|There are some places that I hold dear due to memories of antiquarian stomps with my late dad in days of yore, places that I have not returned to since his passing twenty years ago. Minninglow is one such. We first visited not long after the rails of the Cromford and High Peak line had been lifted at the turn of the '70's, our feet crunching along the limestone ballast as we trekked in from Newhaven crossing. The atmosphere of the place on that blue sky day captivated me the way that the arid calculation of azimuths never will. I had last been there about ten years later. After marriagr,lthough moving much nearer than when on holiday jaunts, life had precluded a return. I had, though, seen Minninglow from afar countless times, as it hove into view on the A621 south of Owler Bar near Barbrook. Some people always greet magpies... I always silently greeted the sight of that beech tree topknot that never failed to raised the spirits. "Hello Minninglow!" The tree profile changed with seasons and time, but always had the same effect. So near but so far.
The hankering for return had been increasing steadily, a must. I had read after the passing of TMA's Stubob that his ashes had been scattered there at his wish, and this had made me smile. I understood. It also acted as a nudge. I had wanted to go earlier in the season at budbreak, but the demands of fieldwalking in the soon to awaken bracken had precluded this..a race to at least cursorily survey a list of sites I'd been given where the Peak Park did not hold much archaeological data took precedent, and at weekends my nose had been to the gritstone. This had been brought to an abrupt halt the previous weekend, when seven hours of tooing and froing in the sprouting green menace wearing new boots, although productive, had resulted in a huge heel blister and a bad viral 'do'. Time to have an enforced break. My allotment this Sunday had been my intended limit. I'd then remembered that a steam engine would be visiting my former preserved railway haunt at Matlock, and I couldn't resist a look and a picture of its departure back to London. Just in case I put the OS Explorer in the car. I needed some limestone. News of further damage to Stanton's Nine Ladies, another haunt with dad, had upset me too. A further defilement of memory. I needed the antidote of a place where such acts would be unlikely, away from the maddening, gormless crowd. Only one place would do, if I felt up to it. Soil was turned for a while on allotment, then, yup, I reckoned the drive south was doable.
I drove to Matlock, thence Cromford, limped to a vantage point, got my shot, rued not paying in an almost deserted out of the way car park at six on a Sunday evening, then dammit, I had to do what I hadn't for nigh on thirty years. Up the Via Gellia, past Grangemill, then the Parwich turn off the A5012 to the car park at SK195582. As I neared there were swallows wheeling in the sunshine round nest sites in the huge limestone railway embankment that shielded my goal from view. Only two cars in the car park. I wondered if they'd gone to where I was heading...and also wondered if my goal was accessible. There had been no TMA fieldnotes since 2012, and Stu had posted that concessionary access was to end. One way to find out. I struck out, wincing from my blister, from the car park. Once out of a cutting and atop the finely engineered embankment there, to my right, was Minninglow, drawing me on. There too was the farm. Were eyes watching me? Had Stu's nearest and dearest had to ask for access? Would I be confronted with an unsurmountable field wall near my goal?
I pressed on, Minninglow ever larger, as larks sang above and lambs bleated around in the early evening sun. A runner passed, then a cyclist. That was it. Such a contrast to Matlock Bath's bustle. Through a cutting which opened out into a lineside quarry, then, yes!!! There was a metal gate to my left, and, adjoining, a small wooden one...and a recent sign confirming a concessionary path uphill to my destination. The limping w a s worth it. There were no bootmarks in the mud. Perhaps people are offput by there being no path marked on the OS, perhaps this place just seems too far out the way. Perhaps this is a blessing. No voice would shout 'get off my land!!' from the farm..just the sound of happy children playing drifted uphill. Lift the catch, through that gate, past the woolly mums and kids, past the limestone scarp, and there was that encircling wall with the open gate. It had been too long. I confess emotion. I had known here when the encircling tree belt was but the tiniest saplings, and prefer it with just the central beech sentinels.. surely the builders had meant here to be seen. If others prefer the present day seclusion so be it. One day the trees may be gone but those capstones and mounds will remain. I kicked and scraped a few molehills, 'just in case', and then, taking a breath, through the gateway. Back. The bronze age cairn, with young nettles starting to conceal Bateman's stone exposures for the summer, was to my right. I stopped, thought of my dad and then, mindful that Stu's ashes might be underfoot, walked slowly and lightly as I could to the main mound and those great capstones again. So good to return after all this time. No carved names, no paint..just everything as it had been and should be. After another pause and contemplation of my own mortality I took stock. There were one or two small stones protruding through the grass. Had Bateman excavated everything here, I wondered. I photo'd, then went through the gate on the low's furthest side.
The footpath veers to the right. I walked a little way straight ahead to get a view of another nearby cairn marked on the Explorer. A small green mound, no discernible stonework at that distance. I decided my blister should take precedent over curiosity and instead opened out the map to try and ID the other see for miles highpoints...if sheep have a sense of humour they would have enjoyed the battle. Paper won, but was mishapen. Back to the capstones, a quiet pause, taking in the lowering sun streaming through the beech trunks and branches..then time to go. I wiped my boots. Stu remains where he wished. Downhill, out into the evening blue. Turning right on the uphill side of a wall that cuts along below the scarp I wanted a look at another cairn marked on the OS. Close inspection was not possible due to a wire topped wall barrier, but I found a stone that seemed of interest embedded in that wall below the scarp. It was of wall height, and seemed to serve no demarcational or structural function. If anything, it was a structural weakness, as the wall was toppling either side. With some possible packing visible, was this contemporary with the hilltop sites? Had it been noted? One to read up on in due course.
I retraced my steps to the Midshires Way..somehow my steps felt lighter. No kids voices from the farm now. As I walked back along the black ash I scanned left and right, looking for signs in the close nibbled fields around of those who had built Minninglow for their loved and revered. On the north side of the farm and uphill? Who knows. So much remains hidden still. We do not know it all, never will. What I do know though is that, yes, Minninglow still is a special place, four square to time, part of the fabric of the landscape and my life, and I felt recharged and fulfilled by my visit. I hope others will too. Don't believe the map. Go. Once will not be enough. I walked slowly back to my Landy, past the cowslips and curlews, lambs and larks. An hour later I was back at my allotment, picking rhubarb in the gloaming. Better. Date of visit 22nd May 2016.
Posted by spencer
30th May 2016ce
Edited 30th May 2016ce