An alternative title for this walk could easily be ‘In the footsteps of Robin Hood and Little John’. Both Robin Hood and his right-hand man Little John are named in several features above and beyond Hathersage. A cave cut into the rocks of Stanage Edge is an alleged hiding place of the romantic outlaw and Little John is supposed to have come from Hathersage; the grave of an eight foot tall man in St Michael’s churchyard is considered to hold his remains: two wells in Longshaw estate a mile or so from Stanage are also named after these heroes of Sherwood. Today’s Hathersage is a pleasant large village boasting its own heated outdoor swimming pool. Linked by bus and train to Sheffield it has become an upmarket commuter base for people making their living in ‘Steel City’. In times gone by though it was the home of needle and pin makers whose forges ‘belched black smoke’ according to one 19th century travel writer. Quarrymen also made their home here and speculatively carved grindstones in their spare time; many of these wheels can be found along the walk, still waiting for orders that never came. The village was also an overnight resting place for packmen and drovers on their way between industrial Sheffield and the rest of the north. The walk climbs steeply out of Hathersage to the dramatic outcrop of Stanage Edge where climbers enjoy the tasking difficulties of over 500 routes. North Lees, a rare example of a fortified farmhouse stands below pine woods at the foot of the rocks. One of seven manor houses owned by the Eyre family, it inspired Charlotte Brontë in her romantic novel Jane Eyre after spending a holiday there.
7 miles (11.26 km). Rough moorland walking, followed by an easy lane and fieldpaths into Hathersage. One steep initial climb of 1037 feet (316 metres). Muddy sections, especially near Scraperlow and on top of Stanage Edge. Public transport. Train service from Sheffield on the Manchester line. Buses from Chesterfield – TM Travel 89A Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday services from Beetwell Street leave at 08:30 arriving in Hathersage at 09:13. (George Hotel). Return 17:03 (winter service) and 18:38 (summer service). Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey OL1, 1:25,000 scale, The Peak District – Dark Peak. Refreshments available in several pubs and cafés around the village. Car Parking in Oddfellows Road, signposted off the B6001, Grindleford Road.
• Cross the road to join a lane accessing several garages and continue uphill where it becomes a footpath on entering woodland.
• Go through a kissing gate and immediately bear left and then right, steeply uphill until the path reaches a boundary wall on your right. Continue with this uphill path to the end of the wood.
• At a footpath junction on the edge of the wood, bear left for two or three yards and then right to follow a stone wall. Cross the track accessing the large house on your left and go forwards as indicated by waymarks; NB: the next hundred yards are usually very muddy. Scraperlow was once a sporting lodge, but is now a pleasantly restored private residence. The large arched window on the ground floor was once the entrance for coaches.
• Continue over the moor as indicated by the waymarks and go downhill past Mitchell Fold, another restored property. Join a track in the valley bottom.
• Turn right, uphill on the wide track, continuing with it when it becomes a moorland path. Roughly level with the ruins of Callow Farm, pause and look back over the Hope Valley. Eyam Moor is to the left and further round and closer to hand is Higger Tor.
• Approaching Ringinglow road which will be indicated by parked cars, do not join it but turn sharp left at a path crossing and walk over the moor towards a side road descending towards Hathersage.
• Cross the road and follow a grassy path winding towards the base of Stanage Edge.
• Make your way up through the rocks towards the summit ridge of Stanage Edge, joining it a little to the north of the prominent trig point. Millstones littering the base of the edge were mainly destined for the Scandinavian wood pulp industry, but this trade died out almost overnight when steel rollers took over. The typical ‘wheel’ shape of these stones with flat outer rims indicates their use as grindstone; the smaller were destined for knife grinding in Sheffield and the largest for wood pulp making. Stones used in flour milling are usually bevelled.
• Follow the rocky edge to the left until it joins the wide track of the Long Causeway entering from your right. A draughty opening below the edge about a quarter of a mile beyond the trig point is reputed to have been one of Robin Hood’s hideaways. Long Causeway was once a Roman Road, but was kept in use after their departure as a packhorse way – look out for smoothly indented stones worn by passing ponies. Stanage Pole over to your right is still maintained as a guide to travellers across the bleak moor.
• Look out for a stepped path descending through a break in the crags and to your left. Follow it downhill through sparse woodland until it joins the minor road. (Public toilets can be found in the stone building to your right). • Go to the left for a short distance along the road and then turn right through a gate to walk downhill on a wide path descending gently through mature pinewoods.
• Bear left on passing North Lees Hall and follow its access drive as far as the valley road, then turn right to continue downhill. North Lees Hall. This three-storied, semi-fortified manor house is something of a rarity so far south. It was similar in purpose to the pele-towers of the Scottish Borders, offering protection to the owners in the upper storeys and animals on the ground floor. Originally owned by the Eyre family, prominent land owners who were recorded at the Battle of Agincourt, it was visited by Charlotte Brontë in 1845 when staying with her friend Ellen Massey. Many of the settings used in Jane Eyre can be recognised as places around Hathersage. North Lees is clearly identified in the story as Thornfield Hall from which Jane fled.
• Walk down the road until a little way past Brontë Cottage, a gate on the left leads to a series of field paths into Hathersage.
• Turn right along the road as far as a controlled pedestrian crossing. Cross here and follow the access to a chapel and then out into the car park.