How Lane, Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S33 8WJ, United Kingdom
Tel: 01433 620330

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cheshirecheese_castleton.jpgSally Mosley does a lot of walking in the Peak District and recently wrote a feature in the Peak Advertiser.  Here she gives a great guide of a walk around Castleton and has something to say about the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn.

This wonderful lengthy  walk of about 9 miles over  Bradwell Moor and around  Castleton was a geological  and topographical extravaganza! It was a cold and blustery hike over those exposed hills, with an icy slide down Cave Dale but an easy going ramble over low lying fields and quiet lanes.

I parked in the large layby beside the B6049 just up the road from Hazlebadge and set off along the narrow lane of Tophole Road, passing between Intake Dale and Green Dale before turning left up a footpath along the edge of Jennings Dale. This was followed by a track up beside dips and hollows of Earl Rake to the top road. For centuries these White Peak hills have been exploited for their rich minerals and show the scars from deep shafts and open cast mines and quarries, many disused, some restored whilst others are still being worked. Situated in the heart of the National Park it is fascinating to see how industry can carefully fit in with an area more renowned for its beauty and hordes of tourists.

Surrounded on three sides by gritstone hills, Bradwell Moor is an exposed dome of ancient limestone created millions of years ago when the earth was evolving. The surface is covered with little dips and dales like aged wrinkles but beneath is a labyrinth of caverns and caves formed by the constant erosion of permeating water.

Arriving at a junction I followed the sign for Castleton and headed past the entrance to Moss Rake where a giant boulder of calcite like an enormous rock specimen had been positioned behind the gate. A little further on and I was crossing over the route of Batham Gate, this former Roman Road ran from Buxton (Aquae Arnemetiae) to the fort at Navio near Brough.

Now it was time for a short detour and I continued straight ahead onto a rough track, passing beside a triangular metal gate and walking a couple of hundred yards or so to the edge of Hope Quarry. Here there is a view point shelter looking down into the huge hole which is being systematically gouged into the hillside. This impressive man-made landscape is made up of ‘benches’ – rather than have one tall cliff face to work at, stone is blasted away and extracted in layers or deep steps, descending to volcanic stone in the bottom. Down there a 30-ton dumper truck looked like a matchbox toy! I could clearly see the remains of a brown seam running through the layers of exposed limestone, this would have been a vein containing fluorspar and lead.

At the bottom end of the quarry is the crushing house from where powdered stone is transported down to the large processing plant at Hope to be made into cement, whilst on the bottom ‘step’ was a drilling rig and white marks on the ground, indicating that the latest set of blast holes were ready for charging.

It was time to retrace my steps to the junction from where I headed over a high wooden ladder stile to a lovely footpath leading over manicured fields dotted with sheep and a succession of stiles to the remains of Hollandtwine Mine and Hazard Mine. Now filled in and restored, there is an interesting information plaque here with ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures as well as some amazing facts about an incredible cave system of phreatic tubes which were discovered under nearby Dirtlow Rake.

I left behind the hilltops to follow a stretch of the Limestone Way. Descending Cave Dale was an interesting and somewhat tricky experience as surface water had frozen on the steep stony path making it dangerous and slow going. However it was well worth the risk as this must surely rate as being one of the best approach routes to Castleton. Tiptoeing down the deep gorge between high crags the first appearance of Peveril Castle was breath-taking.

The only remaining building of this important former stronghold is the impressive ‘keep’ which was built in the early 12th century. This impregnable fortress was the seat of William Peveril, illegitimate son of William the Conqueror and his lady friend Maud, the daughter of Ingelric who was a Saxon nobleman related to Edward the Confessor. From here William ruled over the village and his lead mines, whilst also acting as bailiff to the Royal Forest of the Peak which extended for some 60 square miles around him.

Rather amusingly on the day that I was passing by, the message ‘will you marry me Jon’ had been written in stones on a grassy bank in the bottom of the dale, presumably with the intention of the groom-to-be being able to see it as a surprise from the castle above. However, ‘NO’ was the reply at the side – definitely not a romantic then!

I am always amazed by Castleton. Despite being constantly inundated with visitors, this picture postcard village remains unspoilt and retains its charm and character. Among the attractive houses and quaint little cottages it is still possible to see an occasional dilapidated barn or building which has avoided restoration and conversion by property developers. The village has a strong community spirit and holds on tight to its quirky customs and traditions.

My ‘watering hole’ for this walk was to be Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on How Lane. Dating back to 1660 the premises were originally built as a farmstead by the Hall family, one of the village’s most prominent benefactors. By 1748 a full licence had been granted for an alehouse here known as the Wagon & Horses, but in 1847 the name changed to the Cheshire Cheese. Another claim to fame for the Cheshire Cheese is as the starting point for the procession of Castleton’s famous Garland Ceremony on Oak Apple Day which commemorates the restoration of Charles II to the throne. It is normally held on 29th May but might be in June this year.

Having 10 letting rooms and accredited with a 3-star rating, the inn is an extremely cosy ‘heavy oak beam and brasses’ establishment offering a mouth-watering choice of quality food and drink. As well as an impressive lineup of ‘Specials’, it is possible to choose from either regular size or smaller portion dishes.

I was impressed by the line-up of hand-pulled real ales on offer, each pump having a lovely description to help customers decide. I was tempted by the Acorn from Barnsley Bitter, Sir Phillip brewed by Wincle Beers or Farmers Blonde by Bradfield Brewery, but opted for a shandy made from Lord Marples of Thornbridge. Described as being full of caramel and honey flavours with a smooth bitter finish, this hearty beverage is 4% proof. Accompanied by a packet of cheese and onion crisps, it was the perfect snack to set me on my way. Decorated in warm colours and adorned with copper pans and numerous ornaments, the bar is extremely comfortable and snug. By the time I had supped up and was ready to leave the rosy glow on my cheeks was colour matched with the walls!

I intend to return on a Sunday when they have a Quiz Night every week at 9pm with free entry and the chance to win a bottle of wine and a gallon of ale! My route from Castleton was to Spital Bridge, the name being a common corruption of ‘hospital’. Here was the site of St Mary’s ‘Hospital of the Castle of the Peak’ which was founded for the support of paupers by the wife of William Peveril. Run by the Knights Hospitallers – monks who dedicated themselves to caring for the sick and lepers. They continued to look after the needy until 1536 when the dissolution of the monasteries forced its

I followed a lovely path through meadows beside Peakshole Water to Hope and on reaching the road, headed up Eccles Lane, passing huge shale pits owned by Lafarge. The site for the famous and iconic cement works was chosen because of the vast reserves of limestone and shale to be found here, both being fundamental ingredients. I eventually emerged at the side of The Samuel Fox country inn at Bradwell, named after the inventor of the collapsible umbrella frame who built up a large business in Stocksbridge and was born in the village in 1815.

From here I headed up the hill past The Bowling Green at Smalldale before turning left onto a narrow road along Smithy Hill that would take me back to my car. From this elevated lane I had wonderful views across to Bradwell Edge. On the other side of Bradwell Dale is Hill Rake where there is a large cave entrance into a rocky limestone outcrop, whilst somewhere below me was Bagshawe Cavern. It was named after Lady Bagshawe of Wormhill Hall who owned the land at the time of the cavern’s accidental discovery by four lead miners in 1806. The cavern extends over 2,000 feet and has chambers with rather wonderful titles such as The Dungeon, Chamber of Worms, Grotto of Calypso and The Constellation as well as the Grotto of Paradise where impressive dripstone formations can be seen, considered as being amongst the finest of the High Peak Caverns. Gemmed up on geology and weary from wandering over these wonderful hills, I finally reached my car and headed for home.

Sally Mosley
To find out more about
forthcoming guided walks
please either visit my
website or telephone 01629
814108/07989 622692.