5 places in the Yorkshire Peak District that you should visit
PUBLISHED: 09:14 10 September 2019
Mike Smith travels over the border to explore a remote expanse of the national park, considered to be one of its most beautiful.
Those of us who live in Derbyshire rightly regard the Peak District National Park as one of our county's greatest assets, but it would be wrong of us to be too precious about our wonderful park, because parts of it are located in the neighbouring counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.
One particularly scenic area of the national park that stretches from The Strines Inn to Dunford Bridge is located entirely in Yorkshire.
Here are some notable locations in the area.
The Strines Inn
The Strines Inn, established in 1771 by the conversion of a manor house dating from 1225, is reached by turning off the A57 trans-Pennine road a few miles east of Ladybower Reservoir and following a lonely road over the moors towards Bradfield Dale. Although the moorland isolation of the hostelry brings to mind the manor house in Conan Doyle's gothic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles, the sound that is likely to greet visitors to the inn is not the howling of an enormous hound but the shrill cry of a peacock.
Accounting for this unexpected greeting, landlady Rachael Boyd said, 'When Bruce Howarth and I acquired the inn 16 years ago, we inherited a few peacocks left by the previous owners. Over the years, the number of birds has multiplied until we now have 30 peacocks roaming our grounds. In addition to the presence of these exotic birds, our inn is known for its hearty food, especially our steak and ale pie, real ales and what we believe is the best coffee for miles around. Our guest rooms are en-suite and have four-poster beds, as well as dining tables where breakfast can be served in privacy.'
Beyond the inn, the moorland road makes its way eventually to Low Bradfield, a settlement still associated with a tragic event that took place on 11th March 1864. Throughout the afternoon of that fateful day, a great storm blew across Bradfield Moor whipping up the waters of the recently completed Dale Dyke Reservoir into giant waves that began crashing against the dam's retaining wall. When a crack began to appear in the embankment, the reservoir engineer and contractor were summoned.
As soon as the two men arrived in Bradfield, they began making frantic efforts to reduce the pressure on the retaining wall of the reservoir by using gunpowder to blow a hole in the waste-water outlet. All to no avail, because the crack in the embankment quickly developed into a huge gash. Six-hundred million gallons of water burst out of the dam and headed down the Loxley Valley towards the city of Sheffield. At least 240 people lost their lives, almost 4,000 buildings were flooded and many were destroyed - a chilling reminder of the sort of catastrophe that could have occurred after the recent partial collapse of the dam wall at Whaley Bridge.
One hundred and fifty five years on from that day of dreadful turbulence, the wide valley floor in Low Bradfield is the centrepiece of one of the most charming scenes in the Peak District, because it has been fashioned into a carefully-maintained green area at the heart of the village. The flat surface of the valley, which is used by the local cricket and bowling clubs, is overlooked on one side by a picturesque pile of hillside village houses and on the other side by the former schoolroom, now a family- and walker-friendly café, also available for private dining and bistro evenings. The Schoolroom Café has garden seating, award-winning fine foods, single estate wines and local ales.
At the southern edge of the wide valley floor, there is a delightful set piece comprising an arched road bridge, a resident colony of ducks and a stream that flows over stepping stones. On the northern edge of the cricket field, there stands the village hall, where lots of regular activities take place. At the time of my visit, the members of a yoga class were being put through their paces by their teacher, Janet Siddall.
Further evidence of the vitality of the village is the continuing existence of 'Bradfield's Original Village Store and Post Office', owned by Heather Tingle. Samantha Bower, who was serving in the shop on the day of my visit, said, 'We look upon the store as the hub of the village. We stock groceries, local produce, fresh sandwiches, "Our Cow Molly" dairy ice cream and homemade cakes, including carrot cake and brownies, which are particular favourites. And our little café is a popular place for villagers and visitors to pop in for a chat and a cup of tea or coffee.'
A steep lane leads from Low Bradfield to High Bradfield, where the large church of St Nicholas stands on a shelf located 850 feet above sea-level. The Grade I-listed building contains a Norman font and 17 stained glass windows. A leaflet available in the church claims, with ample justification: 'The beauty of the church is matched by the breath-taking views of an awe-inspiring part of England's green and pleasant land.'
A battlemented building at the gates of the graveyard was built in 1745 as a watch-house where a nightly guard was employed to prevent bodies being stolen for medical experiments. The tall, stately houses in adjacent Jane Street, including Church Cottage with its eye-catching miniature topiary tableau, are leased by the Bradfield Feoffees Estate Charity. At the foot of the street, the Old Horns Inn serves fresh homecooked food on a daily basis, with a carvery operating on Sundays. The pub has a well-used function room and its outdoor terrace and beer garden command the same beautiful views of the Peak District as those seen from the churchyard.
No one appreciates the qualities of this northern part of the Peak District more than Gordon Danks, who retired recently after serving as a National Park ranger for the area since 1985. He says, 'In my eyes, this remote stretch of the Peak is the best part of the National Park. From summer into autumn a cladding of heather transforms the moors into an area of great beauty.'
The local office of the National Park is located in Langsett Barn, a large agricultural barn built over 400 years ago as a 'post and truss' structure. The barn stands close to Langsett Reservoir and has a large car parking area, much used by visitors who come to the area to enjoy walks on the moors and in the lush woodland on the edge of the lake. Visitors can also join guided rambles designed to give participants a greater insight into local historical events, such as the great dam disaster of 1864 and the dastardly activities of the body snatchers.
The last hamlet in Yorkshire's Peak District is Dunford Bridge, an isolated moorland settlement located six miles north west of Langsett at the eastern end of the three-mile long Woodhead Tunnel, built in 1845 to provide the first rail link between Manchester and Sheffield. The tiny village is now a place where walkers and cyclists following the Trans Pennine Trail can take a welcome break on their journey over the moors.
A sculpture in the area once occupied by Dunford Bridge's railway station is one of several works of art sited on the trail. These striking installations were created by four professional artists commissioned by Barnsley Museums to celebrate the selection of Yorkshire for the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France, when the Côte de Jenkin Road (a steep suburban street in Sheffield) became almost as famous as the notoriously challenging climb to the summit of Mont Ventoux!