where the fictitious, demented Mrs Rochester was locked away on the top floor.
6. Follow the track around to the back of the hall and then go through the gate on the right as indicated and cross a field before entering a woodland path. You are now not far from Stanage Edge which towers above you. When you emerge onto a road turn left and walk towards the mountain rescue post. Opposite this you will see a notice regarding access to the moors. Head upwards from this point onto a path leading to a gate into the plantation. The flagstone path is easy to follow from here on. It is thought to have been laid in the 18th century when this was a popular packhorse route which wound its way up through a gap in the escarpment and joined up with the Roman Road known as The Long Causeway which runs from Navio at Brough to Templeborough near Rotherham.
7. You will probably see a colourful assortment of climbers clinging to the rock faces – the Edges have been a favourite haunt with climbers for decades although this sport is getting more popular and thankfully the equipment seems considerably safer. Many of the climbs have names including: Black Hawk, Mantlepiece Buttress, Hell Traverse, The Dangler, Goliath’s Grove and the Green Streak.
8. When you finally make it to the top rest awhile and drink in the views! The true summit of Stanage Edge is High Neb to the north at 1502 feet. In the distance are the Upper Derwent Valley, Shatton Edge and Kinder Scout with Hallam Moors lying between you and Sheffield. Stanage Edge stretches for 3 miles.
9. Turn right and head south-east, walking along the rocky path. It is not easy walking as you will find yourself jumping from one rock to another to avoid boggy puddles. After about a mile you will see a fenced off area of moor to your left and just after this you will descend the rocks on your right on one of the many little paths which at this point are not too steep and head towards a junction and corner in the road at Hooks Car.
10. At the junction go straight across and over the cattle grid, heading on the road towards Hathersage. Above you to the left are Callow Bank with Higgar Tor on the horizon. Follow the road as it descends towards Mitchell Field but after about half a mile turn right on a track leading to Carhead. If you follow the track right down the hillside it leads you through a farmyard and then continues onto the driveway from Moorseats which was built in 1682 and has later alterations.
11. You will eventually arrive at Camp Green named after the mound and ditch which is thought to be the remains of a 9th century Danish fortification. At a junction turn right up the hill to visit St Michael’s Church which dates from the 14th century. The church was restored by Butterfield around 1852. The north chapel was added as a chantry for the Eyre family in 1463 and contains the tombs of Robert Eyre who died in 1459 and his wife Joan Padley. The church also contains decorated chairs which were used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1854 when they opened St George’s Hall in Liverpool. The east window of the church was formerly in Derwent Church but brought here when the village of Derwent was submerged beneath the Derwent Reservoir and the church dismantled.
12. In the churchyard is the grave of Little John. He lived in the village and worked in the nail industry before fighting in the battle of Evesham in 1265 under Simon de Montfort. When defeated he joined an outlawed band of men including Robin Hood and lived in Sherwood Forest. After Robin’s death he returned to Hathersage but died within days. Legend of his great height is based on truth – when the grave was opened in the 18th century a thigh bone some thirty inches long was discovered which established his full height to be around seven foot – a true giant some 700 years ago.
13. Descend from the church and rejoin Hathersage’s main road where you can see an 18th century turnpike milestone.