Robin Hoods stride - copyright www.peakdistrictphotographs.co.uk

Myths and Legends of the Peak

...and Robin Hood's mate!

Myths and legends in the Peak District are as common as the frequent mists which descend on its hills, adding to the sense of it being a place apart, where weird and wonderful things can happen.


Perhaps the most common legends are those concerning England’s most famous folk hero and outlaw Robin Hood, who, if placenames are anything to go by, was a frequent visitor to the Derbyshire hills.
 
Robin Hood’s Stride, near Winster, is an amazing gritstone outcrop with two isolated pinnacles, about the length of a cricket pitch apart, indicating that the legendary outlaw must have been a giant as well. The alternative name for the outcrop is Mock Beggar’s Hall, from its resemblance to a ruined building when seen from a distance especially at dusk.
 
Robin Hood’s faithful lieutenant, Little John was a giant and allegedly born in Hathersage in the Hope Valley, where he was a nail-maker. You can still see his enormous grave, cared for by the Ancient Order of Foresters, between two stunted yews just outside the porch in the churchyard of St Michael’s.
 
Nearby on the gritstone escarpment of Stanage Edge, Robin Hood’s Cave has been a convenient bivouvac for generations of climbers, and there are also Robin Hood’s and Little John’s Wells on the National Trust’s Longshaw estate, and a hamlet and pub called Robin Hood on the A619 Chesterfield road.
 
The medieval Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green has links with the outcrop of The Roaches in the Staffordshire Moorlands, and the Green Chapel, where the gloomy defile known as Lud’s Church in nearby Back Forest has been suggested as the scene of Gawain’s fateful rendezvous with the Green Knight.
 
Lud’s Church was certainly used by Lollards during the 16th century as a remote place where they could worship away from the prying eyes of the authorities, and there’s a legend that during a raid, leader Walter de Ludank’s innocent daughter was shot in the ravine, and that she still haunts it.
 
Another foul deed which has entered legend is the murder and robbery of Alan and Clara in the Winnats Pass, just outside Castleton, in 1758. Each of the drunken lead miners who were thought to be responsible each met gruesome and violent deaths themselves in the ensuing years, ensuring that justice was done.
 
A happier outcome befell jilted lover Hannah Baddeley of Stoney Middleton, who in 1762 threw herself to what she imagined would be her death from the steep cliffs of Middleton Dale, only to be saved by her voluminous petticoats, which acted as a parachute and deposited her safely in a thorn bush.


Roly Smith

© Let's Stay Peak District






Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015