High Peak Way Stage 3: Hope to Hathersage

Published 27 May 2018. Last updated 17 May 2019

Tree-lined road with signposting saying 'Hope Cemetery'

The road to Hope Cemetery

March isn’t my favourite time of year to walk in. Too much rain. Too much mud. But March is the end of my employer’s annual leave calendar. All annual leave needs to be used up by the 31st of the month, thank you everyone.

Unfortunately I’d rather screwed up. Instead of diligently spreading my days off across the whole year, I’d ended up with loads needing to be used up in a very short period of time. And that’s why I ended up having to take every Friday off for several weeks.

Still, plenty of time for walking, eh? Well, I refer you to the fact that it was March. And this March was particularly grim. One particular Friday saw heaps of snow come down. My son’s school closed its doors, and the whole family found ourselves stuck at home, huddling next to the radiator for warmth whilst blizzards blew. Others were spent on more everyday tasks. Trips to the dentists. Spending some time with my 20 month old daughter. Waiting for the endless rain to stop.

But at long last came a Friday where I was completely free. With no commitments, I could head off to the hills. And it was Hope that I headed.

Hope. What a lovely name for a village. It was an air of optimism in it whilst also – perhaps – giving an element of uncertainty.

I hope you get better soon!

I hope the rain clears in time.

I hope you enjoy it!

I hope.

I hope.

I hope…

Mind you, there’s a cemetery in Hope. The death of hope perhaps? Yeah, well, anyway…

Peak and Northern Footpaths society signpost for Winhill

Winhill to the right!

An elderly, smelly and tatty diesel train dumped me at Hope station, and I walked the mile or so to the village. The High Peak Way goes North from Hope, walking in an inverted U shape back to Hathersage, before meandering along to Grindleford railway station. It was an area of the Dark Peak I knew little of, and was thoroughly looking forward to discovering it. Truthfully this was the section that had really persuaded me to do the High Peak Way. The earlier sections I’d mostly been to before, sometimes more than once. But this was virgin territory for me.

After stocking up with supplies (oversized sandwich, ridiculously big cake) I walked out of Hope. You could say I had no more Hope. That Hope was gone. But I would never condone that sort of behaviour.

First port of call was Win Hill. (Yes, Win Hill sits near Lose Hill. Can you see what they did there?) Alas it wasn’t the best day to be out for a walk. Clouds hung tightly to the hilltops, and there was a feeling of damp and rain. Views would be limited, I was sure. Waterproofs were definitely to be considered. It was raining and a bitterly cold wind wasn’t helping matters either. With that and the steep climb uphill, my pace reduced to a speed that even a snail would be embarrassed to admit.

The muddy, wet path up Winhill

The muddy, wet path up Winhill

The higher I got, the most I ascended into the clouds, and into the rain. By the time I got to the top of Win Hill – cold, wet, highly bedraggled – I could hardly see more than a few metres ahead of me.

Eventually I succumbed. The waterproof jacket was dragged on. The gloves followed, although getting them onto my sodden hands was a bit of a struggle.

The effort was worth it. My mood improved no end. Oh, and I wasn’t quite as cold any more. To quote the old adage, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. When I followed it all up by heaving my waterproof trousers on, I felt ready to tackle anything.

Feeling positively cheerful, I bounced up to the top of Win Hill, and took a gander at the view from the trig point. Clouds! Everywhere! Result! And with a smile on my face I marched down hill again.

Trig point on the top of Winhill

Trig point on the top of Winhill

The path through Parkin Clough was a winding, and muddy. I tentatively made my way down the steep hillside, emitting a huge sigh of relief when I got to the bottom without slipping.

I could relax for a bit as the next mile or so. Flat paths and pavements led me round the base of the mighty Ladybower Reservoir.

Built between 1935 and 1943, Ladybower is a Y shaped reservoir, built to supply water to the East Midlands. It took two years after building for it to fill up to its capacity of 27,800 megalitres of water. Two villages and a church were drowned so that Derby, Nottingham and Leicester could get clean water, fresh from the Peak District.

Part of Ladybower reservoir, surrounded by hills and heather moorland

Part of the Y shaped Ladybower reservoir

The path went over the the mighty damm that holds all that water back at the reservoir’s base. Then it was time for a walk up the main road to the Ladybower Inn. Resisting the temptation of a pint, I picked up the path that runs behind the pub. Quickly I found it rising above the few buildings that remain in Ashopton; most of the village being demolished to make way for the reservoir.

An initially muddy path running next to a woodland slowly but surely led me onto the glorious heather-topped Derwent Moors, for the start of several miles of classic Pennine moorland walking. Off in the distance cars and lorries danced their way along the A57 road that runs between Manchester and Sheffield. And to the other side, a set of curious gritstone rock formations.

Gritstone rock formation known as the Wheel Stones, or Coach and Horses

The Wheel Stones, or Coach and Horses - take your pick

They were off my path, but just viewable from my path. Years of wind and rain had worn the rocks into a series of curious circular shapes. They’re known by some as the ‘Coach and Horses’, with the name derived from the fact that they allegedly look like a coach being pulled by horses. Maybe from a different angle, but I couldn’t see it myself. The Ordnance Survey gives a different name: the ‘Wheel Stones’. And yes, they did look a little like a series of differently shaped wheels all stacked on top of each other.

I walked along the moors, whistling happily as I went. There’s something about being up on wild, windswept moorland. It’s quite invigorating for the soul. Even if there was a busy main road out there.

A grouse in the heather moorland

He called me a louse and said "Think of the grouse"

Several structures – and occasional squarks and chirps – gave a hint that this moorland was home to various wildlife. I passed several grouse butts, each one numbered, well maintained, and surrounded by a simple chain-link fence. Yes, there was wildlife out here, and presumably people would pay a lot of money to come and kill, just for the fun of it. And naturally they wanted to keep the hoi polloi out. Although their security was nothing that couldn’t be solved by, well, jumping over the fence. Particularly easy as it was only waist high.

No birds were being slaughtered on my visit. I’d need to come back around September if I wanted to wield a gun and blast the living daylights out of some unsuspecting bird.

Leaving the grouse butts behind, I crossed over the busy A57, and soon after stopped for a bite of Bakewell Tart. And then it was on to Stanage End rocks, and then the mighty Stanage Edge. This major gritstone escarpment is a popular spot for climbers, although there was no sign of any ropes on the rocks that day.

A small part of the Stanage Edge rockface

A small part of the Stanage Edge rockface

Initially the path headed beneath the rockface. Yes there was a path over the top, but then you don’t get to admire all the craggy rockiness of it all. Also, it was down here that Stanage Edge’s other interesting distinction can be found. Millstones. Lots of them. For centuries the rocks here were quarried away, and used to make these giant stone circles. It was yet another reminder that the Peak District was not always the peaceful and tranquil place it is now.

Millstone manufacturer started in medieval times and carried on all the way until the early 20th century. But the landscape is littered with the ones that got away. Some were mostly finished, others very roughly cut. It’s believed most of the ones that stand in the area now date back to the 19th century when a slump in demand meant there was little point in finishing the job. So remain they do to this very day, worn and weathered by decades of wind, sun and rain. And looking all the more atmospheric for it.

Abandoned millstones at Stanage

Abandoned millstones at Stanage

Stanage Edge is four miles long. The High Peak Way does most of it, spending the last half a mile at the top of the rocks, before heading south to the Peak District town of Hathersage. Thus the walker misses out such sights as “Robin Hood’s Cave” but does get to visit some public toilets near a car park.

It wasn’t particularly clear where the path left the edge, meaning I spent some time trying to find a safe way down. When I did eventually find a path, I quickly lost it again as it went through some woodland. But never fear, I found the toilet block in the end, and found a sign saying they were was only open at weekends. Obviously Fridays were counted as weekends by the Peak National Park as all the doors were unlocked. Anyone wanting to do so, could pop inside to admire the dank and smelly interior.

Stanage Edge

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

I made my way down lanes, farm tracks, and past a conference centre based in a historic manor house. Beyond the conference centre I took a wrong path. Instead of walking along some fields, I got to walk along a lane with some fields on one side and houses on another. A major difference. The correct path would have seen me arrive in Hathersage next to a church. Instead I arrived a quarter of a mile away next to a branch of Go Outdoors. But who was fussing?

The sun had been shining brightly up on Stanage, but now things were getting grim again. It was getting misty, and the wind was getting up once more. I’d intended to end the day by doing the final few miles to Grindleford. And if Hathersage hadn’t had a handy and convenient railway station, I probably would have. But it did. And to put it bluntly, I couldn’t be bothered. It would have to wait for another day.

Houses lining a road on the edge of Hathersage

Entering Hathersage village

So instead I walked to the station. There I sat in a cold and draughty shelter for thirty minutes for the train to come. Because obviously that was infinitely preferable. I mean, who wouldn’t want to walk another three miles whilst they could freeze in a poorly designed and badly maintained plastic shelter? Especially when you can sit there watching a group of teenage boys pretending they were “rock hard” by vaping on a shared e-cigarette.

Well, when all is said and done, hey, it’s the obvious choice really.

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