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Climbers' Gritstone on the Eastern Edges

Walking along the Froggatt, Curbar and White Edges - the proving ground for a new breed of rock climber.

Distance 8.7 miles (14km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 525ft (160m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good paths and tracks, a few stiles

Landscape Heather moor and gritstone cliffs

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 255776

Dog friendliness Dogs on leads

Parking Hay Wood car park

Public toilets None on route

1 From the car park in Hay Wood, turn right (north) along the path heading north towards the Longshaw Estate. Go right through a small gate in the wall to follow a faint path diagonally across fields to the Grouse Inn, which is always in view. From the inn, follow the road northwards for 400yds (366m) then climb on the signposted bridleway past White Edge Lodge to the road junction on Totley Moss. Turn right for a few paces, then go over a stile onto a signposted permissive path heading south across the moors.
After passing copses of pine, the path heads south over White Edge Moor, passing through a gap in a stone cross wall before reaching the Hurkling Stones on the northern end of White Edge.

2 Beyond the trig point on White Edge the path passes above some enclosed rough pastures, then continues as a narrow path descending on the west slopes of the now grassy moor. The path reaches a country lane, north west of its junction with the A621. Cross the lane to a gate on the other side. Through the gate a wide track traverses the heather fields of Eaglestone Flat. To the left across birch woods you'll see the cliffs of Gardom's Edge and, in the valley, the park-like grounds of Chatsworth.

3 The track comes to Wellington's Monument, which was erected in 1866 to commemorate the great British General. In the distance you can just see the monument to that other great warrior of those times, Admiral Lord Nelson. Follow the track round to the right, before taking the right fork past the Eagle Stone. The path continues across the lane at Curbar Gap and onto the Baslow Edge path. Once through the first gate you can see the Derwent Valley villages dotted among the walled pastures, woods and the rolling hills of the Hope Valley.

4 Although there's a wide track about 30yds (27m) from the edge, the best route stays closer to the clifftop. This affords spectacular views as it veers right above Froggatt Edge. There's a diversion on the right here to visit a Bronze Age circle. After rejoining the main path, follow it to a roadside kissing gate. Turn right up the road, then left along a path back to the car park in Hay Wood.

Gritstone, being quite a soluble rock, quickly loses its edges, leaving few natural handholds for the climber. WP Hasket Smith, the 'inventor' of rock climbing, said in his book, Climbing in the British Isles: England (1894), 'Millstone grit assumes strange grotesque forms, and when it does offer a climb, ends it off abruptly'. He conceded that it did have pleasing problems. But in the 1950s working class, urban pioneers such as Joe Brown, armed with makeshift gear like their mothers' clothes lines, found new ways to tackle the rocks. Joe and fellow plumber Don Whillans, introduced the use of 'nuts' for protection, and the 'handjam', where the climber puts his outstretched hand into a narrow cleft in the rocks, then clenches it into a fist. This jams the hand in, allowing the whole weight of the body to be supported.

And with these developments climbing came to Derbyshire on a much larger scale. The Froggatt and Curbar Edges, like those of Stanage to the north, are high on the priority list for most northern climbers, and for much of today's walk you'll see them, clinging precariously to the rock face or standing at the foot of the crag with their modern ironmongery and coloured ropes.

Climbing is not new to the area, though. In bygone days the young men of Baslow used to demonstrate their prowess and readiness for marriage by climbing the Eagle Stone.

The expansive moorland to the east of White Edge is covered with heather and ling - this is part of a wildlife sanctuary extending into Yorkshire. To the west the hill slopes fall away to the birch and rowan fringed rocks of Froggatt Edge.

While you're there

Have a look around the nearby Longshaw Estate, which was, until 1927, a shooting estate owned by the Duke of Rutland. It includes the lodge (which isn't open to the public), carefully planned grounds, woodland and the surrounding grouse moors. In the late 1920s, when the estate came on the market, a charity which included local rambling clubs, was set up to buy the land. It was then donated to the National Trust, who keep it open for the public. The visitor centre has its own café, and the woodland is noted for its varied bird-life.

What to look for

On the heather moors and edges, look out for birds of prey like the peregrine falcon or the merlin. You may see emperor moths fluttering about in the heather. They have red, gold and grey wings with black eyes. Their caterpillars are bright green and black. Northern oak eggar moths are also found hereabouts.

Where to eat and drink

The Grouse Inn, a short way from the car park, at Hay Wood, serves bar meals. There's a café at the nearby Longshaw Estate Visitor Centre.

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