WordTheatre’s 2015 Writers’ Workshop & Retreat takes place in Edale, a small village in the heart of England’s Peak District.
– Jane Austen
Home to the famous landmarks of Mam Tor, the Iron Age fort, and Losehill, Edale (called ‘Aidale’ in the Domesday Book) is nestled below Kinder Scout, a wild plateau of heather moorland and peat bog, peppered with distinctive weathered rock features such as The Woolpacks, The Moat Stone, Madwoman’s Stones and Noe Stool, which have been sculpted by the elements over many thousands of years.
This is the Dark Peak, part of the Peak District, one of the world’s most beautiful national parks – only Mount Fuji receives more visitors. It is a stunning landscape ranging from gentle limestone dales to dramatic rocky outcrops and heather moorlands. Its beauty to this day inspires poets and painters, many of whom make the valley their home.
Edale – ‘island valley’ – is covered in medieval farms or ‘booths’ as they are locally known, which have defined and shaped the landscape. The farming families of Edale lived an isolated existence until the end of the 19th century when the railway was built, providing a vital communication link with the rest of the country.
SEE ACCOMMODATION & TRAVEL
Just a short and beautiful walk across the lower sheep pasture brings the students into the village of Edale and Grindslow House.
The village is tiny – a church, two pubs and a smattering of cottages and farms and the newly-opened Moorland Centre. There are only two roads into the valley by which you can access Edale – one high road over Mam Tor to the south of Edale and the other along the bottom of the valley from Hope.
Edale might be a small village but it packs a big punch for walkers, being the official start point of the famous 268 mile walk, the Pennine Way. Last year over 250,000 walkers attempted the classic route up the backbone of England to Kirk Yetholm, across the Scottish Border – Scotland is only 2 weeks’ walk away!
Edale is also a great starting point to explore some of the most iconic views of the Peak District. Covered in elegant waterfalls, wooden bridges, and ancient pack horse routes, a walk through the many paths in the valley offer spectacular views of the surrounding area. The area boasts a range of habitat types, including some flower-rich hay meadows in the valley bottom. These support many different flora as well as a diversity of butterflies and other insects.The valley slopes include damp flushes and small wooded cloughs which add to the landscape character and ecological variety of the valley. It’s worth watching out for dippers and heron alongside the River Noe. Evocative bird song you might hear include the bubbling sound of the curlew at the upper end of the valley, and the high-pitched song of the skylark.For those more adventurous, Edale offers five of the UK’s top mountain bike trails, and there are local schools offering trails on horseback, mountaineering, rock climbing and paragliding. For lovers of history, some of England’s grandest country homes are within the vicinity: Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall.
I assure you there are things in Derbyshire as noble as Greece or Switzerland.
– Lord Byron
And who are we to argue…
Across the valley are the mines of Blue John – a beautiful, translucent blue-and-yellow banded fluorspar ‘stone’ that occurs nowhere in the world apart from Castleton, just over the tor to the south of Edale – and Japan. Vases made of Blue John have been found in the ruins of Pompeii. You can visit the underground mines – where it is still dug and crafted into ornaments and jewelry – and experience a wonderland of caverns with awesome stalactites and stalagmites. http://www.bluejohnstone.com/
Another place to find inspiration is the village of Eyam, the famous ‘plague village’ where a bale of cloth imported plague-ridden fleas from London in 1665. 260 villagers died, but the plague did not spread, as they voluntarily quarantined themselves. The beautiful village takes you back in time, and the cemetery sends a shiver down the spine.
I traveled among unknown men, In lands beyond the sea, Nor, England! Did I know till then, What love I bore to thee.
– William Wordsworth