On the Coffin Road

On our second day in Derbyshire, we walked from Edale to Hollins Cross. Turns out it’s also known as the “coffin road.

Burial parties on the old route from Edale to the parish church at Castleton, before the village got its own church in Victorian times, used to stop for prayers at Hollins Cross on the ridge dividing the two valleys. [David Hey, A History of the Peak District Moors, Chapter 8]

We weren’t carrying a coffin—nor was anyone else we encountered—and we didn’t know to stop for prayers, either. Instead, we stopped, ate our sandwiches, and admired the views of the valleys and, off in the distance, Mam Tor.

Edale is the site of another bit of significant local history: “In 1900 George Herbert Bridges Ward formed what he described as ‘the first Sunday workers’ rambling club in the North of England’, the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers.” [citation, Chapter 7]

Bert Ward inserted an advertisement in the Clarion inviting readers to join him on a strenuous 20-mile ramble around Kinder Scout on Sunday 2 September 1900, meeting at Sheffield Midland station to catch the 8.30 am train to Edale. Eleven men and three women took up the invitation.

[T] line through the Hope Valley to Manchester (with a station at Edale) had been opened just a few years before. Now, ordinary people from the industrial cities had quick and cheap access into the heart of the Peak District . . . . The first ramble (a hard walk that Ward had reconnoitred the week before) followed an ancient footpath along the southern side of Kinder Scout, past Barber Booth and Upper Booth farms, up Jacob’s Ladder to Edale Cross, and down the other side of the Pennines to lunch and a sing-song at Hayfield. The party returned via the William Clough footpath around the northern side of Kinder Scout to the Snake Inn, the path that had been re-opened three years earlier. Tea for fourteen was ordered at the inn, to the surprise of the staff who had to bake fresh bread and cakes, and after another sing-song and long walk the return train was caught at Hope, arriving back in Sheffield at 8 pm. What a day! Ward kept repeating ‘Pioneers, oh pioneers’. He was asked to organise five more walks the following year. From such modest beginnings a mass movement was created. [citation, Chapter 7]

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Listening List

Ernst John Moeran (1894-1950), In the Mountain Country 

[I]n the Mountain Country, a rhapsody in all but name, [is a work] written under the spell of folksong. Moeran had resumed his collecting of such songs while composing these two pieces, and though the themes he uses are original, they could easily pass as traditional. The other major influences on these, and in fact on all of the works presented here, are the music of Frederick Delius, Jean Sibelius, and friend Peter Warlock, and—perhaps most importantly—the picturesque landscapes of the east of both Ireland and England.

The above excerpt is from the album notes here.


Credits: The sources for quotations may be found at the links in the text. As always on the blog unless indicated otherwise, the photographs are mine.

10 thoughts on “On the Coffin Road

  1. Brian Long

    Beautiful imagery, Susan. For some reason the term “to ramble” particularly resonates with me. Much more inviting than “hiking”. And Moeran’s piece works wonderfully for the post.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Brian: I can’t tell you how many pieces I tried out, then happened on your post of the Moeran–so glad to become aware of it, and glad you also think it’s a fitting complement to the post. Agree with you, also, about “ramble” vs. “hike.” While we did have to do a little huffing and puffing to get to the top, many people were out strolling, some walking their dogs, and one person (we were on the lookout for this), had on flip-flops. A beautiful place, on a beautiful day. We were very lucky.

  2. hilarymb

    Hi Susan – what a wonderful place to walk … and when I get up there I will definitely take a look and go some of the distance. Loved the music too – Moeran – I’d never heard of him … so I’m glad to be aware. Cheers Hilary

  3. David N

    Ah, the Peak District in the spring, complete with human history and natural beauties (did the lambs jump in the air?). When we were last there, for a wedding, foot and mouth disease was in full spate and few paths could be walked, so we followed the road through Winnats Pass.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: I didn’t see any lambs jump, but they were adorable and oh, so photogenic nonetheless. I do remember the F&M period and how awful it was. Reminds one never to take for granted such open access to beautiful countryside.

  4. shoreacres

    I noticed your changed avatar some while back, and forgot to ask about it. I can’t quite decide how you’ve done it, but it certainly is interesting. It has a bit of “an inquiring photographer” feel to it.

    Your description has put me in the mood for a ramble, but we’re moving into true summer here now, and it’s a bit more of a commitment — and a bit more work — to ramble. And even though I love my place in the world, and try not to fall into envy when I see places like this one, I’m not always wholly successful. What beautiful countryside, and what sweet lambs. I’d be out rambling every day if I lived there.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: re the avatar, on our last day in Palermo I went to a contemporary art museum. One of the exhibits was a group of wardrobes hanging from a ceiling, and one of them had a mirrored front. So, in the spirit of being “artsy,” I photographed myself in the mirror. As for rambling, there are few places, I suspect, as good for rambling as England, with its long history of rights of way. (There will be something on that history in a future post from this trip.)

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