10 Ethels

Published 18 September 2022

Abandoned millstones at Stanage
Abandoned millstones at Stanage – near one of the Ethels

The world of walking seems to like a good list. Things you can do to tick them off. There’s the 214 Wainwrights of the Lake District. The 282 Munros of Scottish mountains with a height over 914.4m (or 3,000ft if you prefer.) The 446 Nuttalls of England and Wales (peaks with a height of 609.6m/2,000ft with a prominence of at least 15m).  The 525 Hewitt, which are like Nuttalls but the prominence needs to be at least 30m. Also they cover Ireland. And let’s not forget the 1,552 Marilyns that need only a prominence of at least 150m. Then there’s the Murdos, the Furths, the Synges and the TuMPs. Well you can’t forget the TuMPs, can you?

With the exception of the Wainwrights, they’re all lists I’ve pretty much ignored over the years, mostly for my own sanity. But in May 2021 came a list I decided to take a look at as they’re all reasonably close to my house. The Ethels are 95 hills in the Peak District. They’re named in honour of environmental campaigner Ethel Haythornthwaite, who – in 1924 – founded a group that would become Friends of the Peak District. In 1945, as part of the government’s National Parks Committee, she helped make the case for creating National Parks, the first of which was the Peak Distrct.

Criteria for inclusion is slightly contrived. It mostly consists of fells above 400m in the Peak District, but also includes “27 prominent hills lower than 400m with character.” Most are in the National Park. But some aren’t. And the list includes the county tops of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester for good measure. Perhaps all a bit arbitrary and at the behest of the creators of the Ethels, namely Peak District and South Yorkshire branch of the CPRE charity. But they did create a mobile phone app called Ethel Ready so you could track your progress. I installed it and started looking out for Ethels. And on a recent walk I hit a milestone with my 20th Ethel. And that seemed like a good point to go through the ones I have done… So, in alphabetical order, here the first ten of them.

1. Black Hill

Keep firmly to the path when you’re on Black Hill!

582m high. Grid reference SE078046.

The first one on my list is the County Top of West Yorkshire. But it’s perhaps best known for being on the Pennine Way, and as a classic Peak District walk from Crowdon. In times gone by it was also a boggy, swampy mess, although in recent years restoration work has completely changed the look of the place.

The last time I went was a bit of a rarity for me. For the first time in a very long time, I decided not to take a single photograph of my walk. It was rather releasing in some respects. But also was a real shame as it was a gorgeous day.

2. Black Hill (Whaley Moor)

Peak and Northern Footpaths Society signpost on Black Hill (Whaley Moor)

410m high. Grid reference SJ989821.

Yes, there’s two Black Hills in the Ethel list. This second one is an interesting one whose summit is in Cheshire, not far from the village of Disley. The summit sits in a small rectangle of access land, with no path to it, although a path goes along the south of the access land rectangle. It’s a field. There’s not really much to see.

3. Bleaklow Head

The cairn on Bleaklow Head

633m high. Grid reference SK094960.

Another Pennine Way favourite, from the first day of the walk. My first visit saw us take the wrong path and ended up in the valley in completely the wrong place. Since then someone has installed a discrete sign to point Pennine Way walkers in the right direction.

4. Bradwell Moor

The view from near the top of Bradwell Moor

417m high. Grid reference SK132801.

This one sits on the Limestone Way, the trail that runs between Castleton and Rocester. And I have to say I’m not 100% sure I actually stood at exactly the highest point of Bradwell Moor, but I’m counting it all the same because I wasn’t that far off if I didn’t. The Limestone Trail passes very close to the summit, and the top’s quite flat moorland. You may disagree. But I don’t care.

5. Cats Tor

A weathered signpost on Cats Tor

518m high. Grid reference SJ995759.

The Goyt Valley is a bit of a hidden gem in the Peak District and I’m not sure I should really be telling you about it for that reason. Cats Tor stands to the west of the valley and is a place for fine views and great days. I have been several times, but the most memorable came in 2020. The first Covid lockdown was easing and we were finally being “allowed” to drive to places for a walk. I took the afternoon off work, drove to Pym Chair car park and walked up with the hill with the kids and their mother. It was a gloriously sunny day, and we flew kites. It was our first bit of freedom after a horrible few months, and a day I’ll never forget.

6. Cown Edge

Cown Edge. Perhaps not as glamorous from afar as you may expect.

411m high. Grid reference SK021920.

A gritstone escarpment in Derbyshire, Cown Edge and the area roundabout is another firm family favourite, and keeping with the Covid theme, was the last place we went as a family just days before the first lockdown. We’ve been countless times, seeing mountain rescue teams practising, drones and radio controlled planes flying, and did a Boxing Day treasure hunt here.

7. Croker Hill

Sutton Common BT Tower

402m high. Grid reference SJ933677.

Sitting in Cheshire, just outside the national park, Croker Hill is a place of fine views. And you can also admire the massive concrete Sutton Common telecoms towers that sits on top. It’s on the Gritstone Trail, which is how I found myself there.

8. Featherbed Top

Walking on stone slabs on Mill Hill – not far from Featherbed Top – on the Pennine Way.

544m high. Grid reference SK090920.

Okay, another I’m not 100% convinced I reached the highest point of, but I have been there a couple of times so it’s likely. The Pennine Way runs very close by to the summit, so there’s a good chance.

9. Grin Low

A bus from High Peak buses drives down New Mills's main street
A picture of a bus going to Buxton. For reasons.

430m high. Grid reference SK054718.

A mile from the Derbyshire spa town of Buxton, Grin Low’s topped by the 2 storey folly, Solomon’s Temple. It sits in Buxton Country Park, which includes 100 acres of woodland, and is well worth exploring for all these reasons as well as it being an Ethel. A great one to take the children to, trust me on that.

Despite having been several times, it seems I don’t have a single photograph of the place, so above is a picture of a bus that goes to Buxton. Cos that’s the best I can apparently do.

10. High Neb (Stanage Edge)

Stanage Edge
Not quite the full four miles of Stanage Edge, but a good chunk

458m high. Grid reference SK227853.

Not to be confused with Standage Edge on the Yorkshire/Manchester border, Stanage Edge is Derbyshire near the town of Hathersage. It’s another of those gritstone escarpments, and is popular with climbers. And it’s a fascinating place for they used to make millstones here, and for whatever reason, there’s quite a lot of them dotted all over the place. There’s a path along the bottom of the escarpment that takes you past them. And there’s one along the top that takes you to the summit, but which misses the millstones out. Thankfully I’ve done both.

So that’s ten of the Ethels I’ve been to. But what’s that, I hear you say? What about the other ten? Well that will be coming soon. I mean, come on, you can’t expect me not to spread this out over multiple posts, can you?

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