The Peak District villages of Hope and Edale
- Credit: Archant
Mike Smith explores the River Noe from its source at Edale to its confluence at Hope
Two conical peaks frame the eastern entrance to the Vale of Edale, surely one of the least spoilt and most peaceful valleys in Derbyshire. But, according to legend, the vale was far from peaceful in 626 AD, when the army of King Penda of Mercia gathered on one of the peaks in readiness for an assault on the forces of King Edwin of Northumbria, who were camped on the other summit. Penda’s men won a crushing victory - quite literally - because they had a supply of boulders which could be rolled down onto the advancing army. As a result, the two peaks became known as Win Hill and Lose Hill.
The Vale of Edale is closed off at its western extremity by Kinder Scout, which towers above the little village of Edale. This highest of Derbyshire hills is the source of the River Noe, a fast-flowing stream that runs through the vale, finally emerging between Lose Hill and Win Hill to meet Peakshole Water, a stream that has made its own journey from Peak Cavern, near Castleton.
Hope stands slightly to the west of this confluence and clusters around a T-junction where the road from Edale meets the Hope Valley road, which links Castleton and Hathersage. Not nearly as peaceful as the Vale of Edale, the Hope Valley is a honeypot for tourists and its shopkeepers, café-owners and innkeepers, not least those in Hope, work hard to make their stay as sweet as possible.
Jeremy Stanish, proprietor of the Blue Apple Gallery and Tea Rooms, said, ‘Our business started nine years ago as an art gallery with tea and cakes as a side-line, but we now have a tea room that also sells some art.’ Although delighted with the popularity of the Blue Apple, Jeremy is quick to point out that the village has three other excellent tea rooms, plus an Indian restaurant and pubs that serve good food.
Not surprisingly, visitors to Hope have a great choice of refreshments. The Blue Apple serves delicious homemade cakes; the Woodbine Café is famous for its flapjack; the Courtyard Café has all-day breakfasts; the Curry Cabin is both restaurant and takeaway; the Woodroffe Arms has a Chinese restaurant at its rear and the Old Hall Hotel has an adjacent tea room that serves up ‘Derbyshire breakfasts’, comprising oat cakes, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried potatoes, bacon and eggs – a hearty meal, to say the least!
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Jeremy said: ‘Hope has done really well in recent years, despite the recession. As well as all the food and drink outlets, we have a garage that has just gained MOT certification, a cycle-hire and adventure centre, a church shop, a post office-cum-newsagents, a deli and bakery, a butcher’s shop, a Spar shop, which has been completely renovated, and a greengrocers and florists, A new hairdressing salon has just opened on Castleton Road and there is a beauty salon on this road.’
Some of the buildings that house these businesses have fascinating histories. The Woodroffe Arms was founded in 1628 by the Woodroffe family, six of whose members were parish clerks as well as publicans; the Old Hall Hotel, was the seat of the Balguy family; and the tin building that houses Lisa Elliott’s beauty parlour was salvaged from Birchinlee, the ‘tin town’ built for the families of workers who were involved in the construction of the Derwent and Howden dams between 1902 and 1916.
Watson’s butcher’s shop is another business with a remarkable lineage. Although it no longer occupies its original premises, the shop was founded by the Watson family in 1700. It is now run by John Watson, his sister Ann and their father Robert, who has worked there for 60 years. Another member of the team is Phil Hayfield, who jokes that he is an adopted member of the family. Daggers House, near the entrance to the churchyard, is the former Cross Daggers Inn, another business dating back to the eighteenth century. Now a private house, the building has a symmetrical façade featuring mullioned windows on the ground floor and semi-circular windows in the attic.
The fourteenth-century broach spire of St Peter’s Church is equally eye-catching. Stumps dating back to Saxon times are to be found in the churchyard; several cheeky gargoyles stare down from the south wall and a small niche on the double-decker south porch contains a sculpture of St Peter, who holds the key to Heaven, seemingly offering the hope of a blissful afterlife to the people of Hope.
The Vale of Edale terminates in a series of small hamlets known as ‘booths’, the largest of which is Grindsbrook Booth, more commonly known as Edale. The village street is a meandering cul-de-sac that follows Grinds Brook towards its source and terminates at the foot of Kinder Scout and the start of the Pennine Way.
Whether they come to Edale with the intention of tackling the rigours of this 268-mile footpath along the backbone of England or with more modest rambles in mind, walkers are well catered for as soon as they enter the village. The National Trust’s Penny Pot Café, located alongside the rail station, offers refreshments and a selection of guidebooks, maps and leaflets, while the aptly-named Rambler Inn has accommodation as well as food and drink.
The Moorland Centre, at the foot of the village street, has books, pamphlets and displays about the local landscape, as well as weather information and plenty of useful advice for hill-walkers. It is also a centre for research into methods of conserving and restoring the heather, blanket bog and rough pasture of the high moors. The centre’s own environmental credentials are suitably sound: it is housed in a circular stone building with a living roof of sedum and a geothermal heating system. A dramatic touch is added by a stream which runs off a sloping glass panel to form a spectacular waterfall over the entrance, as if to imitate the famous Downfall on the edge of Kinder Scout.
Half way along the village street, the great mass of Kinder Scout comes into view as the backcloth to a wonderful set-piece composition comprising Edale’s broach-spired church and a white-washed cottage. The two buildings stand alongside each other as if they had been deliberately positioned as foreground interest for the benefit of photographers and artists. Near the head of the street, there is a little village school, where Carole Hemsley, who fulfils the multi-tasks of teaching assistant, lunchtime supervisor and school secretary, showed me a hut provided by the Friends of the School. Expressing delight at this new learning facility, headteacher Rachel O’Brien said, ‘The hut has already functioned as a café, a stable and even as Red Riding Hood’s house.’
Recently, the pupils were set a Pennine Way Challenge, requiring them to raise money for charity by running every day and clocking up a total of 268 miles before Sport Relief Day on 21st March. The real 268-mile Pennine Way begins a few yards away, where alternative routes start out for the summit of Kinder Scout. One path runs past the Post Office and Cooper’s Café and then through Upper Booth to Jacob’s Ladder, a steep moorland stairway. The other route involves a tough climb up Grindsbrook Clough.
The official start for both routes is the Old Nag’s Head Inn, where I met Brian Skelhorn, one of the ground crew for the helicopters which are being used to drop cut-heather on Kinder Scout in an effort to stabilise its covering of peat, and Leighton Green, who was about to walk on the first section of the Pennine Way but is hoping to find time later this year to cover the entire distance.
Landlady Natalie Porter-Green showed me the commemorative yellow parchment that is given to walkers who complete the Pennine way in a southerly direction, from Kirk Yetholm to Edale. I wondered if she demanded some sort of documentary proof of their achievement before handing out the parchment. ‘I don’t need to,’ she said. ‘I know that they’ve walked the whole way when I see them collapsing onto the bar.’