The beautiful Derbyshire Dales are often overlooked in favour of the more dramatic Peak District area, both of which I frequent quite regular, in fact I spend more time hiking throughout various haunts in Derbyshire than in my own locality. Today I have chosen an old favourite, Stanton Moor, a stones throw away from the lovely quaint village of Birchover in the Derbyshire Dales. The first sight to greet me as I stroll along the moorland is the strangely shaped sandstone rock, nicknamed the Corkscrew for obvious reasons. A landmark on the moor which has had metal hand holds added to it during the 19th Century.
Further along the ancient track it is easy to imagine life as it would have been lived here thousands of years ago, once home to bronze age man. If you look carefully you might see the bronze age burial mounds or the stumps from the ancient forest which once grew here. This is a dedicated monument site and is protected under law, it has been used as a site for funerals, special ceremonies, farming and recreation. One piece of history I find particularly interesting is the fact that this piece of moorland forms part of a prehistoric route that brought materials from as far a field as the Lake District, The Yorkshire Wolds, The Cheshire Plain, The Trent Valley and some say maybe even as far away as Cornwall. The beauty and peaceful atmosphere of the moors make this a fantastic place to bring the family for a gentle stroll and a picnic among the heather. I love to stop for a flask of coffee and a bite to eat sitting on a large rock along the edge of the moor, the views from the edge are stunning, you can see for miles, a place I love to linger.
Time to move on along the track to visit the Earl Grey Tower, or the Reform Tower, built by William Pole Thornhill and dedicated to the reform act 1832. My kids enjoy exploring this area as it looks so medieval and at the same time mysterious with it’s bricked up doorway, well worth a visit, if not for the history then for the sheer sight of this majestic tower on the edge of the moor. As we’re exploring and playing hide and seek we hear the eerie sound of a steam train’s whistle echoing up from the valley below, “woo-wooo!” and the “Chuff Chuff” as it travels along the tracks, seeming almost surreal if you didn’t know about the local steam railway.
Before I leave the moors I have to visit the Nine Ladies Stone Circle, a visit to Stanton Moor isn’t complete without seeing the stone circle built around 4000 years ago, one of four in the area. You will find this is by far the most popular feature of the moorland, many people leave a small offering tied to the offering tree, just a small memento from a loved one that has been lost. The peacefulness of this place is almost soothing to the soul. Legend has it that nine ladies were turned to stone on this spot for dancing on the Sabbath and that the King Stone was the fiddler.
Heading back now as the weather turns and the sky looks a little daunting. I will take the scenic route along the edge hoping to get a glimpse of the stream train in the valley before it returns to it’s sidings for the night.
Time to put the dog back on his lead as we are heading toward a flock of the Swaledale sheep that have been introduced to the moorland to control the birch and bracken re-growth while encouraging the heather, which at this time of the year is vibrant and beautiful. My route has taken me full circle and back to civilization via the Corkscrew Rock where I began, and home again for tea.