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National Heritage Open Day

Coal Mines of Buxton

On 8th September Buxton Civic Association helped celebrate the national Heritage Open Days by offering a guided walk around the coal mines of Buxton.

Despite a drizzly start the sun and a cooling breeze provided perfect conditions for our explorations on Burbage Moor. Fourteen visitors met at Poole’s Cavern, all booted and clad for the occasion. Before setting off, Alan Roberts and Lyn Noble set the scene by describing the historical and geological context of the coalfield. One group member had fond memories of BCA’s first coal mines walk which took place in “monsoon conditions”!

The walk started at Level Lane on Macclesfield Old Road, named after an 1803 mine “level” which was driven from this point. Then a fight with a few nettles and a steep climb to the moor to the location of an earlier level (1754), with remains of horse drawn tramways and coke ovens and rail sidings from a later period.

The top of Macclesfield Old Road provided an excellent view over the upper Goyt Valley and its extensive coal workings then back to the Axe Edge footpath where we examined air shafts to the levels beneath and speculated about the purpose of the “Buckett Engine Pits”.

Finally, down through an area of early shallow pits dating back to the 17th and early 18th Centuries and back to the cars. The sun continued to shine and the smiling faces (and aching legs) said it all.

Coal mining in Buxton guided walk

Braving the elements on the coal mines heritage trail

In their excellent book, ‘The Coal mines of Buxton’ Alan Roberts and John Leach make the claim that the mining country around Buxton had some of the harshest and toughest working conditions in the country. Judging by the awful weather on Sunday 26th July, it was easy to believe it. It was a tribute to the dedication and hardiness of the 31 Buxton Civic Association members and their walking guides, Lyn Noble and Alan Roberts, that the walk took place at all.

The guided walk gave members and friends a fascinating glimpse of the significant coal mining industry that went on, on and under the moors above Buxton. Without expert guidance it would have been hard to see and to understand the extent of the workings in the landscape, as now only the ghost of traces of what went on in the hillls remain.

Starting at Cistern’s Clough, and making its way across the bleak Moorland and hill country above Buxton, the trail finishes at the Dukes Level, Ochre brook. The trail traces the origins of coal mining from the 16th century, right up to the closure of the last commercial mine in 1919. Now there is very little trace of the workings left, but with some expert guidance and a little imagination several features were revealed and it became clear that the landscape was littered with disused workings, mine shafts (now sealed), and traces of the raw material itself, albeit of a very poor quality.

The licenses for the mining were granted by the Chatsworth Estate. The coal that was extracted was mainly used for lime burning, and much of it would have found its way to Grin low. Improvements in transport links, such as the development of the canals and railways, and the increasing difficulty of extracting the coal from the workings due to flooding, meant that it became cheaper to use better quality coal from deeper mines elsewhere. The coal mines of Buxton ceased and fell into disrepair.

The plan is to repeat the walk again in the near future, and this will be the first of several heritage walks that Buxton Civic Association members are developing as a result of their ‘places and spaces’ project. If you are interested in finding out more about this and other projects that BCA are involved with, please have a look at the website on www.buxtoncivicassociation.org.uk or email us at communications@buxtoincivicassociation.org.uk

Some Photographs from the Archives

The photographs above are reproduced with kind permission from Frank Emerson.

The guided walk is based upon source material researched and provided by Alan Roberts and john Barratt.

Copies of Maps and Geological Section

Hand drawn map and cross section of the area covered by the walk - Lyn Noble

Dawn Chorus Grin Woods

Listening intently in the rain.

Report on BCA members dawn chorus walk

International dawn chorus day dawned, wet, very wet, and with just enough of a wind to make sure that you stayed chilled and cold. So it was just before five am on Sunday morning, that we, six adults and two children, gathered in Poole's Cavern visitor's car park, with rapidly dampening spirits and even damper Cagoules to celebrate international dawn chorus day with an early morning walk in Grin woods. A song thrush was awake though and despite the rain, sang us a welcome song, as we set off into the gloom and dankness of grin wood. Now I am not going to claim that I know the wood like the back of my hand, but over the twenty five years that I have been walking there, I guess I would say that I know it reasonably well. Not as well as the younger members of our party though. They seemed to know all the secret paths, and having the super observational skill of the young, had soon spotted what they thought might be badger claw marks. They might well have been right, but by now any self-respecting badger would have been tucked up in his sett; dry, warm, cosy and settling down for a nice lie in.

We stopped by the tree with the swinging branch and listened. Blackbirds and Robins competed with each other orchestrating a beautiful melody whilst in the background a wren favoured a more atonal call. As we moved on the rain intensified, robins and blackbirds continued to vie for pride of place and Steve claimed he heard a tree creeper.

We stopped again in the clearing that links the glades. A wood pigeon made a brief appearance, a blue tit kept up a steady barrage, and a couple of crows called from the top of the canopy. The light fitfully and reluctantly chased away the shadows and the wood began to resemble its old familiar self. The birds were falling silent. The rain was steady; we beat a hasty retreat back to the car park. It had been an experience.

The number and variety of species that we heard on Sunday was disappointing even allowing for the rain. One of the reasons for creating the woodland ride is to increase the variety of habitats available , that will in the long run improve the bio diversity of the wood and lead to an increase in the range of flora and fauna.

Species that we didn't hear but we know are in the woods are; Nuthatch, Coal and Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatcher.

You can listen to a short clip of the some of the species that we heard by clicking on the link below.

Butterfly Transect – Volunteers wanted

We are planning to do a butterfly survey this summer at Grin Low Wood and we are looking for volunteers. Do you have an interest in butterflies and can you identify them? The season starts at the beginning of April and goes through to the end of September. We will have a route that is walked once a week although depending on how many volunteers take part you should only need to commit to this about once a month. The walk should take no more than one hour and will start from Poole’s cavern car park. The route will be split up into sections and we will record the species and the number of butterflies seen in each section using a pre-printed sheet. At the end of the season, all our records will be sent to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation to help determine local and national trends. So, if you would like to take part in this citizen science project please reply to communications@buxtoncivicassociation.org.uk and put Butterfly Transect in the subject line.

Woods, Snow and Poetry

Whenever there is snow on the ground and I am walking in the woods, usually Grinlow or Corbar, this poem always comes to mind. Perhaps Robert Frost's best known work, the poem is based on Frost's own experience in returning home from a market during a long and cold New England winter. Frost had had a less than successful day and had come home empty handed. There is a wistful feel to the poem, a desire to linger and delay the trip home perhaps? However his horse shakes him from his thoughts and aware of his responsibilities he sets of to finish his journey.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost.

Country Park Footpaths Improved

Working on Footpath improvements to the Country Park

If you go down to the woods today you might be in for a big surprise, as Buxton Civic Association have continued the work to improve the access to their woods by funding a footpath restoration project to Buxton Country Park. The pathways, which are popular routes through Grin Low woods, have become heavily eroded over the years causing many new minor paths to form which threatened to damage the delicate woodland flora and disturb wildlife.

Helped by a very generous donation of Limestone aggregate from Lafarge Tarmac and transportation by Lomas Distribution, Buxton Civic Association took the decision to plan and fund the resurfacing of the paths this autumn rather than wait until the spring. Mike Monaghan Director at BCA commented “The support from Lafarge Tarmac and Lomas is invaluable. Their support enables us to do more work on the paths, benefiting everyone who uses the woods and Country Park.”

Buxton Country Park woodland manager Alan Walker said ‘this will greatly improve access for visitors and local dog walkers, as well as enabling us to create and manage quiet sanctuary areas of woodland for wildlife to thrive’.

The hard work on the ground have been done by local landscaping expert Martin Wragg and his team from Oaktree landscapes who have previously completed path projects in Corbar and Sherbrook wood also funded by Buxton Civic Association. The new pathways take an alternative route from Poole’s Cavern through the lower part of the country park before rising towards Solomon’s Temple and Grin Low summit.

Panoramic Guide to view from Solomon’s Temple

Lynne Noble a member of Buxton Civic Association has produced a brand new guide to the magnificent view from Solomon’s Temple. The 360° panorama is divided into four overlapping sections as you move clockwise round the tower. Points of interest are clearly marked with tips on how to identify them (you don’t need a compass!). Many of the features picked out help to explain the geology of the Peak District and the history of mining and quarrying around Buxton. Some of them are on the far horizon and are only visible on a really clear day. Did you know that you can see Mam Tor and Stanage Edge from Grin Low?

The guide is produced on a single sheet with two sections of the panorama on each side and can be bought flat or rolled. They are on sale at Poole’s Cavern, price £2, ready to make your next visit to Solomon’s Temple much more interesting... and more than just a view.

A section of the 360 degree view from Solomon's Temple.

Combs Moss and Kinder Scout are part of the Dark Peak. This is moorland country made of gritstone (course sandstone) and shales often with beds of peat on top. The highest parts of Kinder are about 630 metres (2000 feet) above sea level.
Grin Low is 435 metres (1426 feet) above sea level and is in the White Peak. The light grey walls and rocks around Solomon’s Temple show that this is limestone country.
Much of the White Peak is 300 to 400 metres (900 to 1300 feet) above sea level.
Buxton is one of the highest towns in England at 300 metres (nearly 1000 feet) above sea level.

The 360° panorama is divided into four sections as you move clockwise round the tower.

Try to identify the near features first then work back into the distance.
eg look at the stile in the wall on Section 1 then look directly above it and you should see the
Palace Hotel and Brown Edge TV Mast beyond that... easy.

The most distant features need perfect visibility and good eyes.

The right hand edge of each section overlaps with the left edge of the section below

Challenge… Can you spot Mam Tor and Buxton Cricket Ground?

Minninglow Hill on Section 2 is really difficult to spot!! (binoculars are a must for this one)

Vernie the Rottie is reunited after her Adventure

Some quick thinking by a party of visitors out walking near the edge of the woods saw them intervene and stop Vernie the Rottweiler from chasing sheep. They managed to catch Vernie, and attach some string to her collar before bringing her down to the visitors centre at Poole's Cavern. Thirsty after all her running around she proceeded to drink vast quantities of water, and eat handfuls of treats. In the meantime Paula Pickering, who manages the Cafe at the Cavern, thought that she recognised Vernie, so she was taken to Overdale vets where a quick scan revealed that she was chipped. In the meantime Vernie's owners dropped in to the visitor centre looking for her. So they were able to rush down to Overdale vets to be reunited. A happy ending for all concerned.

BCA Members enjoy a guided walk through through the Wild flower glades of Grin Low

A Frog Orchid, one of the many wild flowers that thrive on the lime rich soil in the glades in Grin Low

It was a perfect sunny summers Sunday afternoon, ideal for the guided walk through the wild flower glades of Grin Low, led by June Noble and ably supported by husband Lyn for members of the Buxton Civic Association.

The woodland glade areas in Grin Low, are associated with the 17th & 18th century lime burning industry that used to dominate the hillside. Below each kiln is a wide area where waste limestone ash was tipped. Slowly the lime tips were colonised by Lime loving species of herbaceous plants and grasses such as Northern Marsh Orchid, Burnet Saxifrage, Globe flower, Mountain Everlasting, Creeping willow and Juniper creating a unique habitat which unlike the neighbouring farm land is not grazed or fertilized by animal livestock.

As well as being able to see a wide range of species, June gave members tips on wild flower identification and spoke about the importance of the glades, explaining how the management of the glades by giving them an annual cut using power brush cutters and the cuttings raked and removed from the glade, is vital in preventing the thin soil layer from becoming too enriched and therefore able to support invasive species.

Lyn and June have produced an excellent introductory guide to "The Wild Flowers of Grin Low Country Park" which is available from Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre.