Peak District Mining Heritage Walks, Field Meets, and Underground Mine Trips

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Here are the guided walks, field meets, and underground mine visits we currently have planned for the next few months in the Derbyshire Peak District. Do keep checking back here, as more walks and underground trips will be added to the list. Walks/meets are organised by the Society, the Museum, and by the Underground Exploration group, with slightly different logistical arrangements: see below.

If you want to find out more information about any of our guided mining and industrial heritage walks, contact Adam at meets@pdmhs.com.

The schedules will usually be updated quarterly, when each newsletter is published.

Online calendars are now available:
https://tinyurl.com/pdmhs-meets-webcal
https://tinyurl.com/pdmhs-meets-ical

Mining Museum Heritage Walks

Sturdy footwear and waterproofs recommended. A charge of £3 is made (both for PDMHS members and non-members) which goes towards the running costs of the museum. Walks are open for anyone to join and well behaved dogs on leads welcome.

Booking should be via the Museum; please refer to the mining museum website and facebook page.

Wednesday Evening Walks

15th May – Bonsall: Clatterway & Via Gellia. Meet 6.30pm at the Lorry Park, Bonsall.

19th June – Portaway Vein, Winster. Meet 6.30pm at the Miners’ Standard, Winster.

17th July – Bonsall Moor’s Scheduled Monuments. Meet 6.30pm at the Lorry Park, Bonsall.

21st August – The Crich Mines. Meet 6.30pm outside the Cliff Inn, Crich.

Special Sunday Walks

26th May – Cromford canal basin. Meet at 11am at Cromford wharf.

25th August – Steeple Grange, Wirksworth. Meet at 11am at the National Stone Centre.

PDMHS members Field Meetings

Many walks/meets organised by PDMHS are free, and are open to all (not just PDMHS members, although you might like to join PDMHS.). However, pre-booking is required when walks are limited to a certain number of people, and contacting us in advance is recommended.

The format of some Society Field Meetings will sometimes be very similar to Museum Heritage Walks, but we might spend a little longer discussing interpretation, and participants other than the leader are likely to chip in their knowledge, as well as asking questions. Society Field Meetings are definitely not “just for experts”, and any meets which involve more than walking around on the surface looking at the remaining features and learning about the history will be clearly indicated as such.

As the walks are weather-dependent, changes due to weather conditions will also be posted on the website; it is advisable to check back here before you set out.

Wirksworth Town Quarries

Sunday 28th April, 2024. Leader: Lynn Willies.

Meet at the Limekiln Inn at the north end of Wirksworth town at the Junction of Cromford and Middleton Roads at 1pm. The route will last about three hours over a couple of miles of easy but sometimes steep walking. Parking is possible up the Middleton Road.

We will begin at the pub itself and its quarry, one of the first large lime-burning sites in the town, and then move on to Baileycroft (through which the road now passes), where the defining geology for the town is easily seen. Then we’ll proceed on up Greenhill (mining and quarrying settlement) to examine 17th century quarries and the former hospital. Then over to The Dale or Big ‘Ole Quarry and the story of the first underground tunnel to the new Railway in 1867-70 and subsequent bankruptcy. Then up to top of hill and an overview of Middle Peak Quarries and the link to Big ‘Ole. We’ll take the footpath over top of Big ‘Ole to West End, and if time, take a quick detour to Yokecliffe and the surviving ruins of a kiln noted by Farey in 1815, before ending up at the Station viewing the two tunnels. En route will be stories of various lethal misadventures.

Bonsall Lees

Tuesday 21st May 2024. Leader: Adam Russell

Meet at the car park in Bonsall, 7.30pm.

This walk will pass the Horsedale mines and head out onto Bonsall Lees, which should at this time of year have a fine display of orchids growing on the spoil. A multiplicity of shafts cover the area, and there are some rare mining features in the form of the sites of cog and rung horse gins. The walk is not strenuous and will involve gentle slopes and take around two hours. Optional drinks afterwards in the Barleymow, Bonsall Uppertown.

Upper Cressbrook Dale & Tansley Dale, nr Litton

Thursday 30th May, 2024. Leader: Adam Cooper

Meet at 7pm at SK172754, on Mires Lane between Litton and the A623. There is layby parking at the meet location for a few cars and another one about 200m towards Litton.

This area boasts quite a high density of mining remains set in a spectacular valley and the focus of the trip will be the Scheduled Monument comprising Arbourseats Veins and Sough, Wardlow Sough, Nay Green Mine and Washing Floors, Hading Vein and Seedlow Rake. It will also be possible to see the local geological structures which influence drainage and are the cause of the impressive rock tower usually known as Peter’s Stone (also known as Gibbet Rock, for which there is a story!).

The route will be about 3 miles and will involve traversing steep ground.

The Red Lion in Litton, with it’s pleasant outdoor seating, is the suggested post-trip watering hole.

Underground Exploration Group

Underground mine trip in Maury Sough © Martin LongOur underground mine trips are organised by the PDMHS UEG (Underground Exploration Group), which is free to join for PDMHS members. Insurance is compulsory for those going on underground trips, but the UEG can arrange this if you don’t already hold BCA insurance. Meeting times/places for UEG meets may be found in the members’ newsletter or by contacting the UEG.

You can contact the UEG here.

Goodluck Sough, Via Gellia

Wednesday 17th April 2024. Leader: Martin Long.

Meet at 7pm at the bottom of Clatterway in Bonsall, Grid Ref. SK 2842 5745.

A short but awkward free-climb leads to some interesting workings.

Spinney Level, Via Gellia

Wednesday 15th May 2024. Leader: Sean Caley.

Meet at 7pm at the rough parking area adjacent to the mine, Grid Ref. SK 2607 5616.

Waist or chest-deep water protects this mine from casual explorers. It is also home to some crude graffiti thought to be of Anglo-Saxon origin.

Gell’s and Silvereye Mines, Via Gellia

Saturday 25th May 2024. Leader: Sean Caley.

Meet at 10.30am at the Goodluck Mine layby on the A5012, Grid Ref. SK 2690 5662.

Gell’s Mine has five winzes to carefully cross and water usually over welly depth.

Silvereye Mine has a flat-out crawl near the entrance and several awkward climbs, some with handlines in-situ.

Maury Sough, Millers Dale

Wednesday 19th June 2024. Leader: Shirley Burtonshaw.

Meet at 7pm at the footbridge in Millers Dale, Grid Ref. SK 1517 7314.

The entrance shaft will be rigged with an electron ladder and safety line and leads to passages with water about welly depth.


Updated: Adam Cooper, April 15th 2024

Smeaton and Watt: unleashing the power that changed the world

steam engine drawingThe 2019 Smeaton Lecture is taking place on 23rd July at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London. The title is “Smeaton and Watt: unleashing the power that changed the world”. 

“The 18th century saw unprecedented advances in our ability to harness power. Much of this was down to James Watt whose invention of the separate condenser and other improvements to the Newcomen engine was the key that unlocked the full potential of the power of steam. Watt then mastered rotative power for factories, accelerating the industrial revolution. Smeaton had also made improvements to the Newcomen engine and he and Watt shared a mutual respect.

This year’s Smeaton lecture will explore this relationship with the help of some letters, not previously published or archived, and uses engineering hindsight to explore the factors influencing successful innovation – then and now.”

Full details of the lecture can be found here.

Froggatt Wood Lead Smelter Walk Report

This walk took place on Wednesday May 22nd, and was a gentle 3 mile evening walk to look at a early lead smelter hidden in the heart of Froggatt Wood. 

The walk had been arranged at short notice to coincide with the bluebells still being out in Hay Wood and Froggatt Wood – a fantastic sight with their lovely scent being an added bonus in the still evening air.

Froggatt Wood smelt mill © Jill Hulme

The gritstone channel which fed the water wheel

Apart from the walk leader, none of the other people who met near the Grouse Inn had ever been to the smelter before – and even the leader had only first visited it a week before. This is not surprising, as the site is well hidden in the woods away from the main footpath, and was quite overgrown until the National Trust (who own the land) did some scrub clearance work there recently. It’s now much easier to see the site’s features. The site is a Scheduled Monument and the Historic England listing for it states: “The Froggatt Wood smelt mill is one of the very few 16th-17th century smelt mills in England to retain any standing structures. The water channel and wood-drying kiln are unique within the lead industry, and the survival of an undisturbed complex of this date, with a wide range of features, is very rare”.

White coal kiln, Froggatt Wood lead smelter. Photos © Jill Hulme

The kiln was used for producing “white coal” fuel for smelting the lead

We were met at the mill by PDMHS member David Dalrymple-Smith, whose website Baslow History was where the walk leader first found out about the site’s existence. David gave us a tour of the site, which includes part of the structure where the water wheel was situated – fed by water coming down a beautiful gritstone channel. As we returned to the main path, we passed part of a large gritstone mould for making pigs of lead, and the nearby stream contained lots of pieces of slag. Very little information about the smelt mill’s history exists, but more information about what can still be seen at the site today can be found on the National Trust’s heritage website here.

Stream in Froggatt Wood © Jill Hulme

The stream contained plenty of pieces of lead slag

The path we then followed used to be one of the major packhorse routes up the Derwent Valley, and there were several places where the original gritstone paving was still clearly visible. The woods have obviously been the site of much industrial activity in previous centuries. Evidence of gritstone quarrying was everywhere, and David also showed us a curious little pond – obviously man-made – whose purpose is unknown.

Two of our walkers left us at Froggatt village, while the rest of us went up an old quarrymen’s track to Froggatt Edge. We emerged at a former millstone quarry, where there are still nearly a dozen millstones lying around – including some of the older domed types. In the quarry face itself, we examined some inscriptions – including one with the date of 1622. On the top of Froggatt Edge was plenty more evidence of quarrying, and also some very intricately carved C19th inscriptions in the gritstone boulders. 

By now it was past sunset, but we were treated to a beautiful sky as we walked back along the Edge towards the start point. On our way, we saw 9 red deer at quite close quarters, and also a pair of nightjars. A fine end to a good walk which everyone enjoyed.

Thanks to Jill Hulme for allowing us to use her photos.

Matlock Cable Tramway Walk Report

Sunday 28th April dawned a pleasant day after the horrendous weather of the previous day. Nine of us met Paul Chandler at the picnic site / car park in Darley Dale. We started off towards Warney Mill, a former corn water mill. This was acquired by one Herbert Harding from Matlock and used as a caravan site. He later sold furniture direct to the public. On Sundays the items were included in an expensive pound of carrots to work around the then Sunday trading laws. The site is now better known as DFS. 

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Museum Heritage Events

The Peak District Lead Mining Museum (part of PDMHS) hosts Derbyshire Heritage Events and offers Guided Heritage Walks in Derbyshire – for dates, times, costs and other details please check the Museum Web Site news page or their Facebook page.

The guided heritage walks are led by local expert Tony Wood and others. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the Peak District Lead Mining Museum in Matlock Bath. Not only does Tony have an extensive knowledge of local lead mining history, but also the people and places. His walks have usually been sold out and attract many “repeat visitors”. You can buy tickets in person at the Museum (check the Museum web site for opening times) or you can email here or phone 01629 583834. Card payments can be taken over the phone for a minimum of 2 or more tickets.

Evening walks usually begin at 7.00pm and aim to finish by 9.00pm. The starting point will be given when you purchase your tickets. 

In addition to walks organised by the Museum, PDMHS also operates a series of free heritage walks and underground trips. For underground trips, BCA public liability insurance is mandatory – this can be arranged for PDMHS members by the Society’s Underground Exploration Group.

Derbyshire Heritage Talks are hosted at the Museum in Matlock Bath. Talks are on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 and cover a wide range of historical aspects of the area, including the mining heritage but also industrial archaeology, folk-lore and social history in Derbyshire. These heritage events are well attended and tickets should be purchased in advance (at the museum or by phone to 01629 583834) to avoid disappointment. For ticket prices see the museum web site.