Axe Edge Moor, Buxton’s Coal Mining District.
|7.3 miles, 11.8 km|
|Total Climbing||1151ft, 351m|
|Estimated Time||4hrs 45min|
|Starting Point||Car Park at the Head of the Goyt Valley, SK 108 715|
The river Goyt rises in the western Peak moorland near the Cat and Fiddle Public House. The same piece of moorland is also the source of the river Dane. This area was also the southernmost tip of a coalfield that ran all the way to Oldham in the north. Mining the coal may have begun as early as medieval times, but by the early 19th century, large-scale mines were in operation. The scars of this once massive endeavour are still visible to this day, although most of the workings were closed before the end of the 19th century.
This walk retreads some of the miner’s paths, taking in some of the visible remains. It also takes in some fine open moorland, and two steep sided river valleys, making the walk a visual delight as well.
Park in the public Car Park at the top of the Goyt Valley at SK 018716 a short distance off the main A537 road from Buxton to Macclesfield. Leave the car park and turn right onto the rough track that leads over the moors to Buxton. This is the Turnpike road, the first of its kind from Buxton to Macclesfield. Follow the track for 200 yards, until you see a rough path heading over the barren moorland, to your right. Turn onto the path and immediately look to your left and you will see a large distinctive mound of grass covered rock, just below the crest of moorland on the horizon. This mound marks the location of an airshaft into a long access tunnel driven from the other side of the crest of moorland.
This tunnel known as the Goyt New Tunnel was constructed in 1812 to reach the coal seams that are lying underneath the surrounding moorland. It is about 2000 yards in length and intersects the seams at a depth of 200ft beneath the surface or ’day’ as the miners called it. The coal was brought out in narrow gauge trucks and tipped into standard gauge trucks on the nearby Cromford and High Peak Railway for use in the local Grin Limestone Quarry where it was used to burn limestone. Unfortunately the location of the tunnel entrance and associated remains are not included in this walk but it is hoped that a future route will visit this important industrial site. Continue along the path and you will soon notice a fenced area to your left. This marks the location of a shaft sunk into the coal seam, possibly before the Goyt New Tunnel was constructed. Follow the path until you reach another walled track and turn to your left and head slightly uphill. This is the route of the Turnpike, the second one to be made from Buxton.
On arriving at the top of the hill a superb view opens up in front of you. In the near distance can be seen the landscaped site of the large Grin Limestone Quarry and directly behind this the structure called Grinlow Tower (locally Solomon’s Temple) tops the hill. In the far distance the prominent oblong shaped hill is the site of the Fin Cop Iron Age encampment overlooking Monsal Dale. To the right of this feature another prominent hill is Chelmorton Low. This hill that is topped by two Bronze Age Burial Mounds on its summit is 1463 feet above sea level and is therefore the highest limestone hill south of the River Wye. Eldon Hill near Peak Forest is its northern equivalent.
Continue downhill and you will soon pass the overgrown ruins of a building, to the left of the track. This is the remains of Boothmans Cottages, constructed in the 1850’s for Colliery use.
Follow the track until you reach a gate and stile on your left. Cross this and immediately turn to your right and head towards an obvious mound a short distance off the track.
This is the surface remains of the Buckett Engine Pitt, which comprise two stone lined, or ’ginged’ shafts, a collapsed climbing shaft and a flat circular area or ’horse gin’. Originally a shaft mine it was later served by another access tunnel that was driven under this area from Level Lane at Burbage on the outskirts of Buxton. The ’Dukes Level’ as it was called was driven in about 1770 to once again exploit the coal seams deep below the surface. The coal from this and other pits was brought out to the ’day’ in boats along the partly flooded tunnel. Leave the site of Buckett Engine Pitt and immediately cross the stile and follow the obvious track to the main A537 road. Cross this and negotiate the stile that gives access to a well-defined track that heads off over the moor. Follow this until the track veers off to the left at which point is an obvious large diameter ginged shaft that is filled to within a few feet of the surface, this is the last air shaft on the Dukes Level.
Continue along the track, going slightly uphill until you reach a wider and more substantial track. At this point turn to your right and head towards the obvious mound of mine waste. On the way notice all the hollows to the left of the track, it is possible that these are very ancient surface excavations searching for thin seams of coal. After passing the spoil tip you will shortly arrive at an area of disturbed ground to the left of the track, this is a part of the surface remains of the Axe Edge and Thatch Marsh Colliery. A closer inspection of the site will reveal the bricked-up entrance to the Drift Level driven into the coal seam.
Rejoin the main track, turn left and continue to the metalled road, once known as ’Old Coalpit Lane’ on old Ordnance Survey Maps. At this point a short detour can be made to visit the site of Burbage Colliery, the location of which is marked by the large spoil tip over to your left. This was again a Drift Mine and the surface remains to be seen today comprise the spoil tip, ruins of the Engine House and water storage pond. The coal was wound up the drift and then went down a long incline in Cisterns Clough to an unloading area alongside the A53 Buxton to Leek road. If time allows a walk down the incline is well worth the effort because along with the industrial aspect a fantastic view of the Upper Dove Valley is gained from this vantage point. The mine closed in 1919 and was known as ’Top Pit’ by local people. Rumours abound that this and other mines in the area were briefly reopened in 1926 during the General Strike.
Cross ’Old Coalpit Lane’ and follow the signposted path over the moorland known as Dane Head. Once again notice the numerous large hollows that could be the sites of ancient coal workings to either side of the path. The path descends to cross a small brook, one of the tributaries of the infant River Dane, which you will cross over later in the route. Follow the path steeply uphill and where it levels out you will pass another grass-covered mound marking the site of a former coal shaft. You will soon reach a gritstone wall and wooden stile, which in fact marks the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire, when you cross the stile you have entered the latter county. The authors believe that this is an ideal spot to take a break and if the weather is inclement, the wall offers protection from the elements. The view from this point is excellent, down to your left is the Upper Dane Valley, an area that will be described in greater detail later in the route, and in the distance is the prominent pyramid-shaped hill called Shutlingsloe otherwise known as ’Scyttles Hill’ or the ’Matterhorn of the Peak’, with the summit at 1660 feet above sea level. In winter when the summit is capped with snow it takes on the appearance of a true mountain. Incidentally at this location you are situated above the termination of the Dukes Level over 2¼ miles from its entrance on Level Lane at Burbage. It is amazing to think that boats were used on an underground canal many hundreds of feet below you and the surrounding moorland.
Cross the stile and enter an area of land called Orchard Common and follow the path downhill to reach a larger rough track. Turn to your right and follow the track heading towards the farm in the distance. This area was once the site of numerous small diameter coal shafts, these have all been safely capped and are now marked by small blocks of concrete, which can be seen to either side of the track. Continue down the track until you reach a gate, go through this and turn to your left and follow the tarmaced lane over a bridge. Notice how the bridge is arched on one side and square on the other. Follow the lane keeping the stream on your left and start to go downhill into the bleak and desolate Blackhole Clough.
Follow the lane to another gate, go through this and follow the now rough lane and you will shortly arrive at a small packhorse bridge over the stream, where another packhorse road joins the one that you are following, from the left. Notice how the walls of the bridge are quite low, this was to allow the packhorses to cross the bridge without having to remove the heavily laden panniers strapped to their sides.
Continue down the Clough until you reach the famous Three Shires Heads at Panniers Pool Bridge, so named because the three counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire have their boundaries at this point. Before you cross the bridge, if you stand facing it, you are in Derbyshire, to your left is Staffordshire and across the bridge is Cheshire. Many stories are told about the immediate area, one of which concerns the nearby village of Flash, which is incidentally the highest village in England.
Many years ago, in the depths of winter the people of Flash used to make counterfeit money and they would come to Three Shires Heads to exchange this for goods. This fake money became known as ’Flash Money’.
Another story tells of illegal boxing matches being held at Three Shires Heads and when the police turned up the participants would simply cross over the stream into another county and thus escape arrest.
Cross over Panniers Pool Bridge and turn to your right and head up the rough path keeping the stream which is the infant River Dane on your right. Follow the well-defined path until you reach a gate in the fence on your right. Go through this and follow the path alongside the stream. You will have to tread carefully because the whole area is made very boggy by numerous springs, which emerge, from the hillside above the path. Continue along the path and you will soon arrive at an area of obvious industrial use. This is the site of the disused Dane Bower Colliery.
The area is covered in ruins of numerous buildings at the bottom of a grass-covered incline that traverses the steep hillside. At the foot of the incline is the collapsed entrance to the mine. It is possible to look into the arched level amongst the debris that almost blocks it. This is the point where ponies carted the coal from the workings deep in the hillside, to your left. On no account must you enter this level, it is highly dangerous and unstable and possibly contains gas that will KILL you. This mine is very unusual because old records state that this and the nearby Blackhole Clough Colliery were linked underground, through a geological fault that aligned two different seams of coal to the same horizon, an almost unique occurrence. Follow the path up the incline and when you reach the base of the lone chimney, follow the steep path uphill until you reach the Buxton to Congleton road. At this point look over to the far side of the broad valley and you will see the disused gritstone quarries of Danebower and Reeve Edge.
Cross over the road, taking care to avoid the rushing traffic and negotiate a stile that leads across the barren Danebower Hollow to the Cat and Fiddle Inn. The path has recently been resurfaced with gravel making it an ideal track for mountain bikers, who sometimes hurtle past you at alarming speeds. Follow the track over the crest of the moor and at this point you will get an excellent view, to your left, onto the Cheshire Plain. If it is very clear you will also be able to see the mountains of North Wales in the far distance.
Continue along the path until you reach the Cat and Fiddle Inn, the second highest in England. The Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire is said to be 20 feet higher in altitude. Cross over the busy road and turn to your right and you will soon come to a road that branches off to the left. Follow this road downhill and you will shortly arrive at the starting point of the walk.
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