Friday 8 June 2012

The Lost Lands of Derbyshire - Clarion Rambler 1931

The Lost Lands of Derbyshire

By The Clarion Rambler 1931

The wonderfully proportioned and classic tramping ground of the Lake District, and the more rugged, wilder—alas "lost" or "stolen" Royal Forest of Snowdonia, may be awarded the palm, but to-day, and especially since 1918, whatever claims be made for other hills, the scenic and moorland parts of Derbyshire and its Peak District generally, are walked over by the greatest number of ramblers. The reason is that " rambling " has " caught on," and the pioneers who formed, or supported, the few and rare " clubs " which, between 1900 and 1914, admitted all and sundry to membership, have lived to see a veritable fever of rambling.

This week-end escape and desire for change from citydom, factory, mill and office, will not be " cured " by footpath stealers or by the senseless or " luney" actions of some jazz-band larrikins who, lacking previous contact and education, lower the tone of the craft, and are, pronouncedly, the accompaniment of the post-war period.

During some fine summer week-ends, there are approximately 10,000 ramblers and fresh air seekers of either sex somewhere in the Derbyshire highlands, walking many or few miles, going anywhere or everywhere, on path or no path, and, in the vast majority of cases, returning to their sterner limits of stone, brick or concrete-dom with the benefits derived from exercise and fresh air.

The doings of the young fools are duly splashed and headlined in the mystery-making press, but the wider and more serious week-end mischief, thefts and petty criminalities of some motorists and motor cyclists are not so prominently recorded. The latter might interfere with the advertisement columns, and the former would not. And if the motor age and secondary schools have done their part in producing this weekly exodus from town to hillside (instead of suburban week-end strolls or along the pre-war Devil's Mile in town), the influence of Baden Powell's Boy Scout movement is also one of the unconscious and growing influences behind this latest love of outdoors, which, in the past, was largely confined to the courting couple, and the occasional visitor, or to the special rambler who walked regularly, because his education and experience told him that tramping was almost the best thing in life.

Derbyshire, one hundred years ago, was yet known for the Seven Wonders of the Peak, which, to-day, are disregarded and seldom committed to memory. Forty years ago, and less, it was more famed for its dales, and the late M. J. B. Baddeley, the most popular and reliable of guide writers (who was drawn to Derbyshire and 1-is first guide, during a short period of school life at Sheffield and Dronfield), was fond of the valley and the beautiful, and followed the then popular taste in his lack-love of the solemn, wide, and lonely moorlands of which the north-western part of the county is so full.

To-day the valleys are usually as free as they are full of short breeked and short-skirted humanity, and, although the footpath-filcher had a regular harvest of forcible closings—up to twenty years ago, there are many tracks which, to-day, are practically immune from attack. There are also some moorland paths where the thin, evasive line of thirty years ago, to-day is wider than the average, and still legal, moorland bridle road over which usually a horse rider could not proceed, unless he threw down the illegally intruding stile or two-stepped wall.

Derbyshire has a huge area of wild moorland, and its wildness and remoteness is as remarkable as its nearness to the million inhabitants of South Yorkshire, and the greater population ofSouth East Lancashire.

The predominately moorland part of the Peak District may be said to commence, and to extend, three to four miles on the East side of Matlock, and as far as Chatsworth and Baslow,about two miles on either side of the road from Baslow to Owler Bar, on the way to Sheffield, then cutting through Dore Village, and going N.W. to Ringinglow and Redmires Reservoirs, due north to Bradfield and Bolsterstone, following the sandy scenic road forward to Langsett Reservoir, and then proceeding by the Sheffield road to Manchester, past the Woodhead and Torside Reservoirs in Longdendale.

The limits then follow (southwardly) the branch road (south) to Glossop, a straight line to Hayfield and Chapel-en-le- Frith and, leaving out the patches of Chinley Churn and Rushup Edge, the north side of Edale Valley to Win Hill and (on the easterly side of the Derwent Valley), past Hathersage and Grindleford to Baslow. The odd pieces to be added are several square miles of Eyam, Abney, Shatton and Bradwell Moors on the westerly side of Hathersage, the two square miles of Combs

Moss south of Chapel-en-le-Frith, and the wide moorlands of Axe Edge, etc., on the S.W. side of Buxton, which link up with Staffordshire and Cheshire, and the old Macclesfield Forest and Upper Goyt valley. The acreage of 20 or more square miles between Tintwistle and Dunford Bridge, north of the L.N.E.R. line from Penistone to Manchester, and the Holmfirth to Greenfield. etc.. road, is omitted, because it is partly in Cheshire and Yorkshire. The whole area is more than two hundred square miles in extent.

The major portion of this great area is waste moorland and heathland, and much of the post-Enclosure Act cleared and, walled-in, border lands have lapsed from arable or good grazing land, because of economic reasons, the unwanted moorsidefarmer and his sheep, or the impossibility of growing oats, and also free-feeding the over-stocked grouse and moor-preserved rabbits has compelled the moorside farmer to leave, or abandon,the struggle.

The Enclosure Acts and Awards brought more land into cultivation and, great value and increment to the recipients, but it may be declared that, to-day, Derbyshire moorland is of less value to the nation in the production of crops, grass, meat and mutton, than 100 years ago. The old native will point to 50,000 sheep on the moorlands between Longdendale and Baslow 60 years ago, but who could find 5,000 there to-day ?

The visitor may pass along the moorland roads and see for himself the once-cleared and walled-in land which, years ago, reverted to heather and bracken, whereas, in the early days of the 19th century, there were green fields and green crops." Sport," indeed, is more important than the production of meat and grain.

The fortunate sunny south of England retained its village commons chiefly because the factory era, and the drive to the mills and forges did not affect it, and also because the greater portion of the eligible and more easily improvable land had been enclosed at an earlier period. Similarly, in some of the remote and barren portions of the North Yorkshire fell district and Lake District, etc., the greater portion of the common was high fell and mountain, which had little improvable value, and the common was necessary, if he scanty population were to retain their rented farms and holdings. Moreover, in some of these areas, [the grouse was not a native, or a " preservable " bird.

The greater portion of the Derbyshire moorlands were enclosed or, as the old native says, " taken in " between 1790 and 1830, and the earliest and latest Enclosure Acts were, roughly, between 1779 (Ashover) and 1839 (Totley). I have a record of 24 acts covering the moorland portions of the Peak district, and a few are as follows :—Hathersage 10,000 acres, Dore 5,000, Baslow 3,913, Ashover 3,684, Brampton (between Chesterfield and Baslow) 3,348, Holmesfield (between Sheffield and Baslow) 2,660, Beeley (between Baslow and Rowsley) 2,277, Eyam 2,185, Hayfield about 2,000, Whitfield (Glossop )1,951, Whittle (Glossop) 1916, and Matlock 1,719 acres. In addition there were large abbey-granted moorlands around Glossop and the Upper Derwent and Ashop Valleys, which, at the dissolution of the abbeys, 1535-40, were given to the early Howard, Cavendish and Shrewsbury families. The Cavendish estate in Hope Woodlands (Derwent and Ashop Valleys) 102 years ago, consisted of 19,223 acres, and more than half was " waste or moorlands.(Glover's History of derbyshire)"*

To these may be added a portion of the 7,331 acres " given " to Thomas Eyre (the Hassop Hall family) in the vicinity of Chapel-en-le-Frith and Kinder Scout district, etc. Other gifts to the landed gentry from the break-up of the King's Forest of the Peak (17th century) are more or less difficult to find, and most are not recorded in old books and published documents.

Other chunks of waste and moorland within the area described above, were " awarded " in the Bradfield (Ecclesfield Tithes) Act of 1811, which took in 18,128 acres, and the Duke of Norfolk was " awarded " one piece, " supposed to contain "near" 7,000 acres. The Bolsterstone Act (1778) accounted for 2,101 acres. The Hunshelf Act (1810), 895 acres, the Midhope Act (1815) 3,332 acres, and the Langsett Act (1811), 3,057 acres.

The area enclosed by these five acts accounts for probably all the neighbouring South Yorkshire moorland on the West (left) side of the road from Moscar Cross to Strines Inn and Langsett reservoir, and the south (left) side of the main road from Langsett, and to the Yorkshire boundary on the (left) watershed of the head tributaries of the Rivers Don and Derwent.

The old common rights of the farmer-freeholder varied according to the custom of the manor, but whether common land or ex-abbey land, the native farmer and his labourer were more or less generally allowed the surface rights of the soil for the grazing of horses, cows, sheep, pigs and geese, bracken, rushes, firewood, brush wood for (the pre-stone) well-staked
fences, surface stone for various purposes," stone slate for roofing, raddle clay for sheep marking, sand and gravel, stray rabbits on the moor and waste, and peat for fuel. It was yet far from the day when the gamekeepers, in the 60's or thereabouts, tired of the women and child bilberry gatherers, emptied their baskets, and more, and drove them away. I am told by old natives that one moor west of Sheffield (Rivelin) was set on fire by way of revenge, in August, 1868.

No one, in those days, thought of closing the old bridle ways and paths which, to-day, providing an alternative to the motor road, would often prove much the nearer way between village and village, or hamlet, but the making of the first carriage roads across these moorlands, generally during 1760 to 1820, was the beginning of the end. For these roads the land-owning promoters had the right to take free stone and material from the commons crossed by the road. The earliest roads often followed on or near the line of the older bridle way, but the later and better-engineered roads (1790-1820) took an easier gradient, or ignored the older bridleway in August, 1868.

Note: I have ignored the many Enclosure Acts in the limestone uplands of Derbyshire

The Enclosure Acts abolished the common rights, and often " took in " all the little village greens. The usual method of the two commissioners who administered the Acts (and often were " friends at court " in addition) was to authorise, or lay out, the public turnpike roads, bridle roads, footpaths and private occupation ways, etc., which the landowners required or desired.

They ignored many ancient ways which, to-day, would be a boon and a blessing to pedestrians. In fact, more than nine-tenths of these bridle roads were ignored by these loyal commissioners. In other cases it was only necessary to go to another equally accommodating and landowning magistrate of ex-commons, etc., who freely granted a " closing order " for the asking, and the public had no voice in the matter. To-day it may be difficult to find map or detail of these closings in public records. The principal landowners obtained the lion's share of " awarded " common lands, and the small proprietor often found that his little plot of awarded land was so far from his farm that it did not pay for the expense of walling-off, and he often sold his odd acres for an " old song." The large landowners then bartered or exchanged with each other, and soon linked up their huge moorland estates.

The demand for access to moorlands in the Derbyshire Peak district might be changed to access to lost moorland bridle ways and footpaths, and a few instances may show that, in these motoring days, when the rambler must shun the road wherever possible, there are many square miles of moorland and slope with no right-of-way. The subtle reason is that, though no mention was made of these old ways in the Enclosure Acts and Awards, the public must prove usage during life-time, since over 100 years ago, against the sporting owners and squires who allowed no legal access, and the native, naturally, was unable to exercise his right against his landlord. The Footpaths Preservation Societies commenced work 100 years too late.

Five bridle ways were lost in the Baslow Act, and these would provide excellent " near cuts " across the moor top and also avoid the main roads. The bridle road between Dore and Hathersage would save nearly two miles of road-slogging. The Derwent village to Foulstone Delph (and Bradfield Dale, etc.) direct bridle way would save three miles of walking.

There is no right-of-way (on the right side of the road) from Glossop to the Flouch Inn, a distance of about ten miles,

although the 13th and 17th century records of the boundaries of the King's Forest of the Peak made plain mention of an obvious natural and necessary -bublic path, from Lady Cross, over the watershed, and down the Upper Derwent Valley.

There is no right-of-way across the tops (towards Sheffield or Bradfield) between Bamford and Hollowmeadows, a distance of six miles, although three traceable bridle ways once crossed these large Bamford and Moscar moorlands. The old path across Kinderscout, from Blagden Clough to the Nab, and Grindsbrook Booth (Edale,) " went " years ago.

The ancient " Duke of Norfolk's Road," between the British trench work of Bardike (near Wightwizzle,) and the foot of the Abbey Clough—which provides a wonderful walk from Sheffield way to the Derwent reservoirs—was " awarded " on the Yorkshire side of the watershed (Bradfield Act), but the owner on the Derwent Valley side now contests the way, and stated that he was willing to allow access, " by permission " from his gamekeeper, during December to February only—a period when the route is prohibitive to all except the walker who cares not how he goes, or where, or when. There is no uncontested public right-of-way between Calver village and Froggatt Edge highway to Wooden Pole and Owler Bar, a distance of six miles, although four traceable bridle ways cross these wide moorlands. The one stingy half-mile of " awarded " footpath (Holmesfield Act) has recently been contested by the gamekeeper.

Many more examples would show that the public in Derbyshire want access to old moorland ways, and that, outside Scotland, there is no country where so many valuable rights of way were filched or denied. Derbyshire's moorland losses however, are chiefly the result of the operation of the Enclosure Acts, and the growth of the grouse-shooting fever.

The writer, one pre-war day, was staying with the under - deerkeeper at Lui Beg, and, tired of the June rain, and the morning's inactivity, he took a straight afternoon's run from the house door, up the slope and through the plantation, and made a bee-line to the summit of Ben Mac Dhui's 4,000 odd feet summit.

The next morning he related the exploit to the head-keeper, who said, " If I'd seen you I should have fetched you down."The answer was, " I should have given you a rare old run for your money, and I don't think you would have won."

The average Derbyshire rambler commits no greater crime in encountering the protectors of grouse moors, who, last year, appear to have held a meeting and decided that, on some moors they would go out with dogs and guns (it is hoped, unloaded), and frighten the wicked ramblers away.

There is no record of any grouse and rabbit preserver in the Peak District who, to meet the growing demand, has volunteered to concede reasonable access.

The one shining, and lonely, example is a seven month's usage of the Dore to Hathersage bridle road conceded over moors recently bought (1927) by Sheffield Corporation, which provides a close period during April to June, and August and September, and the opening of five miles of hitherto emphatically forbidden and beautiful footpaths on the neighbouring Longshaw Estate of 747 acres (near Grindleford) purchased by Sheffield's bold and public-spirited committee (for the National Trust), and for which, in return for the water rights on the estate, the Sheffield Corporation have given permanent access to the Drive of two miles up the adjacent green and many-tinted Burbage Valley.


Pictures Sheffield Clarion Ramblers