It’s been a funny old few months, recovery from the ear is still ongoing along with periodic vertigo has made running difficult.
I’ve had some extra spare time on my hands lately and so with my interest in Britain’s pre-Roman past becoming a keen subject matter for me, seeking running routes that incorporate history has kept me busy.
One such place is the White Peak area of the Peak district National Park. This area seems to hold a plethora of sites, from caves, druidic worship centres, a myriad of stone circles, forts and a healthy splattering of burial mounds. Seeking suck sites is pretty easy as thanks to the wonderful world OS maps they are easily spotted and marked kindly with the Tumulus symbol.
A particular hotbed of activity is Stanton Moor, it was suggested that it was a bronze age necropolis given the large amount of burial sites with in its boundaries (some 70 barrows in all) , but later research has shown possible habitation areas noted by sunken ditches which may represent raised platforms as seen on Dartmoor. There are also 3 well-known stone circles along with a number of suggested circles which are either partially destroyed or overgrown.
Unfortunately early archeology works by the Heatcoat’s has left areas difficult to interpret correctly given the damage or rather fanciful reconstructions they carried out, but evidence suggests occupation from at least the bronze age due to the large amount of pottery finds and field systems found, with other nearby sites lower down in the area showing neolithic occupation.
So todays little adventure takes me around the most well known sites, Nine Ladies, King stone, Doll Stor stone, Arbor Low, along with Rowtor Rocks, I will also try to go off piste so to speak and explore some less know areas.
Perched above Birchover, this collection of strangely carved rocks conjures up images of a bygone era with its unique features of twisted shapes, caves and stairs. Victorian visitors were told that this was a strong hold of the druids, truth be told that some of this area had been carved by a local parish priest who being so enamored with the beauty of the place supervised the carving of steps, chairs and a small chapel where he was said to have sat and written sermons. The name it’s self is thought to have derived from the old english Rootor which means something that move to and fro. there’s no doubt the place holds a special mystery and attraction, with carvings dating from possibly the bronze age it was certainly a place renowned in the area and held in esteem, it’s connection with druids is a little sketchy and some believe it links to the ancient order of druids and as a way of making the site more ‘touristy’. I arrived little after 8:30am, Birchover was still very quiet with only a 2 other walkers spotted, I doned my gear and set off in the direction of the Druids Inn. It is a short climb behind the pub the an amazing collection of stones, little holes appear everywhere, with caves nestled in between large boulders. I spent some time, wandering and exploring every nook and cranny, seeking out the rooms and caves, it’s easier to see where the priest had made his mark but it did not detract from the beauty and mystery. I had the place pretty much to myself and after scrambling around I moved on.
From here I head along the path towards Robin Hood’s stride, the going was fairly easy but given the how frozen the ground was extra care was needed to avoid twisted ankles.
I cross the road and head along the farm track, picking up the limestone way towards Cratcliff Cottage. Here abounds a number of interesting sites, with the area being made up of soft gritstone, the passage of time is able to create unworldly art, nooks, crannies and grove adorn every surface of these rocks and to a bronze age person, it is no wonder that myths and stories have grown around these places, the whole place resembles a jumble of discarded rocks, jammed together after being thrown down in anger. As you look around the rock bears testament to their popularity over the years, with numerous scribbles from past visitors, these days it is better known to the bouldering community. I took a moment on Hllary’s bench, gazed at the view before plodding on towards Robin Hood’s stride. As I wandered, the place bore a sticking peacefulness that ancient places tend to do.
From here we head towards Cratcliffe, again a well-known bouldering site with the smattering of unique and strange contours carves by years of rain and wind, to the Western Side hides the Hermits Cave, now protected via iron railings. This is a unique site with a suggestion of a lean-to attached to the cave entrance thus extending the entrance to the cave, inside hides a carved Christ on a crucifix and is thought to date to the 14th C, is well-preserved. There is little known about the hermit who lived here but some local records survive showing the cave as being occupied in 1549. Even further back to the Iron age, there is new evidence which suggests the site was a fortified settlement/fort with building platforms identified within its 5m wide enclosure. As I ran around the site, for the life of me I was not able to find it, daft I know. but it was fun wandering around the area anyway, as you stand atop the Stones, you are able to see the next place on our route.
From here it’s a simple run towards Nine stone circle, the area once covered some 45ft and other stones can be found scattered in nearby fields, there is a local folk law that talks of Fairies gathering at night to play music and dance with many local reporting to have seen these creatures, other tales tell of the stones dancing at various times of the day, there is no doubt that coming upon this place creates and wills a sense of mystery and awe.
I stop a moment and watch some people wander along the Limestone way, I take a photo opportunity at an old muck spreader, not the what most would see as a photo subject but I do love the patina that time has created
We head towards Castle Ring Hills fort, running through the farm, I didn’t realise that I was at the fort until I took a quick glance around and spotted I was in the main mounds
There are a number of myths associated with this area and like the Nine stones revolves around fairies coming in the dead of night to dance and sing, if this is the case they have a better social life than me. I didn’t see any fairies unfortunately, From here I drop down through Round Wood and then onto Youlgreave
I plonk my bum for a little bit at the river, before following the path next to the river until I emerge into Alport, from here I cross the road and head up Dark Lane and on towards the trig point, I was already to identify another Tumulus near to the trig and I wonder how many people wander past this unsurprising mound without realising what it holds in its depths.
I cut across Hatton Field and spy a run down building next to what I imagine is old mine workings, I also spy Hatton Hall in the distance and from my vantage point It looks resplendent. Whilst in the field I also note another strange set of mounds, 6 in all. all roughly the same circumstance, with a sunken middle they are not marked on the map so if anyone cares to enlighten me please do
I pass by the Shining Bank Quarry, I was somewhat shocked at the massive hole but in a way it holds its own interest as a feature, I cross the road and head up the many stairs into Tolls wood and witness again the signs of many years quarrying.
I soon enter Stanton, my ear by now popping and my nose running, every time I sniff it makes my balance skew if enough to make me stop momentarily. Stanton in Peak is another lovely village, all very calm and sedate. I miss my turn off and instead enter Stanton Moors by way of the old quarry, I stop and have a bite to eat, puppy happy with banana and bikies. there’s no sound here, no birds or traffic noise, no people either. It adds to the strangeness of the place
I entertain myself exploring the maze like paths that fill the interior of the woods, the place is also littered with later mine workings, which seem at odds with the signs declaring this to be historic monument site? go figure. It makes for a great explore but be careful as you are liable to suddenly come across the many large holes that cover the ground. I soon pass by the quarry area and start to enter Stanton moor proper and my first glimpse of the Nine Ladies.
Nine Ladies Stone Circle
This is a significant Bronze age stone circle, still in use today by various groups to welcome in the various solstices, like the others it holds court to its own unique myth in which it is said that nine women were dancing on the Sabbath to a fiddler – the King Stone – and were turned to stone. But regardless of the stories, there is little archeological evidence to denote when or why this was built, suggestions include a kind of court where the accused stood in the centre to be judged, there are also suggestion of its link with the calendar and number 9 being significant. I prefer the theory that these monuments were built at a time of great change, one where the hunter gatherer man slowly gave way to farming, the stone a symbol of the last struggle of the time or as way of reassuring the people that life will still carry on. I did hear a gentleman suggest to his partner that this may have been a house, I would suggest you have a little read of some history. I also take in Earl Grey Tower which holds a prominent place on the edge of Stanton
As I ran back and forth, I decided to head away from the crowds, there is enough on Stanton Moor to keep me going all day and so I will return with the family for a little historic treasure hunt.
I made my way towards Andle Stone, a little unsure if this was a footpath I made haste and disapeared into the little enclosure and then decided a little hunt was needed, I cited a Stone circle on the map near me and unsure what this on was I headed off, first over a wall into an overgrown wood, over another wall, across a field and over another wall into a disused quarry, this was a very scary place and again no birds could be heard as I wandered through the quarry the moss was heavy and dappled light shone through, I climb up an embankment and suddenly I was at the Stone Circle, It was then I spotted the little sing board, Doll Tor
I sat for a while in quiet contemplation, the lack of sound or movement just added to the mystic of the area, if anything this circle stands out more than the famous Nine Ladies, in the centre would have been a raised platform and the lay out is a little different with what looks like an entrance at the front. Sitting in the middle I felt a comforting calm, pup joined me and sat close to my side as I just enjoyed the moment.
All to soon it was time to trundle off, I retraced the proper route to the road before turning off just after the stone company which took me down and back into Birchover.
all in 10.5miles were had, this is one amazing area and one ill be heading back to again to explore more properly.