A Green Valley surrounded by hills
Edale from Mam Tor
Overlooked by the Iron Age fort on Mam Tor, Edale Valley is the wide expanse of green which lies just to the south of the great gritstone and peat mass of Kinder Scout, which is usually accepted as the southern end of the Pennines.
Probably not permanently settled in Saxon times, Edale (called ‘Aidale’ in the Domesday Book) became part of the ‘Royal Forest of the Peak’ after the Norman conquest. This ‘Royal Forest’ covered a large proportion of the modern Peak District and in it farming and settlements were discouraged because they got in the way of the hunting
This meant that Edale developed slowly throughout mediaeval times. There were herdsmans’ shelters or ‘booths’ at what are now the hamlets of Upper Booth, Barber Booth, Ollerbrook Booth and Nether Booth. The central ‘booth’ was Grindsbrook Booth – now usually called Edale Village.
Five Royal Farms were established in the reign of King John but it was not until the Royal Forest system effectively collapsed in Tudor times that proper settlements developed in the valley. In Elizabethan times the valley was effectively a large cattle ranch based around the five farms
Modern Barber Booth
Sheep grazing near Edale Village
By the eighteenth century the pastures were full of sheep rather than cattle and the enclosure acts of the late 18th century resulted in the valley becoming a patchwork quilt of small fields enclosed by stone walls built out of the local gritstone. This had a dramatic effect on the look of the valley and now the walls look as though they have been there for ever, but actually they are mostly less than 200 years old.
In late Victorian times (1894) the railway arrived, driven through the 2-mile long Cowburn tunnel at the head of the vale. It linked Manchester to Sheffield and rapid travel from Edale to either of these cities suddenly became a possibility. It is no accident that most of the houses in Edale Village were built shortly afterwards – for the first time, professional people were able to live in the countryside and commute to work in the city.
Initially, access to the moors was much restricted by landlords and gamekeepers but this gradually crumbled under the relentless pressure of people wanting to walk across the open spaces of the hills around Edale Valley, and now the ‘right to roam’ is clearly established on Kinder and the surrounding hills, under the stewardship of the National Trust and the Peak District National Park.
Kinder Low Trig Point
Kinder Low Trig Point
Commuters were not the only by-product of the railways. During the period between the first and second world wars there was a strong movement for people to get out of the grimy, smoky towns at the weekends and go walking or ‘rambling’ in the countryside. The Ramblers Association and the Youth Hostels Association were products of this time, and each weekend the train would disgorge thousands of ramblers at Edale station.