Category Archives: Country Walks Without a Car

From Hope to Roman Navio to Mam Tor, Black Tor, Lose Hill

Back in the Peak District! A few weekends ago, before Aberystwyth even, before the anthropocene decided that summer would be cut short. I am writing an editorial for City in my own blood at the minute, so thought I would take a break to vicariously breathe the wind, taste the air and freedom, regain perspective on deadlines, cross this little thing off the to-do list. We were following the walk as signposted by Ali Cooper in Archaeology Walks in the Peak District, but started at Hope train station as all those without cars must do. It was beautiful.

In this field, the Roman fort of Navio once stood, occupied between AD 75-120 and from about AD 160-360.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

A town full of civilians also once stood here — all that is left still visible are some stones of the wall embedded in the ground and a collection of masonry in the field’s middle. They found lead ingots here, so the Romans were definitely mining these hills. We walked up towards Castleton

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Skipped Peveril’s castle as we’d already been.

On towards Odin Mine:

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Through a field with two lost lambs who didn’t understand the concept of lateral movement.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Mined for lead since the 13th Century, legend has Odin mined by the Romans and the Danes as well (hence the name). This mine comes complete with ore-crushing circle, where a horse once pulled a gritstone to crush the rock! Now I know what those are.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

And then up to Mam Tor starting along the old road fractured through subsidence in a fairly apocalyptic way

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

We climbed up, really really far up and then up some more. The tor is surrounded by an immense ditch from the Iron Age, once home to a large settlement over a long span of years — though it is hard to tell now how regularly it was occupied. This is what archaeologists think it might have looked like once.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

It is looking back you can get a better sense of the scale of the ditch marked along the hillside though you have to look closely at the photograph which doesn’t do justice (of course) to how marked it was as we stood there.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

It is beautiful, windy, wild, from here we walked along the ridge towards Black Tor and Lose Hill.Artifacts have been found on Black Tor as well, though it is unknown if this was a residential or burial site.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

We continued on

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Chased by the rain

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

And down, passing a horde of London youth mourning the lack of escalators. We laughed, marveled at the foxgloves.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Found a pint.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

It is hard to remember the moors exist on a day like today in front of the computer filled with frustrations. I have to remember that the road goes ever ever on. Just like in this cool display from the Hobbit.

Peak District: Hope to Mam Tor

Of course, Mark wanted me to call this post ‘Circling the Cement Factory’, which we did. I quite loved the cement factory I must confess.

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But I loved most the wild, misty windswept hills with as few people on them as possible. I am far too domesticated.

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Devil’s Bridge and the Rheidol Valley Steam Train

Trains. I really love steam trains, and the Rheidol Valley Steam Train is a corker. It is second only to the train from Chama to Antonito in my experience, though granted my experience is still very small taking a global view. This narrow-gauge train, opened in 1902,  leaves from Aberystwyth and climbs and climbs through the valley to Devil’s Bridge.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Devil's Bridge Walk

Crawls up the valley. Stops to refill, and allowed us to marvel at the wonderful raised beds full of wondrous flower plantings — it is amazing how this whole project is loved. The volunteers were young, with leather caps and overalls. Life was fine on this Saturday.

Finally we arrived at Devil’s Bridge. Everyone headed there directly so we headed in the opposite direction, following the walk which can be found detailed here.

It’s longer than 6 miles.

We walked to the ruins of Bodcoll’s Woolen Mill, mysterious, overgrown. The river Mynach is beautiful here, impossible to photograph the smooth bowls its waterfalls have carved from the rock.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Devil's Bridge Walk

Climbed up and looked out across the hills. Walked and walked, saw some local hill sheep.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Got a bit lost. Got back on track.

Saw this little church, built in a much older sacred site and incorporating standing stones into the walls. I was tempted to swing by, but there were cows between us and the church.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Also, I had dragged Mark out on this walk in deck shoes. Neither of our shoe decisions was fortuitous.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Still, sheep scattered before us with fear, picturesque against the heather-covered hills.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Feeling powerful we strode up and up, young and strong, not a single ache or pain, not a breath out of place, the wind teasing our hair, the horseflies shying away from our very splendour. We found ruins, marveled at thick walls of stone.

Devil's Bridge Walk

We continued on and on. Crossed more water running sluggishly in the heat filtering down through sun dappled trees.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Then up again.

And then down and down and down a steep, rock stubbled roadway,  sharp points penetrating the thin soles of Mark’s shoes though he made not a single complaint. We came to a stand of Scots pines, which the guide tells us have long been associated with rights of way, planted to mark overnight stops for men and cattle as they moved across the land, and at difficult sections of the route.

Devil's Bridge Walk

We descended further, came to the mine tailings of the Cwm Rheidol.

Devil's Bridge Walk

They continue to pollute the river and surrounding area, the informational sign noted the presence of marcasite, a mineral which in the presence of air and moisture (and this is Wales you know, there’s a lot of moisture) begins to develop a powdery white bloom and a whiff of sulpher as it crumbles away (if it’s in a museum exhibit) or dissolves into a sulpheric acid that can also melt lead and zinc into a rather toxic mess.

Still. I spent many holiday excursions of my youth around mine tailings, this made me happy. I know it shouldn’t.

Down into the valley, it was beautiful.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Yet we knew we would have to climb back up.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Devil's Bridge Walk

Back up to the railway line.

Devil's Bridge Walk

And then those bastards made us walk parallel this fairly level if steady climb in a strenuous up and down pattern that echoed the larger walk in microcosm. Until finally, with only once getting lost at the very brink of town, we arrived back.

Past the station and on to Three Bridges itself. Looking down.

Devil's Bridge Walk

A pound in the slot gets you through the old fashioned and terribly narrow iron-barred entrance. Look at this place, three generations of bridge built one upon the other.

Devil's Bridge Walk

The oldest built between 1075–1200, the second in 1753, and the third in 1901. The three of the span this incredible chasm.

Devil's Bridge Walk

Why devil’s bridge? The legend of the old woman who outwitted the devil himself — tragically at the expense of her loyal dog — can be found here. George Borrow wrote of it, Wordsworth too. I haven’t let Wordsworth ruin it though.

I had remembered this bridge from watching Y Gwyll, which I quite loved and have an immense desire to watch again now that I know these landscapes so much better.

We had no time for a pint. We boarded the train. And then failed to find a table at any of Aberystwyth’s fine dining establishments. We bought some wine at the Spar and had a glorious fish and chips sitting on a bench by the harbour.

Most wonderful.

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Hunting for Bluebells, Dunham Massey walk

I worried that moving north would make the tradition of bluebell hunting on my birthday much harder, and I was right, but on the 22nd of April we still found lots of them, though it seemed perhaps they weren’t quite at their height.

The walk from Altrincham to Durham Massey also wasn’t quite a country walk, but it had its moments.

From the town:

 Dunham Massey Walk

With its suspicious great-coated highwaymen and thieves:

Dunham Massey Walk

I confess, though, I love these few weeks when we get to walk softly through a world of flower petals:

Dunham Massey Walk

We had a bit of country lane before arriving at the deer park crawling with human beings (and a few highly indifferent deer):

Dunham Massey Walk

I confess I didn’t love the house (once belonging to the Earls of Warrington and then Stamford) so much as the old brick outbuildings — some of them from the original Elizabethan period I imagine, like the mill:

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

The stables (and everything being surrounded by such beautiful stretches of water really helps):

Dunham Massey Walk

These are places of work, unlike the ostentation of the house which is a thing of Empire. And if you weren’t sure, they immortalised a black figure right dead centre in front of it to remind you:

Dunham Massey Walk

Not a slave, the plaque is quick to proclaim, but a moor. Cemented into eternal service.

Durham Massey Walk

We were there for the bluebells though, I admit I should have chosen a wilder wood, with no memories of slavery and long stretches of bluebells to be stumbled across at will, but ah well. They were beautiful here none the less.

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

The other spring flowers were also stunning, they have truly done a wonderful job making this a winter/early spring garden with color lasting beyond all of the crocuses and most of the daffodils, but before many of the other flowers are yet out.

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

Dunham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

Late snowdrops:

Dunham Massey Walk

The new foliage of the trees:

Dunham Massey Walk

We walked back to Navigation Road station along the Bridgewater Canal.

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

Returning to both Victorian industrial splendour in the shape of these 1897 Linotype works (clearly being prepared for what I imagine will be more ugly luxury flats, but I am glad they are keeping the facades at least):

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

And some more modern splendours of ugliness:

Durham Massey Walk

Durham Massey Walk

We ended the day with Fast and Furious 8, which was a ridiculous and enjoyable as expected, though this AMC cinema always make me feel as though the apocalypse has already happened when we come in this entrance.

AMC

A grand day.

Marsden Moor

It’s spring, and that means finally a better chance to really get outside for a while, breathe deep, get out onto the moors with space all around. Happiness. We are so close now to moors and a little wildness, so close to the Peak District. A train ride away.

So today we took the train to Greenfield, and walked up along the canal to Diggle — that was crowded with Sunday walkers but nice.

Greenfield to Marsden

Above all, the pair of Labradors that continuously launched themselves in flying leaps into the canal. They were glorious. I saw the first leap, and as we continued walking we could hear a new splash behind us after every lock, turned around to see them happily swimming back to a laborious exit.

Diggle is where the canal goes underground — the longest, highest AND deepest canal in all the UK.

Greenfield to Marsden

We climbed up onto the Pennine Way, slowly leaving village, grass, and human beings behind us.

Greenfield to Marsden

We climbed part of the way through the detritus removed from the tunnels beneath us…not only the canal, but three different train tunnels dug at different points. The view looking back.

Greenfield to Marsden

Up to Brun Clough reservoir.

Greenfield to Marsden

And then up across the moors. Golden brown enough still with winter to warm any desert girl’s heart, a little too boggy for our trainers — this is the way not taken:

Greenfield to Marsden

This the old turnpike road we traveled:

Greenfield to Marsden

Final freedom of Marsden moor before the descent to green fields:

Greenfield to Marsden

Coming into Marsden:

Greenfield to Marsden

And finally, the picturesque dignity of sheep (I jest, you know I do, I know too much about sheep now):

Greenfield to Marsden

Greenfield to Marsden

Greenfield to Marsden

A delicious meal in the Brewery Riverhead Tap, and back on the train to Manchester. With a sigh I confess. We still have to go back to find the Roman road.

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Wells – Maesbury Castle – Beacon Hill – Fosse Way – Shepton Mallet

This was an amazing walk, glad I threw away the guide books and just made our own using the Os Explorer maps. We started out in Wells, climbed up Tor Hill, continued on to King’s Castle (we think we noticed the right ditches amidst the trees to mark the hill forts that once stood there, but it is hard to tell). We passed some strange bunkers and great blocks of concrete that would have made sense next to the channel but made no sense here. Up to Maesbury Hill Fort — Iron Age ditches marking a settlement and wonderful views out across the Mendips and to Glastonbury Tor. Then over to Little London (not much like London — there is a fascinating description of where this name comes from here — one of many scattered across the UK which they argue were set up by Welsh cattle drivers. There was clearly a brewery here once, dye-works, workers’ cottages. Now it seems like it’s just rich people with varying degrees of bad taste). From there we jumped onto the Roman Road (I find it so amazing to traverse a Roman road, and followed the Fosse Way up across Beacon Hill (tumuli, glorious trees, perhaps my favourite place of the day) then down into Shepton Mallet — that first view of it is so beautiful, but we quickly entered the industrial area and those buses aren’t too regular.

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Chewton Mendip and the Mendips

Not a terrible band, no, a lovely village on the edge of the beautiful Mendip hills. We got off the bus with a walk printed off the internet in hand, and off we went.

Actually, no, first we stopped at Lynda’s Loaf for pies and hot cross buns…and, well, we also got some eccles cakes. Because it was amazing, smelled like baking bread because that’s where they bake the bread, and everything looked delicious. And it was.

So off we went. This is the last ever walk we print off the internet. The instructions were bad, we walked through fascinating landscapes with no information and lost ourselves there several times.

We did learn that ‘combe’ mostly means ‘bog valley’. Still, it’s beautiful.  If we’d have had the OS map, we might have found the barrow, the cave known as the Attborough Swallet, known where the lead mine workings were, the lime kiln exactly. Next time.

We should also have looked up the church, unexpectedly beautiful and rich

Chewton Mendip Walk

Chewton Mendip Walk

Norman arch!

Chewton Mendip Walk

Being Good Friday we didn’t go in, but I regret it terribly now as wikipedia quotes Wade and Wade in their 1929 book “Somerset”:

The chancel contains the only extant specimen in Somerset of a frid stool, a rough seat let into the sill of the N. window of the sacrarium for the accommodation of anyone claiming sanctuary.

The countryside was beautiful today though, and we stumbled across these Dr Seussian clumpings of grass that made me happy indeed:

Chewton Mendip Walk

Chewton Mendip Walk

Chewton Mendip Walk

Waiting for the goddamn OS map to arrive to find out what they might be. Mine workings we think. Perhaps.

Then open space. Sky. Joy.

Chewton Mendip Walk

Chewton Mendip Walk

We got lost here. But I suppose it resulted in one of my favourite photographs, though I do want to kick that person who wrote this walk in the head.

Ill humour could not survive these guys though:

Chewton Mendip Walk

ZOMG LAMBS!

Chewton Mendip Walk

I fucking love lambs. And sheep too lazy to stand up.

Chewton Mendip Walk

And all of these sheep actually, even the grown ones. It makes a difference when you can’t actually see their vacant yellow eyes staring blankly at you, just the crazy hair that makes them look like a cross between the impossibly fluffy sheep and the victorious sheepdog from some of my favourite Wile E. Coyote cartoons:

Chewton Mendip Walk

It was all downhill from there.

Chewton Mendip Walk

Literally and figuratively. Despite this:

Chewton Mendip Walk

There was only one dog on puppy lane, and he was no puppy, though bless him.

Chewton Mendip Walk

And it being a holiday, the pub closed early. So no pints for us to toast achey limbs and sore feet. Because this is the first walk in a long while. But yay spring.

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The framing of space at Haddon Hall

Starting from Bakewell, walking over the hills first to Magpie Mine and then past two tumuli in a lonely field, we gradually approached Haddon Hall.

Haddon Hall

Unlike later massive buildings of larger wealth and ostentation like Chatsworth, Tudor buildings, even the large ones like Haddon Hall, seem to retain their human scale. From their website:

Described by Simon Jenkins in “1000 Best Houses” as “the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages”. Set in the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park, parts of the house date from the 12th Century, sitting like a jewel in its Elizabethan terraced gardens, and overlooking the River Wye.

I can’t say I disagree with any of that. It survived mostly because the family went to live somewhere more grand, and only visited occasionally, thus preserving it from any destruction – reconstruction for purposes of even more arrogant display.

My favourite part was the Haddon Hall Chapel, white walls drawn upon in the 15th Century. the designs still enchant, and the whole is a lovely example of sacred peaceful space.

Haddon Hall Chapel

Haddon Hall Chapel

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Reading Cullen or thinking about Alexander’s Pattern Language helped break down just what it is about this place that created such a sacred space far deeper than that simply created by putting a cross on a wall — the feeling of light and space given by high white walls — and the thickness of those walls, finely crafted windows as deep wells of stone letting in much light, old wood carved with love and skill, the beautiful timber ceiling, the seeming simplicity of the space, but broken up and framed in numerous ways by wooden partitions, these framings changing as your moved, and lovely corners you could not see without movement, the surprise they gave.

The beautiful and detailed drawings in black and white. The fashion for them long gone but these have survived. You feel you are glimsping a different way of relating to the world and a different vision of faith through their lines.

Haddon Hall itself was much the same. The courtyard is simply lovely, a place that invites you to spend time in it:

Haddon Hall

A little grand for me, but wood paneling brings such warmth to a room, and these stone steps were unique and wonderful:

Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall

I loved the blocks and the shape to this fireplace, and oh the wooden roofs. Maybe it’s having grown up with a roof of wood but there is something about them I think, that brings the natural world into a room and creates a feeling that your are being held somehow:

Haddon Hall

The older parts of the house have lovely thick walls, old battered doors, climbing roses and herbs. This entrance was rather swoony…

Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall

Beautiful strips of garden — I was just sad the kitchen gardens have not survived because those are what I love most of all:

Haddon Hall

But the mysteries of the kitchens remain:

Haddon Hall

Also remaining are fascinating spaces created over various periods of construction, like this one, created by the building of a defensive wall:

Haddon Hall

I also loved their little collection of things discovered hidden away long ago and left by their owners, inlcuding copious amounts of dice and some playing cards:

20150827_162607_001

This is a beautiful, welcoming space. Wealth had much to do with that, of course, and there are some of the rooms where you just can’t forget that with their tiresome (though still beautifully crafted) repetitions of family crests — peacocks and boars dressed in frilly ruffs. Everywhere peacocks and boars, at their worst when monumental.

Haddon Hall

But given its age and organic growing over time, it is again a place of odd corners, sudden surprises, always beautiful craftsmenship of workers who seemed to love the works emerging through their labour. The tiny diamond window panes are shaped and curved to maximise the sun, I have never heard of such a wonderful thing. They frame the gardens and the view of the peaks.

Even the tapestries had some lovely touches, and I don’t usually care for tapestries.

Haddon Hall

Monkees and serpents and bagpipe monsters!

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Romans & Socialists, Caerleon & Newport

We began our Sunday (not last Sunday either, but the Sunday before) in Newport. A bit grim, Newport. What is not permanently shut down is shut down for the Sunday…but there are burgeoning signs of life and it is the kind of place I like to imagine arriving at its possibilities of beauty and full employment and a bustling centre catering to the needs of its current residents. This probably will not happen under capitalism as we know it.

Newport

Cupcakes may be a good start, and this arcade could contribute to that start — it would certainly be a better one that the desultory big apartment box development of seemingly even shittier quality than London’s ‘luxury flats along the Thames’, though that seems hard to fathom.

Newport

We stood in front of this entance waiting for the bus that would take us to Caerleon, only £1 and 15 minutes away. It was beautiful, unexpected and beautiful.

Caerleon, Wales

The two small, but quite wonderful museums of Roman life there were not unexpected. I knew this had been a centre for Roman troops, that a huge bath complex had existed here, villas, barracks, and an amphitheater. Nothing had quite prepared me for how cool, and empty, the amphitheater was.

Caerleon, Wales

Caerleon, Wales

Nor did I have any idea that Arthur Machen, Arthur Machen of A London Adventure, or the Art of Wandering as well as of The Imposters was born here, though he left when he was two for a village named Llanddewi Fach five miles away. Arthur Machen who I quite adore.

Caerleon, Wales

His house even has one of these, built since he lived there of course, but I imagine using the same cellars:

Caerleon, Wales

We didn’t get reservations at the restaurant in the nice and ancient priory next door, but did have a pint in the lovely Hanbury Inn, where, by the way, Tennyson began work on ‘Idylls of the King’:

Caerleon, Wales

There were chartists here too, of course, but the plaque mentioning them is more about the walls built to defend against them. Only a bit of that is still standing, thank god.

Caerleon, Wales

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We couldn’t dally, we walked back to Newport. A walk partially along the river, partially along the motorway, strong in contrasts and industrial grit but also some pigs. I like those walks if I’m honest.

Caerleon To Newport, Wales

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And then? Fish & chips, delicious fish & chips in the Harbour fish bar, and then to see friend Fox and Thee Faction, and my new music crush, Helen Love at a fundraising gig in Le Pub as part of the We Shall Overcome weekend — from Thee Faction’s website:

The weekend acknowledges two things. First, it acknowledges the horrendous dismantling of society that the Tories have been pursuing. We have never been so socially insecure since before 1945. There is no safety net we can reliably fall back on. Everything is precarious. So everyone is a failed pay cheque or two away from absolute destitution. And that means that an enormous number of us are already there. Secondly, it acknowledges that every night socially and politically conscious musicians are busy, in ones, twos, threes, fours, playing in pubs and clubs across the land, doing their bit and making a little bit of noise to a relatively small number of people.

Comrade Joe Solo has done phenomenal work to piece this whole thing together. There are well over 200 events happening, under one fist.

Cool to be a little piece of something like that.

Newport

Newport

Newport

I keep realising I leave it too long between gigs, great music, pints, awesome pubs like this one, and toilets that entertain.

Newport

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Chatsworth

We started in Bakewell, beautiful Bakewell with pies that taste the way you always dreamed pies should taste, and the tarts are quite nice as well.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

We climbed up and up, past some grandstanding llamas and into some beautiful woods, here we are off our planned route and well into our several-mile accidental diversion:

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

I loved most the Carlton Pastures, with Bronze Age tumuli dotting their great expanses, the dead overlooking the views from the hill tops.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

We continued to pass an inordinate amount of sheep clustered ominously under the trees — it did indeed rain.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

Finally to Chatsworth itself — a great change from glorious rolling hills and the grounding of farms and livestock, or the evocative tumuli of ancestors who lived very different lives, much harder lives than we do. Here it sits, a great square presence on the river Derwent. It is meant to look like wealth and power, and look like wealth and power it does.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

Here it is from above, looking down from the pastures. You have to remember that this is a landscape sculpted and shaped to accentuate its great romantic sweeps and, of course, the wealth and power of its owners. First by gardener Capability Brown, and then by Joseph Paxton, an immense amount of money and labour have been expended to create a landscape that tries demurely to appear natural as though no such thing took place. This is one of that plural noun hatred of gardens that I have expended venom on before. Funny how many of them are in the Peak District, Keddleston Hall is just around the corner, vying with this one. I did want to see how it sat within its landscape, and the walk was worth it.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

Of course the Duke of Devonshire trumped almost everyone by the removal of the local village that once sat along the Derwent. He rebuilt it with the help of Joseph Paxton (who built the Crystal Palace in my own patch, who also built a remarkable conservatory for the Duke, demolished in 1920). Rumour has it that the Duke himself sat with a pattern book and picked out a different pattern for each of the homes there.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

It bothered Mark and I that it was this picturesque, and undoubtedly the homes were of better quality than those that had been lost and lives thus improved. But in the end this seemed to add insult to injury, because these lives were thus put on display when ancestral homes were moved at a whim and the Duke able to show off his philanthropy and his taste to his friends, his dependents become showpieces.

We left that place, set off into a misting kind of rain that helped erase the ugliness of unchecked power and massive gaudy aristocratic bling. We headed to see the Ball Cross Iron Age hillfort, which sat overlooking the valley though the view is now obscured by trees.

Bakewell to Chatsworth Walk

A great walk all in all, whatever your feelings about Dukes and things, and Bakewell is very well served by public transport.

And did I mention that steak and stilton pie? I dream of it still…from the Bakewell Pudding Shop.

Bakewell To Chatsworth And Back

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Magpie Lead Mine

These beautiful hills on the south edge of the Peak District did not only see the beginning of the Industrial Revolution through silk and cotton mills or serve as a centre for the quarrying of stone, but have also been a key source for lead. Most of the mining traces are gone, those jobs that kept body and soul together for so many gone with them.

Not entirely a bad thing. Lead kills those who mine it, those who work it, and causes severe brain damage to children who eat paint chips or inhale its dust.
Around Cromford

We fought it in Los Angeles, where slum buildings contain layers upon layers of brightly-coloured environmental disaster. I have spent years talking about lead, trying to get it remediated, working with families whose children suffer from its effects.

I never gave much thought to where the lead was from, how it was worked. Funny blindspot given my dad’s work for the copper mines, our mining claims filed with the BLM.

On holiday we stumbled across the The Peak District Lead Mining Museum, where the above picture is from. The best thing, and rather an anomalous thing, in Matlock Bath (the Paignton of the North, and not our thing at all on a summer weekend). I quite loved it, and as we were alone to enjoy the exhibit much of the time (having missed the tour of the actual mine across the road), we got to crawl through the narrow spaces designed to recreate the experience of being in the mine. Probably it is mostly for children, and many children went down those mines, and adults stunted by poverty and malnutrition. We were a little big for them, but they were brilliant none the less.

I loved too the bits of history found here, the old equipment brought here by the immense effort of teams of volunteers. Like home in Arizona, people love these old mines and the rusting hulks of ingenious machinery built to work them despite the suffering of working them. I share this love too, from my dad, and divided feelings of deep admiration for the men who went down into these dark and dangerous places and the work that they did there, and the hatred for the cost of it in suffering and environmental degradation for the profit of a few.

But I love the stories miners tell, and I’ve heard more than one say how much they miss that life underground. But they weren’t mining lead.

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Almost all traces of the lead mines that once covered this part of the country are gone — all that remains are pits in the ground, old foundations and walls. We saw a picture of Magpie Mine here, though, and decided to try and get there if the weather was kind.

And it was.

We came up through Bakewell, across fields impossible in shape (hard on the legs too)

Mag[ie Mine Walk

and impossible in number of peas

Mag[ie Mine Walk

And then we saw it

Magpie Lead Mine

Magpie lead mine was worked for over 250 years — the steel cage taking miners down the shaft is from the 1950s, but the first engine dates back to 1840 and of course, some of the stonework even earlier. In 1881 they completed a sough of 1 3/4 miles to drain the mine workings into the river Wye, 8 years it took to build.

All of it now ruins, picturesque against the sky. Again I am divided at its undeniable beauty, and all that it has meant both as a place that gave life through labour and took it away through the conditions of that labour, and the lead that must have come home with the miners in the folds of their clothes and the grime on their faces to poison their families who weren’t themselves down the mine …

Magpie Lead Mine

Bakewell To Magpie Mine And Back

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