Hayfield was busy. It had cotton mills, papermaking mills and calico printing and dye factories. Hayfield had times of trouble. Floods washed away three bridges in the town, even swept away some bodies from their churchyard graves. And in 1830 it resounded to the marching feet of a thousand protesting mill workers, demanding a higher wage. As was always the case in such times, the men were beaten back by soldiers and charged with civil disorder. Their industry went into a slow decline that would last a century, and Hayfield returned to its countryside ways.
The Sett Valley Trail
The first part of the walk to little Lantern Pike follows the Sett Valley Trail, the trackbed of a railway that until 1970 linked Manchester and New Mills with Hayfield. At its peak the steam train would have brought thousands of people from Manchester. Today it's a pleasant tree-lined track, working its way through the valley between the hills of Lantern Pike and Chinley Churn. The track, and its former wasteland surroundings, are becoming quite a haven for wildlife. Beneath the ash, sycamore, beech and oak you'll see wood anemone, bluebells and wild garlic, along with the rhubarb-like butterbur. In the days before fridges butterbur leaves were used to wrap butter to keep it cool.
Lantern Pike is the middle of three ridges peeping through the trees, and by the time you get to Birch Vale you're ready to tackle it. You ascend on a shady path through woods, then a country lane with wild flowers in the verges, and finally on heather and grass slopes to the rocky-crested summit. Lantern Pike's name comes from the beacon tower that once stood on its summit. It had to be demolished in 1907 after falling into a dangerous state of disrepair. Having descended back down to the busy Glossop road the route then climbs up across Middle Moor where it enters a new landscape – one of expansive heather fields. Soon you're on the skyline looking down on the Kinder and the ever-so-green valley beneath your feet. This seems to be complemented to perfection by the shapely and ever-so-green peaks of Mount Famine and South Head.
Into modern Hayfield
You come down to Hayfield on the Snake Path, an old traders' route linking the Sett and Woodland valleys which dates back to 1897. A fine street of stone-built cottages, with window boxes overflowing with flowers, takes you to the centre. This is a place where walkers come, and motorists take tea before motoring somewhere else. It's all so very peaceful...now.
Follow the old railway trackbed signed 'The Sett Valley Trail and Pennine Bridleway', from the car park in Hayfield. This heads west down the valley and above the River Sett to meet a minor road close to the A6015 New Mills road at Birch Vale.
Turn right along the road, then right again along a rising cobbled track behind the cottages of The Crescent into the shade of the woods. Beyond a gate, the track meets a tarred farm lane at a hairpin bend. Turn left, uphill, to reach a country lane. A surfaced lane, staggered to the right across it, climbs further up the hillside. Keep going past the entrance to Higher Cliff Farm to a gate at the edge of the National Trust's Lantern Pike.
Leave the bridleway here and turn left along a grassy wallside path climbing heather and bracken slopes to the rock-fringed ridge. Turn right and climb the airy crest to Lantern Pike's summit, which is topped by a view indicator.
The path continues northwards from the top of Lantern Pike, descending to the northern boundary of the National Trust estate, where it rejoins the track you left earlier. Beyond a gate, keep ahead on the main path which then curves left across a high pasture to a five-way footpath signpost near Blackshaw Farm.
Go through a gate, turn left along a walled farm lane past Bullshaw Farm, then right at a junction to follow a track in front of Matley Moor Farm. Where the track curves right, leave it and take a rough grassy track on the left. Go over the stile at its end and continue northwards, uphill on a grooved path following the line of the wall. The path ultimately joins a semi-surfaced track from Knarrs.
Continue downhill on the track and at the end turn right and walk along the road to reach the A624. Cross this with care and go over the stile at the far side. Turn immediately right, following a faint, rutted track with a wall on the right-hand side. This eventually joins another track before crossing the little valley of Hollingworth Clough on a footbridge before climbing up the heather slopes of Middle Moor.
Near a white shooting cabin, turn right on the stony Snake Path. Leave the moor through a gate and curve left to descend across a succession of grazing pastures. A contained track finally leads down to Kinder Road.
Turn right to the village. At a fork near the bottom, keep left and immediately left again down a broad passage to come out beside The Royal Hotel. Go right to the street and left past St Matthew's Church, then swing right beside it to the main road. Cross back to the car park.
Good paths and tracks, some stiles
Heather moorland and rolling farm pastures
Walk is on farmland and access agreement land; dogs should be kept on lead
AA Walker's Map 1 Central Peak District
Sett Valley Trail pay car park, Hayfield
At car park
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.
The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.
The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.