Posts Tagged ‘Derbyshire’

Gradbach Mill (day 2)

This is day 2 of a trip to a Youth Hostel (which opened in 1984) called Gradbach Mill. It seems like an odd name to me. Looking up the history tells us the name possibly comes from a Henry Gratebach mentioned as living in the area in 1374.

We decided on the full breakfast to start us off: orange juice, grapefruit, cereal, big fry-up, toast, & tea. We set off walking up the hill. Initially on the road we soon came to a turn off and began the cross country stuff. OS map in hand we were making for a village I’ve mentioned in a previous post but will keep it as a surprise for now. Here’s a narrow bridge over a stream


Then just a bit further on a TV aerial attached to a drystone wall. We couldn’t immediately see which house might be using it but closer inspection revealed the wire to it was broken. It does show how difficult it is to get reception in the area and the lengths people will go to to try and get a signal. (You might remember I mentioned that the hostel didn’t have any for TV, phones or PC.)

After crossing a few more fields we were onto tarmac for a short while. The road had been resurfaced recently and there was a 10mph speed limit sign. Here it is.


This gentleman had obviously fallen over. We deduced he had probably been running and therefore exceeded the speed limit causing him to end up flat on the road. (He seems to be pointing at the sign to warn us.) We thanked him and moved on. There wasn’t time to help him but we hoped he was ok.

Across a few more fields and we were nearing our target. Here’s the sign


Yes, it’s the sign for a village called Flash. If you remember the post from 10.4.13 (I is for interesting) you will know that this is the village whose height above sea level has been measured and found to be the highest in England and in fact the whole UK. We wondered what to expect but set off on the 1 mile to get there indicated by the sign; not surprisingly it was all uphill! The edge of the village is some way out from the houses and here’s the sign. Shortly after, a cyclist went past us and we almost felt as if we should be cheering and running alongside like they do in the Tour De France and maybe shouting Allez-allez. We didn’t.image

And a little further on in the village itself we saw this sign on the wall of the pub


Yes that’s right – the highest pub in the British Isles. If you need an edge that’s not a bad one is it? After 2 hours walking across fields, up hill and down dale we were ready for a quick stop: a drink in the highest pub in the UK would be nice. We knocked on the door and were told that it didn’t open till 4pm! (It was 10.58am.) There are some who believe the term “flash money” comes from the alleged counterfeiting of banknotes in the village. It’s a nice idea and seems to fit but it’s probably an inference made from a novel (Flash) written in 1928 by Judge Alfred Ruegg rather than historical facts.

The next building was the old schoolhouse.


And a little bit further


Of course there’s no “new” police station.

We carried on and came to the local primary school. Here’s the sign.


Now read that motto under the logo at the top: ‘Reaching Ever Higher’. Remember where we are – the highest village in the UK! I liked that. However after a bit of research and a conversation with a local person we found out that the school was actually closed. Apparently, in Sept 2012, the school roll fell from 7 in 2011 to zero pupils and the school closed at the end of Dec 2012. The local council said that in the last 10 years only one child had been born in the catchment area. Property prices also meant it was difficult to attract younger families to the area. The village had had a school for over 250 years (since 1760) so very sad it could not continue. (The Ofsted inspection in April last year gave a figure of over £22,000 funding required for each pupil; a comparable figure for my local urban primary school is £3,700 per pupil.)

Next building of interest was this one


It looks like a large square house but originally it was a Wesleyan Chapel built in 1784 (and rebuilt in 1821 according to the date stone). There were 60 members of the Methodist Society which grew to 90 by 1790. In the 1851 Census there were 180 attending the evening service. It closed in 1974 and, as with many old chapels, is now a private house.

We walked on. Although a fair way out of the village we came to a place called “Flash Bar Stores And Coffee Shop”. We got some food here as it was almost lunch time. As we sat outside this vehicle pulled up in the parking area next to us.


On the top right above the windscreen you might be able to see “Your Library”. Yep that’s right in these more isolated places there is no local library so the villages depend on a mobile one. I spoke to the driver who told me he covers quite a large area. Each stop has a scheduled time so people know when to expect him. While we were there a couple of folks came; one lady had an armful of books. I do hope this service will keep going as it’s a big help for those who can’t get to the town libraries often miles away.

After lunch we walked all of 20 feet (6 metres) across to the Traveller’s Rest for a drink. The place had a bit of a theme of “ye olde England” with the toilets being labelled – Knights & Damsels.


Soon it was time to head off as we were only half way round on our walk and it had taken 4½ hours so far. (Lunch and drink though had taken longer than we had anticipated!)

On a lane we came to one of those stalls left unattended with an honesty box for stuff you buy. Although we didn’t buy anything there was a note hanging on it


I think you can probably read it. Imagine that a colony of Wallabies once existed in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

This next pic looks simply like a stone bridge.


Could be anywhere? No, this is quite a special place called “Three Shires’ Head”. It’s the point on Axe Edge Moor where the borders of 3 English counties meet: Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire. It’s an 18th century packhorse bridge over the River Dane; remember that’s the river that our Youth Hostel in its original incarnation used to drive the big water wheel that powered the mill machinery.

The rest of the route back had one difficult part. We came to a field of cows and of course we needed to be the other side. When you get close up to cows you realise just how big they are and how easily just 2 or 3 could cause you a lot of damage. You don’t mess with cows, you will lose! (Same for horses by the way – when our kids were younger we were walking across a field and a herd of horses surrounded us. Unsure of how to react, and being townies, we tried to push our way through. Man versus horse – another one you’re not going to win. Fortunately something took their attention and a small gap appeared so we could make our escape.) We skirted the herd of cows keeping close eye on them. Heads came up and a few started heading towards us. We took a bigger sweep out onto a farm track behind another wall before coming back into their field and heading for the stile at the other side.

And soon we were back at the hostel. Then it was evening meal, more backgammon & head off to bed for night 2. We liked this place.


Gradbach Mill

Good morning all. I’ve got a guest post from Rambler5319 for you today. Sit back and enjoy.


I recently visited an area of Staffordshire which is close to a point where three different counties meet: not surprisingly it’s called Three Shires Head. The three shires are Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire and they meet on the SW end of Axe Edge Moor. We stayed in a Youth Hostel called Gradbach Mill.

It’s interesting to look at the Ordnance Survey Map of the area and see some of the place/farm names. Here is a sample all within a few miles: Hangingstone Farm, Burntcliff Top, Hawk’s Nest, Wolf Edge, Old Hag, Gun End Farm, Spring Head, Wildstone Rock, Adder’s Green, Daffodil Farm, Green Gutter Head, Far Hole Edge, Cut-Thorn, Wildboarclough & Thick Withins. (If you’re thinking Wuthering Heights that was supposedly Top Withins/Withens and of course in Yorkshire.) Don’t tell me they don’t conjure up a picture, in your mind, of days gone by with very primitive living conditions and people walking across rainy windswept moorland and valley areas (or is that just me remembering Kate Bush).

Bit of history to start. The mill was probably built in the 18th century and was restored after a fire there in 1785. In the reign of George III (1760-1820) imports of flax and hemp had duty charges placed on them and subsidies were given to try to stimulate the domestic production; the mill was initially involved in flax production. The reason for it being in a rather isolated spot is because it was the River Dane that provided the power via a very large waterwheel. Check out the stats on the wheel (which is no longer there): diameter 38 feet (11.6 metres), 96 buckets each one holding 35 gallons (159 litres), one complete turn of the wheel, via the gearing wheels, is believed to have turned the main shaft inside 2,500 times. That’s one big wheel! In later years the mill produced silk but that finished in the 1870s. The next owner used it as a saw mill and for joinery work. At some point in the 20th century the YHA took it over.

It’s only as you drive to the place that you realise how isolated it is because back then most people would be walking.

Here’s a pic of the mill.


And here’s a reminder of the raison d’etre for the whole Youth Hostel Association. The original idea of Youth Hostels came from a German schoolteacher over 100 years ago and the first English ones opened in the early 1930s.

We booked in and grabbed the bottom bunks in our room to save struggling up/down from the top. A quick change and we set off for short(ish) walk. This sign was just opposite the front entrance to the hostel so we headed that way.


We were interested in seeing what Lud’s Church was as we didn’t think there would be a church in the middle of the woods in an isolated river valley.

This is the start of the path


It was totally quiet. Not a sound apart from a few insect-y things in the bushes and trees and the river in the background. I love the sound of running water in the countryside. Then we came to this tree.

Just look at how many roots are showing and how far they spread out.

And en route we passed Castle Cliff Rocks.


Then a confirmation that we were on the right track


It was a really warm day. Then we arrived at the entrance to Lud’s Church

I know what you’re thinking but bear with me.

Immediately we got between the rocks the air was really chilled and as we turned the corner at the bottom there was a mist rising. It almost felt like you were walking into your fridge. Yep that’s right a really warm day and a chilly mist coming up from the ground. Bit spooky. Anyway here’s the view at the bottom. It was quite muddy but there was a wooden plank to walk along to avoid sinking into it.


And a log which had loads of coins bashed into it. Not too sure what the idea of this was but believe from other sources that it is a very recent thing.


So why is this narrow passageway (a few metres wide & 18 metres deep) between sheer-sided rocks called Lud’s Church? There are a few theories and suggestions. The very first mention of the name Lud occurs in the Bible in Genesis ch10 verse 22: the eldest son of Noah was Shem and his 4th son was called Lud. Maybe there’s an ecclesiastical root to the name.

It’s believed to have been a sacred place to early Pagans. Lud is actually a Celtic deity but not necessarily purely local to this area but again a possible religious connection.

Those of you who know something of the Arthurian legends may remember the story Sir Gawain & the Green Knight; some believe the Green Chapel in that story is Lud’s Church. The Green Knight’s outline is supposed to visible once you’re in the right place.

For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this: one day the Green Knight comes to Camelot (supposedly on a green horse)and issues a challenge to the Knights of the Round Table; Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, accepts that challenge; the challenge is that Sir G can strike the Green Knight if he (Sir G) will accept a return strike from GK a year and a day later; Sir G has his go and with one blow chops off GK’s head; job done? No, wait – GK then picks up his head and tells Sir G not to forget the deal. If you fancy finding out how the story proceeds and ends look it up; check out Lady Bertilak’s rather interesting role during the year & day. I wonder what you would have done in Sir G’s place.

There is also a tradition that Robin Hood used the place.

Perhaps more likely is the view that the Lollards (followers of the reformer John Wycliffe, 1320-84) are believed to have used the area for worship in the early 15th century when they were being persecuted by the authorities. A man called Walter de Ludank (or Lud-Auk) was captured there and it’s possible this is where the Lud name came from. Anyway whatever the origin it is just a very interesting place to visit.

We climbed out the other end of the passage and retraced our steps to the hostel. We set about preparing the evening meal in the communal kitchen often to the sound of Dido over the PA; one of the chefs is a fan and so am I. We were struck by the number of chopping boards.

Here they are

Why so many colours? Because they’re all for different foods; and here’s the key to which one to use.


We needed a wooden spoon for stirring our baked beans. We could see only one. How about this?


I mean how big does your pan have to be to need that one? Anyway it did the job. (Wonder if LLM’s Ham House has one of these?)

Remember that isolation I mentioned at the start? If you’re into modern gizmos be aware Gradbach has no reception for modern technology (TV, PC, mobile) although one person said that if you walked for north for about 15 mins and climbed the hill just over the river you could get a few bars on the mobile! We played a few games of backgammon and retired to bed. Day 1 over, day 2 to follow soon.