Monday, 12 November 2012

Stanage Edge & Burbage Rocks

GPS Track
Date: 10/11/2012
From: Hathersage

Parking: Large public car park in Hathersage
Start Point: Bus stop in the centre of Hathersage
Region: Dark Peak

Route length: 9.3 miles (14.9km)
Time taken: 04:42
Average speed: 1.9mph
Ascent: 512m
Descent: 656m

Points of interest: Stanage Edge, Burbage Rocks, Higger Tor, Carl War, Over Owler Tor, Mother Cap












Route: Hathersage, Baulk Lane, Bronte Cottage, North Lees, Stanage Plantation, Stanage Edge, Cowper Stone, Upper Burbage Bridge, Burbage Rocks, Burbage Bridge, Burbage Brook, Owler Tor, Over Owler Tor, High Lees, Hathersage

Forming the boundary between the High Peak of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, the giant gritstone edge situated to the west of Sheffield is a magnet to outdoor enthusiasts of all types, climbers in particular; drawing them in from the nearby cities and providing a spectacular vista that is accessible to almost anybody. I am of course referring to Stanage Edge (popularly referred to as just Stanage), one of number of rugged edges that can be found throughout the District and probably the best known and the most visited. Our walk, starting in Hathersage, would climb up to Stanage before walking the ridge to Burbage Rocks and returning via Mother Cap and Over Owler Tor, making the most of some fine autumn weather. This is a retrospective write up so some detail may be a bit vague.

Starting in the wonderful village of Hathersage, we began the walk along Baulk Lane, a pleasant farm track that runs alongside Hood Brook. This gradual start allowed me not only to get to grips with some new mapping on the GPS (OS no-less), it also gave my new-ish boots another decent wearing in. After reaching Bronte Cottage, a short section of road lead us back onto the path and up towards North Lees and the foot of Stanage Edge. The autumn weather was definitely on our side today with a vast array of colours being picked out by the low sun.
Baulk Lane leads from Hathersage towards to foot of Stanage
The autumn colours were in fine form
A tarmac lane leads up to North Lees Hall
Stanage Edge looms on the not-too-far distance
Shatton Moor
North Lees Hall was built in the late 16th century by Robert Smythson, the same Architect responsible for the construction of Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. It is thought to be the model for Thornfield Hall in the famous novel Jane Eyre after Charlotte Bronte stayed in the area in 1845.
North Lees Hall and Shatton Moor
After a brief climb up through Stanage Plantation, the path winds its way up onto Stanage Edge via a natural depression in the rocks. This point is also located just below the Long Causeway (or Long Causey), a medieval packhourse route that linked Sheffield to Hathersage. There is some debate over whether the road was also a Roman one or not. Where we emerged onto the top of Stanage, the Long Causeway still exists as an unsurfaced track, formerly a byway to all traffic, however recently this has been reclassified and motorised vehicles have been banned. Small areas of the track are still paved in parts with the most extensive section being a 20 metre stretch just to the west of Stanedge Pole, an ancient waymarker along the route that marks the border between Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. At a height of 438 metres, it can be seen for several miles around.
The path leads through Stanage Plantation
The path runs up along the foot of Stanage
Eventually the path reaches a depression in the rocks where you can climb onto the top of the ridge
High Neb can clearly be seen in the distance
Stood atop Stanage Edge, you can really see both the appeal of the landscape and the popularity with climbers and walkers. There are many places where a solitary rock juts out and you can stand and admire the sweeping curve of Stanage. The edge runs four miles north from the Cowper Stone to Stanage End. It is the northernmost of an almost continuous line of cliffs, including Burbage Rocks, Froggatt Edge, Curbar Edge, Baslow Edge and Birchen Edge. Although the edge reaches only 30 metres in height it is one of the most famous UK climbing venues. The highest point of Stanage is located at High Neb at an altitude of 458m.
Stanage Edge looking north west towards High Neb
Walkers, climbers and paragliders share the ridge on a typical day
A view down the valley of Hood Brook
Another claim to fame for Stanage is it popularity as a film location, it was used in some scenes in the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice. A true international superstar. Access to the edge however, was not always as open as it is today, Stanage and the North Lees Estate used to be a private grouse moor with gamekeepers often bribed to allow access to rock climbers in the 19th century.

A route along the top of Stanage is easily to follow, even in bad weather. A wide path leads right across the top guiding you between Stanage End and the Cowper Stone that mark the northern and southern ends. Part of this path is the Sheffield Country Walk, a 53 mile long distance route that encircles Sheffield. Half way along our route between Long Causeway and the Cowper Stone lies Robin Hood's cave, an ancient cave or shelter that's hidden amongst the rocks. Care should however be taken not to interfere with any climbing hardware that has been set up or the obvious faux pas of falling off the edge itself.
Stanage Edge looking north west
The Cowper Stone
After crossing a slight depression at the head of Burbage Brook, the rock wall continues, turning south east and taking on the guise of Burbage Rocks. The rocks the the east and the equally impressive Higger Tor and Carl Wark to the west form the picturesque Burbage valley, that leads down from Hallam Moor until it reaches Froggatt Edge.
The path runs by the car park between Stanage and Burbage Rocks
The sweeping curve of Burbage Rocks
Upon Carl Wark (or Carl's Wark in some cases) sits a scheduled ancient monument; an Iron Age hill fort (according to interpretations of the earth embankments). Though the purpose of the existence of the ramparts is still uncertain, it is thought that the site was used as a place of refuge for surrounding settlements as there is no evidence of any permanent shelters within the site. Our route, passing by on the opposite side of the valley, continued along the top of the ridge of Burbage Rocks, however, it is possible to walk beneath the rock face along the Sheffield Country Way and get a ground-up view of the millstone escarpment and closer inspection of Carl Wark. Once again, either route is easy to follow thanks to wide, well eroded paths.
Upper Burbage Bridge between Stanage and Burbage Rocks
Carl Wark and Higger Tor
A long abandoned millstone quarry
Carl Wak and Higger Tor
Crossing the stop of a large gouge in the rock face, a long abandoned millstone quarry, the path slopes gently down to Burbage Bridge where we met the path that leads into the woods. After a brief walk along Burbage Brook, the path turns to the west and starts to climb up to Owler Tor and eventually, Over Owler Tor, another collection of impressively stacked rocks. Of particular interest in the singular Mother Cap, a photogenic rock tor that stands alone along the path.
Burbage Beck
The southern end of Burbage Rocks
The climb up to Over Owler Tor
Mother Cap
Mother Cap
Over Owler Tor
Beyond Over owler Tor, the path drops down to Whim Plantation before crossing a field and heading towards High Lees and back down into Hathersage. Before entering the wood, there's one last view of Over Owler Tor towering over the landscape below. It really classic Dark Peak scenery at its best.
Crossing the stone stile at Whim Plantation
Over Owler Tor
An obvious path crosses the field after Whim Plantation
After a brief downhill stroll through the woods we returned to Hathersage, the starting point of the days adventure. This is a great, if not very popular walk, that takes in some of the Dark Peaks most iconic scenery. In addition to the fantastic natural spectacle, there's loads of history to be found if you know where to look and plenty to keep you entertained for an entire day. No walk around this area needs be the same as there are paths criss-crossing the entire area and that's sure to keep me coming back again and again.

That and the fantastic Outside in Hathersage.