Stanton Moor Night Hike, and a drink in the Druid Inn

A hike with a difference, to walk in the dark!

This was something that was born out of conversations between some members of the Walkers Forum, where four of us went for a wander around Birchover in the White Peak, and on to Stanton Moor.

For me, it was nothing new to wander in the dark, I’ve spent a good few hours on night nav courses and I’ve learnt over time what I need for night vision and what I can safely get away with.

Before I go any further, night hiking can be fraught with hazards, mainly due to the greatly reduced vision enhanced further if you don’t know the area.

For those not familiar with night hiking or even have poor navigational skills, I fully recommend trying a night nav course. You’ll learn a lot about navigation and also pick up tips on what to use equipment wise, share experiences with the course instructor and others in your group, and more importantly, try something new under controlled conditions.

Another thing to consider is carrying a spare headtorch, for it’s not easy to search for batteries in the dark!

A snowy Stanton Moor in the dark, January 2013


I usually carry two headtorches, and if I know or feel I could end up walking in the dark, while there’s good light, I’ll slip both headtorches somewhere quick and easy to get without messing around in my pack.

The spare will stay in the quick access should I need it in an emergency, again, to remove the need to fumble around in the dark.

For those new to reading my blogs, if you want to see what I carry in my pack, have a look at What's in my pack? which lists many of the items I carry.

I normally carry two headtorches in my pack
But three are on display here


A point to consider, before walking anywhere new or strange in the dark, it would be wisest to walk the route in daylight so you can familiarise yourself with the terrain and hazards. Remember, what might not be a hazard in daylight, could be a major hazard in the dark!

Another tip, take someone who is experienced with walking in the dark, preferably in the same area you’re interested in walking in. While its nice to have an exciting adventure, safety has to be paramount.

I’m no stranger to walking on Stanton Moor, having spent many hours there as a child and adult. Stanton Moor has often been a testing area for new kit and other outdoor related activities and also as a parent, taking my son there on many occasions. One such occasion was when my son was around four years old, and as all children, he was very inquisitive of my days spent on the moor and  also it was his first insight in to map reading.

Not that he was able to fully comprehend map reading, but he was fascinated by it and insisted on carrying the map for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s a good job I know the paths on Stanton Moor!

I’ve already written two blogs covering Stanton Moor, Alport to Stanton Moor; Sunday 4th March 2012 and Stanton Moor on a snowy Sunday and no doubt there will be some more to come in time, for it’s a place I find a lot of tranquillity and can find a quiet place to relax, or relax in the public eye and enjoy conversation or just watching the world go by.

Anyway, I’ve digressed too much, back to the night hike.

After some discussion, it was decided to go ahead with the night hike, but the question was where.

I had considered Stanton Moor, where the paths are generally very good, even in the wet. It is a small area of moorland and more importantly, I’m very familiar with the moor and its paths, both in the light and dark.

A conversation with Kerry, who was organising the night hike, who is no stranger to the Peaks and a competent navigator, had also considered Stanton Moor.

I've walked with Kerry once before, earlier this year when we walked up Win Hill from Bamford, via Hope, covered in Bamford, Hope and Win Hill

So the planning started, late October I took a wander on to Stanton Moor to double check a route and check on some old paths I’ve not walked for a long time.

It was just as well I did, for some fencing had erected since I last wandered that part of the moor.

So I plotted a possible route, alternatives and escape routes, along with part of a route alongside some quarries. These were colour coded and marked on a map as BLACK, the intended route, BLUE and LIGHT BLUE for alternative and escape routes should anyone have reservations or suddenly feel uncertain or even headtorch failure!

Then, a RED route was marked on the map, which walked relatively close to some disused quarry edges. Now because I had marked it as a red route, didn’t mean don’t walk there in the dark, it meant walk with extra care because of the disused quarries and steep drops.

This information was shared Kerry who then plotted a route encompassing  as a starting point, Rowtor Rocks and a nice circuit around the east side of Birchover, entering Stanton Moor near to Barn Farm.

Rowtor Rocks
The date for the night hike was set, Saturday 8th November with a reserve the following Saturday, the 15th, should the weather prove unsuitable.

As luck had it, the weather was about perfect on the 8th.

Four of us met at the Druid Inn, Birchover for 15:30, time enough to start the walk in reasonable light and allow ourselves to gradually become accustomed to the dark, walking. The four, Kerry, Don, Steve and myself. I guess really, I should say five, for there was Steve’s very well behaved dog, Flash, who also walked with us.

Our first call was to Rowtor Rocks, right next to the Druid Inn. Rowtor Rocks has a network of caves, almost like summer Victorian houses. We crawled though from one cave in to the next, then back outside and climb to a seat carved in to the rocks, quite high on Rowtor Rocks, with commanding views over the White Peak spanning between Bakewell to Rowsley.


Exploring the caves in Rowtor Rocks

Kerry, Steve and Dom looking at spiders eggs in one of the cave walls!
On a good clear day, those views would be stunning, but we had fast fading light and low cloud.

Kerry trying out the stone carved seat on Rowtor Rocks

The view from the stone carved seat on Rowtor Rocks

Back down to the road that runs down to St Michael’s Church, Birchover, down towards Rocking Stone Farm. Incidentally, Rocking Stone Farm was named after the Rocking Stone, a large boulder weighing around 40 tonnes, which is supposed to have a megalithic relevance.

Incidentally, Stanton Moor and a large portion of the surrounding area does have a lot of megalithic portals, along with many other areas in the Peak District.

Another not too far away place is Big Moor and White Edge Moor, an area I walked in June 2013 and covered in Froggatt Edge, Big Moor and some Stone Circles.

Stoke Flat Stone Circle on Big Moor
 At times, it was a bit of a muddy walk, but then any walk with Kerry, often entails a good mud path, or should I say bath!

Mud!
But not on the moor.....
It was a pleasant stroll with a nice gradual ascent from Barn Farm on to Stanton Moor, where the access almost straight across Lees Road.

From there we walked up to Gorse Stone Rock. At that point we put on our headtorches, before walking up to Gorse Stone Rock.

Time to get headtorches on

Walking up Gorse Stone Rock
The area around Gorse Stone Rock was excavated along with many other parts of Stanton Moor, where archaeologist Percy Heathcote, had imagined this stone as the gorsedd-dau where Druids would speak to the masses gathered below. Almost like a Pulpit.

While up on Gorse Stone Rock, we enjoyed the early evening views, in the dark, across to Matlock, Darley Dale and around. Being the nearest Saturday to Bonfire Night, we were looking out for firework displays, but it was a little too early in the evening for that.


Matlock from Gorse Stone Rock



Looking over to Matlock from Gorse Stone Rock


Back down to the path, we then turned right to head for the Cat Stone. The Cat Stone is basically a boulder, which if you view it from the right angle, could look like a cats head!

Not only can it look like a cats head, but it also is supposed to have a megalithic relevance!

You can even climb the Cat Stone, using foot holds in the rock, which Steve did.

Approaching Cat Stone


Steve climbing the Cat Stone
 
But beware, you are close to quite a steep drop from the moor, so exercise care when climbing or just walking around.

After mooching around the Cat Stone, we backtracked to the outer path, turned right and headed for Earl Grey Tower.

Earl Grey Tower is basically just a Foley, a tower or structure built with no real purpose other than to show the land owners financial prowess and sometimes provide a retreat with views.



Walking around Earl Grey Tower


After a wander around Earl Grey Tower, we crossed the style and followed the path in a North Westerly direction and headed for the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.



Earl Grey Tower


On approaching the Nine Ladies Stone Circle, we were greeted by a bright torch beam. It was just a single torch beam, from someone feeling curious as to who would be wandering around in the dark.

That person turned out to be an amateur photographer, playing around with light and taking photographs experimenting with different types of light.

As a keen amateur photographer myself, it’s something I’ve done, but not overly impressively.

Kerry, Dom and Steve looking at the photographers camera

Nine Ladies Stone Circle, at night...
The Nine Ladies, or sometimes called the Nine Maidens, is definitely a megalithic feature, a stone circle with a King Stone, just off to a westerly direction, to mark the point where the sun sets on Midsummers Day.

Legend has it that nine maidens were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath!

But I think that is pure legend, for there are actually TEN stones, with the tenth revealing itself during the drought of 1976.

The tenth stone, lying flat on the ground, is visible on the left of the stone circle, in the photograph below.



The Nine Ladies Stone Circle,
showing the Tenth Stone and its positioning in relation to the King Stone





Moving on, we walked past the King Stone and headed for the boundary fence, following the clearly defined footpath, where we started to head in an easterly direction, back towards Birchover.


...."we walked past the King Stone"....


This path took us through the quarries, but also close to some steep drops, but a very interesting route it was, even in the dark.

Once past the quarries and heading back on to one of the main paths, I noticed I had dropped my camera. Not a clever thing to do at the best of times, let alone in the dark!

Steve and Dom looking in to one of the many disused quarries

This was the view they had, at night!
 
Not to waste time, as I had been logging the route, I used my GPS to backtrack our route and quickly found my camera.

The camera, a Pentax WG-3, a waterproof and shockproof camera, is normally kept on a lanyard, because the pouch I keep it in isn’t very secure, even though it is the perfect size.

I recall taking it off the lanyard to take a specific photo, but obviously never reattached the lanyard. More care needed next time, or I may not be so lucky.

Headtorches in the distance.....


Once on the main path, we turned right and headed for the Cork Stone, which isn’t too far from our intended departure point from the moor and back to Birchover.

However, a brief stop there resulted in Steve having yet another climb, up the Cork Stone!

The Cork Stone

Steve climbing the Cork Stone


After a few minutes there, we headed back on to the moor and for the Trig Point, which on a clear day gives some commanding views around the White Peak. Even in the dark, we had some good views and also, started to see some fireworks, nearby and also in the distance!

Kerry, Dom and Steve at the Trig Point on Stanton Moor

A cairn, close to the Trig Point


After some time chatting and taking in the views, it was time to move on. Back to the main path, passing a cairn near to the Trig, turning left, heading for the Cork Stone again and our exit from the moor.

We soon got on to Birchover Road, walked in an easterly direction towards Stanton Park Quarry, where we picked up the public footpath through the carp park on our right, opposite, the quarry.

Following the footpath in to a wooded area, it was a nice steady descent down in to Birchover, bringing us out across the road from the Druid Inn, our final stop before home.

Map showing the route taken


I can thoroughly recommend a post walk drink in the Druid Inn, and we also enjoyed a couple of bowls of chips, not on the menu, but the Landlord was more than happy to oblige.

After a good post walk chat, drink and chips, it was time to head for home, after a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying walk.


A post walk drink, and chips, in the Druid Inn, Birchover
Being a first night hike for the Walkers Forum, we can honestly say, it was an enjoyable success and a new experience for some, walking in the dark.

Thank you to Kerry for organising the walk, and to Steve and Dom for joining in, and not forgetting Flash, Steve’s very well behaved dog, who also seemed to enjoy his night hike too.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,

Peak Rambler

Twitter           @PeakRambler
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Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:
What's in my pack?
Froggatt Edge, Big Moor and some Stone Circles
Alport to Stanton Moor; Sunday 4th March 2012
Stanton Moor on a snowy Sunday
Bamford, Hope and Win Hill

2 comments:

  1. Always good fun exploring areas you know in the dark!

    Don't know about Rowter Rocks though, they've always felt positively evil to me.....!

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    Replies
    1. Definitely.

      You may be aware that Stanton Moor not only has a stone circle, but quite a collection of cairns and burial mounds. That is quite commonplace for the surrounding area.

      Across the B5056, you've got Robin Hoods Stride, not far from there is another stone circle, called Nine Stones.

      Up on Big Moor, and White Edge Moor near Curbar, there are four relatively obvious stone circles, with more not so obvious.

      Quite an active megalithic playground....

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