The Roystone Grange Trail

...duals as a history lesson

This is a journey back through time on a way-marked trail developed by the National Park Authority as a way of interpreting the fascinating history of a typical White Peak valley...

The Roystone Grange Trail

This is a journey back through time on a way-marked trail developed by the National Park Authority as a way of interpreting the fascinating history of a typical White Peak valley. A 10-year archaeological project by Sheffield University resulted in a wealth of knowledge being gathered about the history of Roystone Grange, and this easy walk visits all the sites of interest on its journey into the past. 

The High Peak Trail

The High Peak Trail follows the line of the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, which was originally designed as a canal – the stations were called wharves – to link the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. Completed in 1830, it was one of the earliest operational lines in Britain, and when it first started the coaches and freight waggons were hauled by horses.  

Among its unusual features was the Gotham Curve, about a mile north ofthe Minninglow car park, where the line makes an 80 degree turn – the tightest on any British railway. The line fell under the Beeching axe in 1967 and four years later, it was converted to the popular walking and riding route known to thousands of visitors today. 

Set off south down the Trail, passing through a rocky cutting and then over an impressive stone-built embankment on a sweeping curve with superb views. Ahead can be seen the spindly crown of beeches which marks the site of the Minninglow Neolithic Chambered Tomb.   

Just past the junction (right) with Minninglow Lane, you pass the remains on your right of a 19th century brick kiln. 

The Brick Works

This partly-excavated Victorian brick-kiln complex manufactured refractory bricks for use in Sheffield’s steel industry. The bricks were made from local deposits of high-firing silica sands found in the pits near Minninglow Grange, in the valley below. Two kilns and the outlines of storage yards can be seen by the side of the railway by which the finished bricks were transported. They were used to build steel furnaces in places like the fast-growing city of Sheffield, and this industry continues at the Friden works near Newhaven, whose chimneys can be seen on the horizon. 

Opposite here, a gate leads left onto Gallowlow Lane, where you get good views of the Minninglow tomb on the hilltop to the left (no public access). 

The Minninglow Tomb

Enclosed by a spindly collection of ancient beeches and now surrounded by a moat-like plantation of modern conifers, the Minninglow Neolithic Chambered Tomb is one of the earliest prehistoric monuments in the Peak District.  

The megalithic tomb was constructed on the summit of the 372m/1,220ft Minninglow Hill between 4,500 and 2,000 BC by Neolithic people who obviously appreciated the outstanding views from its windswept summit. At least four chambers were constructed from large blocks of limestone which were then covered by a massive circular mound of earth which has long since disappeared. The bones of the dead were buried in the chambers, and possibly taken out again on ceremonial occasions. 

After a few hundred yards on Gallowlow Lane, turn right downhill and over a stile on a path which leads beneath the former railway and down across another stile into the Roystone Grange valley.  

Roystone Grange

The award-winning Roystone Grange dig by Sheffield University revealed the continuous use of this remote little dry valley since Roman times. It has been established that some of the drystone walls still in use today were actually first laid down in Roman times, and are marked by the massive “orthostat” stones in their base.  

The foundations of the medieval grange of Roystone – an outlying farm belonging to the Cistercian Abbey of Garendon in far-off Leicestershire – were discovered in the fields behind the prominent, chapel-like pump house building in the valley. 

Beside this are the foundations of what could have been a Romano-British sheep pen, a matter of yards from where the modern farmer at Roystone erects his galvanised iron sheep pens for the annual shearing nearly 2,000 years later.  

Below the pump house, on the hillside to the left of the track which leads down the dry valley to Ballidon Quarry, six low banks reveal a Romano-British field system. The main Romano-British farmstead and manor has been identified to the left of the track which leads up past the relatively-modern, 18th/19th century buildings of Roystone Grange Farm. This was occupied during the 2nd century by a community of British people who had been “Romanised” after 300 years of Empirical rule, and who farmed the valley growing their crops and raising their livestock in this quiet White Peak backwater.  

Walk through the farmyard of modern Roystone Grange, noting the fine barn on the left, and follow the lane which leads past the farm cottages to the junction with Minninglow Lane. Turn left here and follow the lane for about half a mile and at the junction with Parwich Lane, turn right and walk back along the lane to the car park, which is 400m on the right.   

Factfile

Start/finish: Minninglow Car Park on the High Peak Trail, half a mile south of Pikehall on the A5012 Cromford to Newhaven road

Distance: 6 km/4 miles

Approximate time: Allow at least two hours

Highest point: On the High Peak Trail near Gallowlow Lane, 330m/ 1,082ft

Map: OS Explorer Sheet 24, White Peak

Refreshments: The Sycamore Inn,  Parwich

Terrain: A former railway track, followed by field paths which can be muddy, and country lanes

These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.

© Let's Stay Peak District 

Last Updated: 11 May 2015