Even though it’s popular with visitors, the Derbyshire village of Edale, tucked high in the valley of the River Noe, feels a long way out of the way.
It is referred to as “Aidale” in Domesday Book and under the Norman kings it became part of the Royal Forest of the Peak. From the reign of King John the Noe Valley comprised five Royal Farms, or “booths”, based on settlements at Upper Booth, Barber Booth, Ollerbrook Booth, Nether Booth and Grindsbrook Booth.
After royal control gave place in Tudor times to individual tenements, Grindsbrook Booth became the location of an inn dating back to the seventeenth century and the site of the parish church of Holy Trinity.
The first parish church here dated from 1633, but the present, third building was built in 1885-6, with a spire added four years later.
Cattle farming gave place to sheep, and in the late eighteenth century the valley was enclosed with the gritstone dry stone walls that are characteristic of the Dark Peak.
The village itself is 820 feet above sea level, and the hills round about rise to over 2,000 feet.
Nevertheless, though transport in any direction was arduous, a cotton mill was built on the site of a corn mill and tannery half a mile from the village in 1795.
Workers lived in a dormitory, on a site still known as Skinners Hall [https://www.cottageguide.co.uk/taylorscroft], and women workers came from Castleton, commuting on foot along the old coffin-trail over Hollins Cross.
The mill operated until 1934, and the Landmark Trust restored and converted it to apartments in the 1970s.
The railway eventually made the place accessible in 1894, and houses for prosperous Victorian incomers stand among older vernacular cottages.
The Nag’s Head pub, a former barn, is the formal southern beginning of the Pennine Way.
There was a possibility, shortly after the Second World War, that all this would be swept away, when in 1949 the Derwent Valley Water Board proposed to flood the Noe Valley to make a reservoir the same size of Ladybower (completed in 1945) with a dam 127 feet high and 1,750 feet long. The scheme would have involved burying the Dore-Chinley railway in a lengthy tunnel.
As an alternative suggestion, in the early 1950s the Board considered building a dam west of Castleton flooding the valley of the Odin Sitch below Mam Tor.
They then considered a series of schemes to raise the waters of the Upper Derwent Valley by a great dam which would submerge the existing dam at Derwent and leave only the towers of Howden Dam visible above the waters.
These schemes are described and illustrated in Brian Robertson’s book, Walls Across the Valley: the building of Howden and Derwent Dams (Scarthin Books 1993), pp 194-205.
Instead, in the 1980s, the Board’s successor, Severn-Trent, began Carsington Reservoir, which after some tribulations opened in 1992.
The Derwent High Dam proposal remains on the table. No-one nowadays seriously suggests flooding Edale.
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