25 January 2014

Millstones

Above you can see the south end of Stanage Edge - a millstone escarpment that runs two miles northwards. It's just  three miles from our house. Nowadays Stanage is a magnet for ramblers and would-be rock climbers but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it attracted quarrymen and stone masons who saw much potential in the millstone grit - especially for the manufacture of millstones of varying sizes. These were used both in the milling of grain and in metal finishing industries.

I remember the very first time I came across some abandoned millstones. Nobody had told me that such artefacts were to be found out in the hills of  northern Derbyshire. It fair took my breath away. Immediately, I imagined the hard labour of the masons and the great difficulties there would have been in transporting millstones for many miles - via horse and cart. And why had they been abandoned? When you know where to look there are numerous millstone sites to explore but the one at the south end of Stanage Edge is the best known.

Here a blue sky and sunshine make this millstone picture look as if it was taken in high summer but it was three days ago in late January:-
 Then ten minutes later a dark winter squall is beginning to sweep in from the west and I am sheltering beneath an overhang. You can still see the same millstones to the left.
From my shelter I look out across the Hope Valley as sleet and snow blows towards me.
 But soon the brief winter storm has passed and sunshine is once again illuminating the millstones that look for all the world as if they were carefully grouped together by a sculptor.
I scramble up onto the edge and walk a mile or more northwards. There are no other walkers around apart from a lone woman of senior years. We pause for a brief, windswept conversation, agreeing on the invigorating attraction of winter walking. So often when I see single women walking, they avert their eyes and won't even reciprocate my friendly "hellos" - as if they expect every man they come across to be a sexual predator. But this lady was relaxed about sharing a few words with me - alone on The Edge.

Then I cut down through Stanage Plantation where the sound of a chainsaw cut through the sighing winter wind. Along the lanes back towards my parked car and as I looked down on Overstones Farm, I noticed darkening sky and another storm sweeping over the Hope Valley. It would soon be upon me.

18 comments:

  1. Very, very beautiful pictures. And, as usual, I have been discovering more and more about interesting places and things via your pictures and then research on the internet. What a beautiful place! The Overstones Farm and Hope Valley must be beautiful at any time of the year. Is it still a working farm?

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    1. Thank you. Yes MT, it is still a working sheep farm. I was thinking that if I won the lottery, I would quite like to buy that place. It looks remote but actually Hathersage and Sheffield are pretty close by. If I do win the lottery, I'll turn that left side sheep barn into guest accommodation. For you it will be free to stay there and there'll be fresh eggs for breakfast.

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  2. You are master of your new camera. These are perfect images.
    On the left after Surprise View there must be hundreds of millstones all around Lawrencefield. I have never understood why they kept making them and not selling them. I wonder if there is a flaw in these.

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    1. I have wondered the same Adrian. The millstones in my photos seem perfect.

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  3. Your location is so full of historical relics. I guess history is all around us if we just know how to look. Thanks for the tour and the views of those amazing millstones.

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    1. Thanks for calling by again Leenie B. Yes history is all around us - even if it is not manmade - there's geological history to appreciate.

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  4. You have beautiful country to walk though. You give an interesting account of the history of the area.

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    1. Yes Red. We are very lucky that this countryside is on the city of Sheffield's very doorstep.

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  5. a wonderful place, beautiful images too!!

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    1. You're so kind. Thank you Annie.

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  6. The sleet-and-snow-picture is breathtaking!

    It is odd that the millstones were still produced but then left there when the place was abandoned. They could have been sold, I imagine, at the closure of the quarry.

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  7. Yes it is odd but there are hundreds of abandoned millstones in the area. Some of them are massive - perhaps a metre and a half in diameter. It reminds me of the abandoned and half-finished moai statues on Easter Island.

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  8. Great place, great photos - and great weather, on occasions - I don't mind the odd invigorating downpour or sleet shower etc, especially in photos!
    Another thing you could post about while wandering the Hope Valley - I seem to remember that Little John is buried in Hathersage church, is he not?

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    1. There's a grave there with a headstone that refers to Little John but whether or not he lies under the sod is another matter, Our friend's eleven year old daughter is also buried there. She died in a light aeroplane tragedy - the flight was a birthday present from her father.

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    2. So sorry to hear that, it must be one of the worst things in the world - losing a child.

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    1. Am I alone in saying "ditch the avatars !" ( is that what you call them and spell the bloody things ???) They confuse me and I never know who's talking. Much preferred the yorkshire pud. Then I could recognise your face !
      Lovely photo as usual. It always puzzles me when we come upon millstones. Why did they make so many and leave them lying around ?

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  10. Ah, now I've read the comments and others have said the same thing about the millstones ! Never mind....... great minds !!!

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