Ramsley Moor and Big Moor (18th August 2018)

On Saturday 18 August 2018 twelve of us plus Treacle, a well behaved black labrador met at Shillito Woods for a walk across the moorlands of Ramsley Moor and Big Moor.  Managed by the Eastern Moors partnership this moorland is a delight for those that enjoy open space, wildlife and a step back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age.  This is a place where you’re likely to hear the first cuckoo of the year, flora and fauna that changes with the seasons and the remains of stone circles and burial sites from over 4000 years ago.

The walk took us in an anti clockwise direction from Shillito Woods with the group enjoying the initial easy going downhill section chatting away as we met the bridleway at a stile near Smeekly.  For Treacle it was touch and go whether that was the end of her walk as the stile there was proving a little sticky as she found herself in a jam trying to get over it.  However, with some coaxing she found a way under the adjacent gate.  It was then a gradual uphill with the warm morning sunshine getting warmer in this sheltered spot as we passed Rowan, bilberry and blackberry bushes before meeting Baslow Road.

Directly across Baslow Road we had a brief refreshment stop alongside a Guide Stoop (Stone Waymarker) and a Companion Stone to try and decipher the prose, see companionstones.org.uk. for further information.  We then set off facing west with the prevailing wind in our face, noticing how the hawthorn trees on our right were leaning away from the prevailing wind after years of battling against the elements here.

Passing what once was the outflow of Barbrook reservoir we headed along the wide drive with the heather and varying shades of green grasses accompanying us.  We were a few hundred metres away from a very busy road but we couldn’t hear it, our senses were connecting with the natural world around us.  For some there was the discussion on the latest TV celebrity programme and the most recent health promotion.  However, if you want a place of solace you can find it here on your doorstep.

We stopped by a second companion stone and then deviated off the main path to locate a couple of stone circles and a long barrow.  Dating back to the Bronze Age, these and others in the proximity, provide the strongest example of the single site of stone circle sites in the UK in one area (quote from our member who has explored this area).  Stongehenge is important but so is Derbyshire!!

We then crossed Baslow Road for the second time to make our way along Ramsley Moor.  In this moorland long barrows and stone circles were exposed following excavations started in 1962.  Flint arrow-heads, flint scrapers, saws, flint and stone axes were found; a sign of Neolithic dwellers who once occupied this site.  Avoiding hairy caterpillars we walked along the green drive to Ramsley reservoir and then along the road to return to Shillito Woods passing Leash Fen on our right.  Some old prose associated with Leash Fen that connects it with Chesterfield and often quoted by our member Glyn Williams evaded me as I chatted with Jane on the road back to the car park.  However, it is here: 

“When Leash fen was a market town,

Chesterfield was gorse and broom,

Now Chesterfield’s a market town,

Leash Fen a marsh is grown”.

Evidence of how Leash Fen is being managed was seen as we looked across at the hardy cattle munching away on the land.

During the middle ages Beauchief Abbey were the principal land owners here which would account for the large number of crosses in the area.  Originally, they were boundary markers but later they also acted as a warning to travellers to keep clear of the dangerous marsh of Leash Fen!!  

Look out for the two crosses here if you return, one in Shillito Woods and the ancient cross adjacent to Fox Lane, a few hundred metres north of Shillito woods car park.

I sense a walk in the near future connecting us with Beauchief Abbey.