Two youths on a Cycling Tour in the Peak of Derbyshire
11th May 2016
Two youths on a Cycling Tour in the Peak of Derbyshire
On a tolerably fine Saturday morning in May 1915 my friend Cyril Cope and I commenced a tour “on the wheel” of the district known as the Peak of Derbyshire, starting from W Bridgford, Nott’m.
We had a pleasant ride as far as Cromford, only halting a short time for lunch. Here hunger again assailed us, so we procured provisions and searched for a suitable spot for dinner. This was found near Matlock, a very pretty place by the side of the Via Gellia road which commanded a view of a rushing waterfall where a few birds were blithely skimming. During our meal we were startled by a loud report, and looking upwards saw a sportsman balancing a gun in his hands, evidently having just shot at some game. He was climbing up a high hill which rose abruptly from the other side of the road, being crowned at the summit by dense foliage. After our meal we discerned two persons who appeared to be interested in our ablutions which we were performing at this period, in the stream. Although refreshing, this performance was somewhat hazardous as it had to be accomlish’d by sitting on a large boulder in the midst of the foaming water and very near to the waterfall.
A few miles further on when riding in a valley of thickly wooded hills we discovered an opening in a wayside rock, a little larger than an ordinary doorway. Upon nearing it we heard the sound of moving waters from the interior so we decided to give exploration a trial.
I lit my acetylene lamp and by its rays of light we were able to advance along a rock-strewn passage. About twenty paces from the mouth the jagged roof and ground gradually converged and we found ourselves standing in clear, shallow water which was running among the large stones on the ground. Now the sound of running water was much louder, so we stepped cautiously forward, taking care to tread on the boulders above the surface of the water. A little further we found a dry path on the left side of the tunnel, and the stream consequently flowed more deeply on the opposite side. We never found where this water flowed to, but conjectured that it followed an underground course before reaching the cave-mouth. The noise was almost deafening here, confined as it was in the narrow tunnel-passage and at last, with the aid of our light, the cause became apparent. It was a volume of water spouting and gushing from a fissure in the wall of rock forming the left side of the passage. This jet shot outwards for about two feet leaving barely sufficient space for a continuation of our subterranean adventure. At this juncture we looked back and saw in the opening of the cave the silhouette of a youth near our “bikes” so we quickly made our decision to return lest he should interfere with them. By the time we emerged into daylight the boy was some distance away so we straightway mounted our machines and continued on the way to Darley Dale.
Bluebells, forget-me-nots and many other gaily-coloured flowers were flourishing by the wayside so we halted to gather a few. About this time we had a downfall of rain and with but short intervals these deluges continued far into the night. We had therefore to don our rain-proofs and continued wearing them until we reached Darley. At one time when we reached the top of a very high hill we had a splendid view of a valley beneath, opening out to another of the kind but at right-angles to it. Although raining in our quarter, sunlight was playing upon this vale which later proved to be Darley Dale. We had a very pleasant tea at the Post Office in this place. Afterwards we rode forward in search of lodgings which we fortunately procured at our first request. This was a surgeon’s residence upon the road to Bakewell and we were comfortably and kindly received. After putting up our machines we went for a walk around Two Dales. First we visited the St Helen’s Church, in the churchyard of which we found and inspected a yew tree that was estimated to be 2,000 years old. Next we sent off post cards which we had written and addressed in our lodgings. Now we climbed a road which led upwards to some hills. From this position we had a fine view of the Dales. Dusk was now descending so we returned, and before supper were introduced to a pleasant, stalwart young soldier of the Yeomanry. He had just been inoculated and, being a frequent visitor, was also staying at this house.
The next morning I arose before anyone in the house but it was not long before our landlady appeared and offered me a cup of tea. After drinking this refreshing stimulant I ventured forth with my camera in my hand. From the house the bare cliff of a quarry was in view so to gain the summit of this became my objective. The first part of the ascent was difficult but my trouble was well-rewarded by the glorious view of the valley which I obtained. Immediately I made preparations for my first photographs, but my efforts were somewhat handicapped by the small space available. The ledge I was on was so narrow that I had to lie along it to fix my camera in position at the edge of the precipice.
Returning from this expedition I breakfasted with Cyril at 0930 after which we went to St Helen’s church. The morning service included litany and was carried forward briskly but non-the-less fervently. We returned by a circuitous route to our lodgings and arrived just in time for dinner. In the afternoon we set out for a place named Ladygrove. On the way we passed a small watermill with a dam alongside. This was built of grey stone (commonly used for building in Derbyshire) and was a large, rambling ruin. Inside we separated with the result that I partially lost my bearings when going through a tunnel into a courtyard. Near this part I found a dry water bed which I followed, but observing this led to a road, I retraced my steps. Noticing a rickety ladder reared against a high wall, and peering over it, I found myself near two greenhouses. Thinking myself too near to civilisation, I hastily hopped over the wall, escaping over another wall, across a strip of ground to a gate and reached the road just in time to see Cyril appearing from an opening below me. We joined company and continued our walk up a steep bridle path until we came to a quarry. The summit was at a great altitude and commanded a fine birds-eye view of the valley and opposite hills. Beneath us we saw the watercourse which had been used by the mill. This was flowing from a large reservoir of water, and was crossed at one part by stepping stones. The reservoir was separated from another sheet of water by a promontory rising to about the same height as our present position, and seemingly spanning the narrow, yet deep, valley upon which we were gazing. Many mountain paths were leading in all directions. Cyril ambled along one which led to a still higher point while I examined the view near the quarry with half an idea of sketching. An almost imperceptible path wound down the precipitous side of the promontory and made its way to a picturesque cottage below. Upon inspection, this same promontory appeared as though it was formed by the falling away of the rocks and sand from the cliff of the quarry. The debris was now firmly cemented by the growth of grass and ferns. I spent some time in looking for my companion and when I found him we lost no time in starting in the direction of the other lake. Very soon we heard the sound of water so to investigate we walked towards the sound, through a lane of the usual stone walls, which led downward, in zigzag fashion, into a dark wood. We crossed a dry waterbed and made as our destination an isthmus spanning the valley somewhat lower than the promontory and completely mantled with luxurious, velvety grass. In this locality the valley was only about one hundred yards in width. Through the trees yet another sheet of water could be discerned which proved to be at a much higher level than the other water; the land we were on entirely bridged the valley, forming an efficacious barrier through which the water endeavoured to force its way. Hundreds of tiny streams of water were issuing from crevices in the hillside of the valley but none came through the dividing land. These streamlets running down the almost perpendicular face of the hill formed a stream at the base which joined the lake.
My friend left me trying to put this pretty effect into the form of a sketch, and went exploring alone. I found the mosquitoes so very troublesome that I left the sketch unfinished; I employed the time until Cyril’s return in examining the ferns and flowers growing in profusion on the surface of the watery hill. We returned on the opposite side of the vale to which we had approached, and crossed the stream by the stepping stones previously mentioned.
After tea we again set out but this time attempted cross-country walking in a different direction. A grassy ridge is situated in the centre of Darley Dale which continues in a straight line almost from one extremity to another; this splits the larger vale into two smaller ones from which the name Two Dales is probably derived. We scaled the steep side of our end of the ridge and traversed its length, thus commanding a view of both dales. Upon the highest point of the hill a large tree stands and, not far removed from it, we found another, smaller, tree. Both are protected by iron railings and by the smaller tree is an inscription as follows: This tree was planted in commemoration of King Edward VII, June 26th. 1902. From here we marked a place to make for on the crest of hills which enclose the south side of Darley Dale. We immediately commenced the descent and found we had no easy task keeping our legs under perfect control as they evinced a decided tendency to run away. The peculiarity of having walls instead of hedges rendered our course more easy for we had no difficulty in climbing them whenever they presented themselves. Near the summit of these hills were growing in rich abundance cowslips, bluebells, wild pansies, lilies of the valley, forget-me-nots, lady smock, violets and sweet peas. Luxuriant beds of bluebells, especially, formed a charming spectacle. We now directed our footsteps to a copse in this locality, which on closer inspection proved to be very thickly arrayed in foliage and grasses, screening from sight the rock-strewn ground. In the centre was a ragged gully overgrown with plant life, giving a finishing touch to an altogether enchanting spot. On the return journey we made a bee-line for our lodgings, regardless of all impediments, for daylight was fast waning. We gauged the distance very well considering the unequality of the ground, and fortunately we had a landmark for guide. This was the quarry I had climbed up before breakfast, situated immediately to the rear of our house when viewed from this direction. With fast walking and a run occasionally, we accomplished the journey in an hour, precisely half the time we had taken to go. We enjoyed an appetising supper and at 10-o-clock retired for the night, well-satisfied with the commencement of our holidays.
On waking the next morning I recollected that it was Monday, May 31st 1915 and my seventeenth birthday and, as a good augury for a pleasant day, the sun shone brightly; so, soon after breakfast we bid farewell to our landlady, Mrs Howes, and mounted our machines once more. Our first notable place of visitation was Haddon Hall, the interior of which we interestedly inspected with a girl guide. Before leaving the locality we photographed the ancient pile as it appears from the road. When we reached Bakewell we inspected the church, in which are built the tombs of the Vernons.
Earlier in the morning we had decided to go through Grindleford and on to Buxton where we should stay the night at the house of a relative of Mrs Howes. Now, a few miles past Bakewell, I loitered up a hill, thus allowing Cyril to get ahead. When I reached the top my friend was nowhere in sight, for two lanes branched from this road, one branching downwards with a bend not far along it, and the other turning upwards, curving almost immediately. The former went direct to Grindleford, but at the time I did not know, for it had no signpost, while the other was clearly marked to Baslow. For a time I was non-plussed but, thinking that the unmarked course would take an indifferent route, I decided to take the Baslow road in the expectation of it leading to Grindleford. My chosen route continued uphill but I pushed on as fast as I could in the hope of soon overtaking Cyril. Meanwhile he was riding on to Grindleford via the other road, which I was convinced of, after reaching Baslow without seeing him. I now rode through Calver to Grindleford trusting to a chance meeting but by the time I had reached Grindleford Bridge I had given up hope of seeing him that day. Therefore I sat by the Bridge and fell into abstraction, musing as to what I should do and where I should go if we did not meet before the termination of our holiday. I decided I would not return home until my holiday was spent and I entertained the thought of riding as far north as time would allow. However, I was aware that nothing could be accomplished by sitting idle, so I arose and cashed a treasury note at the little Post Office and bought food for dinner, after which I returned through the village and climbed the road to Eyam. Beside this road I had my mid-day meal and a wash and drink from a spring. Below me was a deep vale, the hills opposite being about the same height as the one I was on. Being greatly refreshed and invigorated, I enjoyed the ride to the well-known village of Eyam. It is supposed to be the first village visited by the Plague in the Midlands. The story goes that a villager brought back the disease in a suit of clothes he had purchased in London. A few cottages visited by the malady are standing to the present day with the historic date, 1612 engraved upon them. Over the porch of the church is a large sundial and in the churchyard I saw the old stone cross over the grave of Mompesson, who, by his kindly ministering greatly alleviated the sufferings of the afflicted during the Plague visitation.
From Eyam I resolved to go to Chatsworth so I turned my machine towards Baslow once more but as a change from the way I had come I cycled along a pretty road, with high rocks upon either side, called Middleton Dale and then on through Stony Middleton and Baslow. At Chatsworth I walked through part of the grounds but when I reached the House I could not enter as it was closed.
Up to this time I had had the impression that I possessed a copy of the address at Buxton which our late landlady had given us. Now, however, I found that I had not that “scrap of paper” so while on the way to Buxton I was thinking of the best way to get to know the address again, and so see Cyril. As a result of this meditation I dismounted at the first village I came to and, entering the Post Office, sent the following telegram, reply paid:- “To Mrs Howes. Please forward Buxton address given Cope this morning to Heason, c/o Post Office, Buxton.” The reply to this, I calculated, would be there about the same time as my advent in Buxton.
The trees in a certain wood I passed were so completely covered with dust that I imagined their appearance could be no whiter after a good hoar frost. A few miles further I had a glass of milk which prepared me for climbing the ascending road which continued until right past Taddington. The scenery encountered hereabouts was grand. Mountain streams were on every side and the high hills were covered with wild plants, trees, shrubs and rocks. When about four miles from Buxton I had a splendid run into the place, which compensated me for the hard climb I had experienced. My first action upon arrival was an enquiry for the reply to my telegram, but I was too early. In the meantime I had tea, and afterwards, about 8pm, again visited the Post Office, but again without result. During my further wait I bought a map of the district from a shop in one of the main thoroughfares for I seriously thought I should be alone during the remainder of the holidays. I walked round the residential portion of Buxton, rested a while in the chief recreation ground, and revisited the Post Office after a lapse of half an hour. The front entrance was now closed but upon inspection of the notices I saw that telegram enquiries could be prosecuted at the rear entrance. I thereupon walked in and found myself amongst postmen and clerks, busy at their several duties. A gentleman interrogated me, and upon expressing my wishes, he produced the long-expected missive. I straight-forth searched for the given address where I was made comfortable. Cyril appeared about 9:30 after a stroll round Buxton so we retired for the night, again highly satisfied.
Tuesday, 1 June 1915
The next morning we started together from Buxton and climbed upwards for a mile or two and then had a fine run of about six miles into Whaley Bridge. We rode through the village without stopping and onward until we reached Chapel-en-le-Frith. Here we saw the old stocks in the market place. Glossop was next visited by way of Hayfield, through very hilly country. We remarked on the many mill-hands returning to work with clattering of clogs in Glossop’s streets. Now we had to climb the long, precipitous hill in the Peak District which afterwards led down the famous Snake Pass in an exhilarating run of many miles. High hills, dep valleys and gushing torrents were caught up in our eager gaze, with occasional glimpses of grazing mountain sheep, as we sped along. We ordered tea in the isolated Snake Inn, after which our journey was continued. Before long my tyre burst with a loud report, but, nothing daunted, the repair was soon effected and we remounted our cycles for the easy run into Hathersage. Our search for accommodation led us down a rutty lane to a farmhouse. Weights, such as old kettles filled with stones, were attached to the intervening gates, which ensured that they closed after passing through. Being recommended by the housekeeper to a boarding house in the village, we repaired there and passed a comfortable night before starting our journey homewards via Dore Moor near Sheffield.
Arthur James Heason
Arthur James Heason
Born 1898, Died 1975
was my adoptive father; he was married to Ethel Heason, born 1900, died 1977, who was, I understand my biological aunty. They took me on after my natural mother died very soon after I was born in 1938. From him I inherited an affinity for exploration, travel, cycling and maps, all of which disciplines played a part in my development and subsequent pattern of life.
When transcribing the forgoing from his original hand-written diary, I have copied exact wording, phraseology and spellings used; (also dates, which do not appear to run consecutively).
Alan Heason, Nantmor, May 2016