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.
I'd had my eye on Minninglow Hill for some time, quite literally as I kept noticing its distinctive profile on recent visits to the Peak District. So with the rare combination of a day off work, combined with a rare burst of reasonable (or at least dry) weather it felt like time to make the trip.
I wasn't sure what access would be like now, and as Ellen tends to get a bit twitchy at the thought of having to trespass I thought the best approach would be via the Midshires Way footpath. We travelled up past Ashbourne, as if heading to Arbor Low, but turned off beforehand onto the A5012 road to Cromford. A couple of miles along this road at the village of Pikehall, a right turn is signposted to a parking spot on the edge of the village where the footpath can be picked up.
At the pleasantly large parking area and picnic spot, the tree topped hill of Minninglow was clearly visible. Setting off along the footpath which ran along the site of an old disused railway line, the open countryside, with Minninglow looming ever larger in front of us, looked green and inviting, and so nice to be here after weeks of grey drizzle making life in town seem even duller than usual.
After crossing a high viaduct, and heading through into the remains of a small quarried area, I was more than pleasantly surprised to see a clearly way marked path up the hill. The signage and gates up the path looked fairly new and substantial, and gave no indication that the concessionary path was likely to be closed any time soon.
So safe in the knowlege that access was not going to be an issue we started walking up the hill. The rocky outcrops and large stones on the upper reaches of the slopes reminded me of the remains of ancient ramparts, and with only the stares of curious sheep for company we entered the gate into the tree enclolsed hill.
Two large megalithic barrows spring immediately into view, huge capstones exposed and showing the size this barrow would once have been. Although reduced in size over the millenia when you stand atop the embankment crowning the hill and look around you get an idea of the huge scale of this burial mound.
You feel so enclosed and sheltered here, the outer circle of trees screening you from the outside world, whilst an inner semi-circle of beeches huddles protectivly around the chambers. We unpacked our picnic and basked in the weak sun, just enjoying the magical atmosphere of the place, and as we eat we spot a hare darting from the cover of the trees into the field beyond.
Soon the cold wind starts to buffet at us and dark clouds glower in from the peaks making it too cold to sit around for much longer. But as other posts have said Minninglow is a fantastic place, and so private, we saw several groups of walkers on the footpath below the hill, but none seemed keen to go slightly out of their way to visit this amazing place, although I suppose that makes it quieter for those of us who like to just come to ancient places to chill out!
It may have taken me years to get around to visiting Minniglow but now I have I'll certainly be back!
Agreed with what everyone says! Access seems shady -but we walked right up, keeping out of sight of the farm - all a bit *Frodo in Mordor* lol... This is the place that you can see from all around - stand on the King's Mound at Arbor Low facing out and you see Minning low a little to your right - a tall hill with a crown of beech trees.
Park in the car park and follow the track - then over the fence and up the hill! Amusingly, we got tothe top and clambered over the fence, only to get inside and see that it has an open gate! Aya! It's a very special place - enclosed by shrubs and a fence, it has a totally different feel to many of the more exposed places - no horizon, you are totally inside it. Some of the burial chambers are exposed, and you can lie inside if you want! But, they aren't very long!
The place seems to mess with time a little bit - a bit *Picnic at Hanging Rock* if you get my meaning! Very isolated in a way - not a big tourist place - I figure you could spend to or three days there undisturbed! Don't know about a fire - maybe, if you were careful, and coverd it back up - but it's such a small area really that a fire would damage the look of the place. More of a wrap up warm thing. But I figure you could camp there no problem.
It's a place to spend some time - bring a picnic, do your thing - whatever you do - spend some time with the dead! Left this place feeling revitalised.
If you're looking for it, on the path you see the farm to your right - go past that and when the farm is pretty much out of sight look up the big hill to where there are some very tall beech trees in a shrub-enclosed area at the crown of the hill - it's in there - so up the hill!
I was still buzzing from Arbor Low when me and Stubob hit this site.
Stu sorted out the access and we were away.
It can't be a coincidence that this site and it's beautiful grove of Beeches can be seen from all over the area.
This is an awsome place, full of wonder and dignity.
I gotta big-up stubob for letting me in on this lovely spot.
2 cairns lie in the plantation at Minninglow a massive Neolithic and a smaller Bronze age one, both with exposed chambers.
The Neolithic cairn is still big after much stone robbing, there are four visible chambers a couple with intact capstones, tho' some of the chambers have been infilled, after some dodgy digging unsettled the place. There may be another chamber still in the remaining mound.
Minninglow can be from miles away, (Five Wells, Bamford Moor). Only when you're up close to it the hill looks pretty unremarkable.
An excellent place, and no-one goes up there ...that might have something to do with dodgy access rights...
But it's got to be seen. This is 'the' site of The Peak District.
For what is life? And what is life like? I do not know what Life is but Life is like yesterday at Minninglow where as I peered over the flank of the grassy kist-crowned hill I saw a circle of six unmapped Neolithic standing stones I had not realised were there. Gray in the vernal sun lay they, Dinantian limestone sarsens honed round by the howling hail of ages. Gray as the drystone dykes and ice-plucked slabs and quarry walls about me. Always curious about antique things I strode against the freezing wind to see them, and they raised their heads and skittered in alarm.
James R Warren.
Perditions Illusion. 2006.
Mark the concentered hazels that enclose
Yon old grey Stone, protected from the ray
Of noontide suns:-and even the beams that play
And glance, while wantonly the rough wind blows,
Are seldom free to touch the moss that grows
Upon that roof, amid embowering gloom,
The very image framing of a Tomb,
In which some ancient Chieftain finds repose
Among the lonely mountains.- Live, ye trees!
And thou, grey Stone, the pensive likeness keep
Of a dark chambers where the Mighty sleep:
For more tan fancy to the influence bends
Where solitary Nature condescends
To mimic Times forlorn humanities.
"One large chambered cairn, at Minninglow on a high hilltop between Parwich and Elton, started life as a small mound with a chamber. It was later enveloped in a long cairn with at least four chambers entered from the sides. Later still it was enlarged again, to make it into a massive near-circular mound. There are four or five such “great barrows” in the region, each about 40m (131ft) across, which were probably the local equivalents of later Neolithic mounds such as Silbury Hill and Duggelby Howe (Yorks Wolds)."EH - Peak District John Barnatt and Ken Smith.
Around 24 x 17m in diameter and getting on for 2m high. This barrow is impressive in its own right...
But all the same it kinda struggles to get noticed with the exposed chambers of the huge Minning Low 30m away to the SE.
Like its neighbour the barrow saw of long period of use and several phases of construction.
Thomas Bateman dug the barrow in 1843 and 1849 and found that it was in fact two burial mounds, a secondary earthen barrow being built against an earlier stone cairn.
Bateman found the cairn's cist holding the primary burial had already been disturbed. A second cremation was also found.
The large earthen barrow too covered a cremation, as well as Flint knives, bone tools and burnt bronze knife or razor.
Info on finds from:
J.Barnatt's & J. Collis' "Barrow Corpus"
B. Marden's "The Burial Mounds of Derbyshire"