Winster – Birchover – 9 Ladies Stone Circle

This fairly short walk of just under six miles begins and ends in the pretty streets of Winster. It starts between the last two houses on the right hand side of Main Street (going towards Elton), where a jitty, or channel – depending on which part of the country you are from – narrowly leads towards the open fields.

Map ref 240606 on the White Peak 1:25000.

You exit the jitty onto a track and keep straight ahead, through a gate, passing some dilapidated farm buildings where a small gate takes you into the fields. Keep heading downhill, parallel to a small wood on the left. In front of you, there is another small gate set into a hedge and once through this, you will think you are aiming for the wood, now ahead.  However, unseen until you approach it, the path splits a few yards before the wood and here you need to take the right fork – ignoring the next right fork which appears soon after. The path is slabbed at this point, helping you over the boggy ground which manifests itself in the dip between the hills.  Continue upwards, more or less in a straight line, over various stiles until you reach the lane near Whiteholmes Farm; here the road is very narrow – so please listen out for cars as you puff up this short but steep stretch; the wall alongside is covered in scratches – proof – if it were needed – of how tight a squeeze this road is!

After a short distance, take the path on the left following the top side of Birchover Wood.  It is a nice gentle path, with Birchover now in view on your right.  At the rather lovely Rocking Stone Farm, turn right onto a track, then stay right on a path leading to the road into Birchover.  It’s right again when you meet the road and you will have a nice shady walk past some impressive old buildings up into the village.  You emerge by The Druid Inn, so if you are thirsty or hungry at this point, turn left for some refreshment… The pub serves food lunchtime and evenings (not Sunday evening), and is open for drinks all day Friday and Saturday.  There is also The Red Lion – slightly higher up the village – which welcomes walkers and serves good food as well.

Once refreshed and ready to be on your way again, take the path opposite The Druid Inn; it leads up through the rocky woodland known as Dungeon Plantation – lovely and cool in here on a hot summer’s day.  You will eventually reach the road, where you turn left along it for a little way before turning right into a small wood leading to Stanton Moor.  Its easy to take the wrong path here, as there are various options, but if you turn off the road too early, fear not, as you will eventually reach the correct one. Keep right as you emerge out of the woods; this leads up onto the moorland.

Once on the moor, you will find paths going off in all directions and they are not all shown on the map – you might find a compass useful at this point …  However, as a rough guide, head for the huge standing stone – known as Cork Stone –  and keep left of it, heading north east on the most obvious path, passing a trig point on your right.  Your destination is the Nine Ladies Stone Circle in the Stanton Moor Plantation. In an atmospheric and peaceful clearing you will discover the stones – whatever the weather, allow yourself a quiet moment to feel their magic presence. Possibly dating from the bronze age,. legend says that the Nine Ladies were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.  The King Stone, a short distance away, was said to the fiddler!

It’s a popular spot and at any time of year you may discover a few campers discreetly tucked away in the trees, or casual visitors just strolling across the moor to see the circle, but everyone who ventures this way, goes home feeling all the better for visiting this special place.

There is an obvious circular walk around the Stone Circle, so follow the path and then head back southwards in a straight line, almost parallel to the way you came.  When you see the Cork Stone on your right, don’t head towards it, just keep on down to the road.  Almost opposite is our route, near to  Birchover Quarry, leading through the campsite at Barn Farm; keep straight on here – still heading south – until you reach a track, which is Clough Lane.

Go straight over at Clough Lane and uphill until reaching the crest overlooking Winster.  Bear right over a couple of fields and then keep straight ahead again, following a parallel path to your outward journey; as before, you will find it slabbed over the boggy ground.  You will eventually end up in a tiny lane at the lower end of Winster’s Main Street.  If you should find it open, the 15th century pub – The Old Bowling Green – is only a stone’s throw away off this street.  Beware, however, that the only lunchtime it is open at the moment is Sunday, and it is also closed all day Monday and Tuesday.

A short stroll past lovely stone dwellings will take you back to your starting point at the far end of the village.

Simon Corble