History is everywhere with us in the Peak District. People have lived on and shaped the land for thousands of years, from the erectors of prehistoric standing stones and henges, right down to the current developments needed to house today’s expanding population.
This walk touches a sample of five different ways the Peak has been affected throughout the centuries, each one leaving its mark as time moves on. The walk starts and finishes at Monyash, a small village on the limestone uplands, where farming is still the major occupation of many of its residents. Their predecessors left their mark when, in the eighteenth century, the Enclosure Acts allowed landowners to define field patterns, creating a maze of dry-stone walls typifying the Derbyshire landscape to this day. The next relic will probably be unnoticed, but the Roman road from Derby to Buxton will be crossed twice along the way. After crossing this road and its modern equivalent, the A515, a footpath drops down to the High Peak Trail, a walking and cycling track following part of the abandoned railway from Cromford to Buxton. Next comes the highlight of the walk, Arbor Low. Here is a stone circle built by our neolithic ancestors around 5,000 years ago, once the land became usable after the end of the Ice Age. Finally, the modern dairy and sheep farm at One Ash Grange started life as a monastic penitencery for recalcitrant monks from Roche Abbey near Rotherham.
Alongside these five historical features, prehistoric burial mounds and capped lead mine shafts scattered around the fields were left by our recent ancestors, each and every one as well as us, leaving theirs and our mark on the landscape for good or bad.
The walk is suitable for all weathers, and has gentle gradients throughout. At the start, the way is across tiny meadows and along green lanes. Beyond the A515, the few miles of level walking on the High Peak Trail are just made for striding out while enjoying the wide ranging views across the rolling Derbyshire limestone uplands. Next comes a short but unavoidable stretch of road walking. This is to reach Abor Low and also the turn-off for One Ash Grange Farm. Fortunately the normally quiet road between Parsley Hay and Youlgreave is generally used by local traffic, but never-the-less it should be walked with care. From One Ash Grange the way back to Monyash is along a footpath across a series of fields, eventually reaching one of the access roads into the village.
When talking about the history of places and features along the walk, Monyash can claim to have its roots in prehistory. Situated in the heart of the White Peak, the limestone based part of the Peak District, where the villagers often had to carry water for miles, Monyash is uniquely endowed with four meres (five if you count filled-in Jack Mere, now the village car park). A ‘mere’ is the Derbyshire word for a man-made pond, used to store water. The meres owe their existence to a deep bed of watertight clay laid down at the end of the last ice-age some 10,000 years ago, making them possibly the oldest feature in the landscape.
Monyash has a single pub, the Bull’s Head and next to it, the old smithy has been converted into a popular café. Narrow lanes radiate from the village green and footpaths seem to go in all directions. The village has access to Lathkill Dale.
DISTANCE: 9¼ miles (15km) of moderate walking on field paths, green lanes, historic railway trail and by-roads. Fairly level walking all the way.
RECOMMENDED MAP: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Sheet OL24, White Peak Area.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Hulleys Bakewell/Monyash 178 service Monday – Saturday, hourly service from 09:55. One bus only on Sunday & Bank Holidays, (177 Bakewell/Buxton via Monyash) at 11:50 out and 15:28 back.
CAR PARKING: Jack Mere opposite the Methodist Chapel in Chapel Street, Monyash.
REFRESHMENTS: Bull’s Head Inn and Smithy Café in Monyash. Light refreshments at Parsley Hay cycle hire and information centre.
From Jack Mere car park on Chapel Street, go through the adjacent stone stile and bearing left walk past the last of a row of cottages.
The next section of the walk is across a series of narrow fields dating back to the Enclosure Act of 1771, defining shared plots in what were originally three huge communal fields. Bear half left away from the cottage and follow the grassy path using stiles in the stone boundary walls of seven narrow fields and an access track.
Joining a farm track, turn right and follow it past a stone barn for about a quarter of a mile.
At the junction of five tracks, turn sharply left and follow the walled-straight track for a little under one mile.
Go past the donkey sanctuary and, on reaching the main A515 Buxton/Ashbourne road turn right towards the front of the Bull-I’-Thorn for four or five yards and then left. All the time on the lookout for speeding traffic, cross over, aiming for a signposted stile.
The modern road is parallel to the Roman Road from Derby to Buxton and you will cross its position a yard or so after entering the first field beyond the A515.
Go down the field to a stile next to a footpath sign. Cross this and bear half left, still downhill to the railway track.
Climb up to the track and turn left. This is the High Peak Trail which is followed for a couple of miles.
High Peak Trail follows part of the 33 mile Cromford and High Peak Railway, first opened in 1831 as a link between Cromford and High Peak Canal at Whaley Bridge. Built by canal engineers, it climbed steep inclines, the equivalent to canal locks, by using steam-powered cables; the stations were called wharfs.
Parsley Hay cycle hire depot marks the end of this section of the walk. Call in for a coffee and then walk through the small car park and go down to the road.
Turn left along this side road and walk up to the main road. Turn left, again with great care, and cross over to reach the minor road signposted to Monyash, Youlgreave and Arbor Low.
Turn right to follow this road, bearing right at a junction after 200yards. Walk along this arrow-straight road for about a mile until you reach a sign pointing to Arbor Low.
Leave the road by turning right up a farm track, following it as far as a small car park (there is an honesty box here to help with site maintenance). Go through the farmyard and then a kissing gate. Turn left to follow the stone wall leading to Arbor Low.
Arbor Low is Derbyshire’s answer to Stonehenge. Built by our Neolithic ancestors. Unusually the circle of stones are not upright, but lie flat as though radiating from the central altar. As each stone is not upright and lies at roughly the same angle, it looks as though they were deliberately laid that way. But imagine the effort dragging them to the site as well as digging the surrounding earth bank, armed with nothing better than deer antlers.
By following the road up to Arbor Low, you will have made a second crossing of the Roman Road; hereabouts its modern use is to define the local parish boundary.
After exploring Arbor Low, go back to the road and turn right for a little over 700 yards.
Walk up the road until it makes a gently right-hand bend. Look out for a signpost on your left and climb over a stile.
Go diagonally right across two fields until you reach a farm access track. Following it, walk on to reach Cales Farm.
Continue along the track, through the farmyard and go down then across Cales Dale.
To follow the right of way keep to the left of the track, bearing right over a small field to reach the right-hand end of One Ash Grange farmhouse.
Turn left past old stone outbuildings and pig sties. Go right and then left through a gate at the far end of the in-by farm buildings.
One Ash Grange Farm dates back to the twelfth century when it was developed by Cistercian monks as a grange farm. One of the out-buildings, an ice store passed earlier could well date from this time.
Keeping to the right of the field boundary wall walk on until you reach a stone stile on your left. Cross over and then bear sharp right, going downhill beside a boundary wall across a series of fields.
Cross the head of dry Fern Dale and continue upwards to join a walled track. Follow this until it becomes a narrow road leading directly into Monyash