A journey through time to the Eastern Moors of the early 20th century
Musings on the evolution of the landscape since the time of the Clarion Ramblers club, by Alan Jacques
Volunteer patrol ranger Alan compares extracts from the Clarion Ramblers Club handbooks to compare their relevance to us today. To read Alan's blog post introducing this feature, click here.
20th April 2020
Froggatt Edge and Vandalism – from 1952/3 SCR Handbook.
"Walking one mile along Froggatt Edge Drive, from the main road, beyond the White’s Fields (cleared by the Whites of Grouse Inn post 1823) and the little reservoir within them, and not 50 yards short of another similar field (Gregory’s of Curbar) we see three large surface “daystones”one with a topper resembling a tortoise. The drive passes between two of these and another on the left.
The Stone Table. Here, a few yards from the drive (right) and a few yards short of a large “daystone”on the Edge, in late April 1951 you would have seen a stone-table on two rough pedestals, each 2ft high, 15ins. Wide and about 8ins. Thick. Upon them was a rough rock table-stone, crudely oblong, narrowing at one end. The measurement is 5ft.9ins. long3ft. wide in average about 8ins. thick and weighing about 10cwts? On the upper surface of the “table” was neatly carved in letters of about 1in. a “WBC”, which might be read as “WBD”.
Apparently, this, and the other carvings hereabouts were done to celebrate the names of some prominent persons, or a guest, in the Duke of Rutland’s shooting parties.
Between April and September 1951, more than one two-legged “swine” upset this “table”. It now lies on the ground, face downwards, showing the mason’s rough levellings - to prevent a rickety table – and not 18ins. from the two still standing pedestals. It would require two men, with tools, to re-fix it.”
White’s Fields are still farmed, but there is no longer a little reservoir within them, although they often winter flooded. Gregory’s Field is on the left where the path on the right leads down to the Chequers Inn and the boundary walls were skilfully repaired a few years ago.
The site of The “Stone Table” is beyond the gate at Brookside Butress at the climbing area called Pinacle Boulders. It is still “upset” close to the pedestals, and remains in situ, see the not too clear photograph. There are several carved initials in this area, RWMN, EFD, also a reclining seat carved into a rock. Its good fun hunting for them!
The derogatory terms describing the vandals sounds a bit archaic now, but Ward would not have used foul language.
Some other events happened between April and September in 1951. The Peak District National Park was set up under the National Parks and Countryside Act – and I was born!
With regard finding two men, with tools, required to re-fix the table. Any volunteers when we return from lockdown?
14th April 2020
Baslow’s Big Moor Part Two – from 1927/28 Handbook.
“Big Moor was, in the days of commons pasturage, a moor crossed by half a dozen ancient bridleways. It stretches from the road between Owler Bar and the Wooden Pole and down to the Grouse Inn, then along Froggatt Edge to Curbar Gap, down Curbar Lane to the Sheffield-Baslow Road and so back to Owler Bar. One could almost add the stretch of Eaglestone Flat between Baslow and Blackstone Edge.
Its eastern neighbours, the flat Ramsley Moor and the boggy Leash Fen, are parted by the Baslow Road and similarly, they are dreary flat stretches on the southeast side above Gardom’s Edge and Birchen Edge, towards Clod Hall Farm and above the Robin Hood Inn.
The city creeps moor-wards and everywhere the new standard of about 12 houses to the acre claims much of the best valley land and will continue to do so. The higher land thus becomes more valuable and many changes are coming – some, it is fervently hoped, not before they are appreciated.
The moors today are private property and rights are strictly guarded and yet one may hope that those who desire to investigate and enjoy (them) may be given the opportunity to follow some of these ancient tracks and obtain a picture of the past which were everyday form of travel before 1781 and did not pass out of general usage, as roads, until the opening of the Sheffield-Baslow Road in 1818.”
Bert Wards’ geographical description of Big Moor pretty much stands up today and we will all have some sympathy with his dismissive remarks about Ramsley and Leash Fen.
The image of the city creeping moor-wards sounds rather sinister and I imagine tentacles of housing spreading up from Totley, Fulwood and Ecclesall to envelope the Eastern Moors!
Exactly what the “many changes are coming – some, it is fervently hoped, not before they are appreciated” alludes to is open to speculation. Did Ward, writing in 1927, foresee the designation of the Peak District National Park in 1951?
Similarly, does he predict the Right to Roam and CROW Act when he states one may hope that those who desire to investigate and enjoy (them) may be given the opportunity to follow some of these ancient tracks?
It is sobering to think that access was so limited in Wards time and to note that even 10 years after Wards article was published, the public were forbidden to walk along Curbar and Froggatt Edges by the Public Utilities.
Thanks to this gentleman, GHB Ward, we are so lucky today!
8th April 2020
Baslow’s Big Moor – from 1927/28 Handbook.
“It is big and brown, wide and drear, featureless and lonely, flat and boggy as any moor in Peakland, and yet, to those of us who know it intimately, full of interest, and, in treading of it, verily, a big man’s moor. Big Moor is a modern name, as, before the Holmesfield and Baslow Enclosure Acts, it was and indeed still is, known in parts as Curbar, Bubnell and Froggatt ‘commons’ or moors. But big has absorbed the small, and the common is a memory only recalled by the native who has a family history going down to the days when every freeholder and farmer had some portion of the common pastureage and a dozen or more shepherds tended unlimited numbers of sheep and young cattle during the ‘summering’ days. Then, verily, the moors produced meat and wool”
I think it fair to say that Wards’ first descriptions of the moor are still true today, but the not very PC comment about it being a large masculine one will have to go.
In some ways it has come full circle, in so much as the enclosures, private and public utilities ownerships have ended, and it is again “common land” under the name of Open Access Land under the 2000 CROW Act.
We don’t come across many shepherds today, and there is no “common pasturage”, but the cattle are still there – but not necessarily to produce meat.
There is one huge difference today from the days of Ward and his Clarion Club, which I have never found a reference to in the Handbooks but is seen regularly on Big Moor now – Red Deer!