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Goyt Valley Roads Tracks and Trails

As the road system began to develop Wains and carts were a natural progression becoming more widely used on many sections of the packhorse routes, the higher soft moor land was still not accessible to wheeled transport but as Whaley and the surrounding areas grew so did the roads.

Goyts Moss didn’t have a major river crossing and the route changed very little as the roads were turnpiked. The Old Macclesfield road is still clearly visible coming from the Cat & Fiddle down through Goyts Moss up and over to Burbage and into Buxton. You can also still see the road dividing to the right this crosses the present Cat & Fiddle Road then across Axe edge on its way through to Harpur Hill.

Errwood still benefited from the remains of the Roman road and the ford on the river Goyt but a bridge was needed for carts and later coaches to cross. The main track toward Buxton from Errwood remained Goyts Lane until the Construction of the reservoir. Although if you stop on the street and look back the hillside below Bunsall Plain the ground shows a great many scars where countless travellers have found an alternative way.

Heading down the valley toward Fernilee the road climbed up past Errwood Farm, (The ruins are still visible to the left of Errwood Dam) crossing over Jep Clough via a small bridge made of tree trunks then past Stubbins Farm, Intake Farm and Masters Farm, at Masters Farm you could turn right past the Powder Mill and cross the valley up to Shawstile Farm, or carrying on at Masters Farm the road climbed up to Oldfield Farm then Normanwood Farm before dropping down to the Knipe (The road from the Knipe to Fernilee Dam is a private road constructed when the Reservoir was completed).

You could then branch right for Hill Bridge and Fernilee or continue as it is today past Mill Clough Cottage then Madscar toward Overton, which is where the Packhorse route comes over Taxal Edge from Saltersford and Charles Head through Five lane ends nr Kettleshulme heading for the river crossings at Hill Bridge and Taxal. I have never seen it recorded anywhere but I presume it would have been at this point the decision would be made which crossing to take, depending if they were heading for Hayfield North or Chapel North.

At this period all these roads would be in bad repair but free to use apart from the taxes levied on goods carried by each parish, bad repair of course would be their downfall as new roads with better surfaces and crossings were built but you had to pay.

After crossing at Hill Bridge (as at Taxal there is a bridge and a ford, as traffic increased the bridges weren’t wide enough) the traveller had a choice of two routes. To the left straight up the field through Folds Lane Farm up the side of The Shady Oak, past Folds Farm and the Church either turning left on Elnor Lne and picking up the Old Roman road into Whaley then heading for the Bings and Silk Hill for Bugsworth then Hayfield, but more likely crossing Elnor lane up Bobs lane then across into Combs. Or leaving Hill Bridge up into Fernilee past Folds End Farm and Arnfields Cottages ( the road that carries on past the front of Arnfields Cottages only went as far as the old Fernilee Hall Farm the steep road there now going up to Long Hill was constructed by the Farm for their use only) then over the river, sharp right up past Rock cottage and Ivy Cottage and onto Elnor Lane, then joining the other route at Bobs lane.

Remember at this stage there was no Long Hill Road. From Taxal travellers crossed the bridge then up the Hill past Squires Walk up the hill past Shallcross Hall Farm, Shallcross Hall then either left or right on Elnor Lane, Left - Bugsworth, Hayfield, Right - Chapel, Edale there was also a track here going past Lee Head Farm Via Cadster and down into Tunstead Milton.

The choices that must have been made as to which route to take would probably have been personal preference, weather conditions, goods carried, was the Goyt in flood etc.
Things changed slowly until the Turnpikes and Tolls came along, these new road surfaces were better and maintained by roadmen, bridges were built over gullies and ravines with better routes and this meant travel times reduced significantly, larger carts and coaches came into use which couldn’t be used on the old tracks. The first toll gate recorded in Whaley was 1724, the precise site of this toll gate remains a mystery it is just recorded as "on the Cheshire side as near the Bridge as may be".

John Warrens diary talks about the reconstruction of the toll house but which toll he was referring to or where it stood is not clear. As more roads were turnpiked the toll gates grew. High Peak Harry (a forum member) has indicated that there was a Toll house near the Station on Whaley Lane. This of course was part of the old Buxton – Manchester route, and would have operated before The Renewal act of 1764 which authorised work to be carried out on routes between Longsight and Sparrowpit, this includes the route followed by the current road to Disley today.

John Warren again "1803 the Turn Pike Road was Maked From Disley to Whaley" this doesn’t appear on any map prior to 1812 it was changed basically to bring the roads along the valley as they are today and away from the high routes for an easier gradient, which is exactly opposite to the way roads were constructed before, even the Romans preferred high routes, less trees, fewer obstacles to cross and safer against attack.

This portion of a Derbyshire map by John Carey shows just the old route from Buxton to Whaley c 1750.
This portion of a Derbyshire map by John Carey shows just the old route from Buxton to Whaley c 1750.
The meeting of the Turnpike roads Disley 1835.
One of the few places where two roads both coming from and going to the same destinations cross at 90 degrees.
The meeting of the Turnpike roads Disley 1835 The First Turnpike, Long Hill
The First Turnpike, Long Hill
There are traces of other roads and routes throughout the Goyt Valley but these are mainly either farm or mining use. You can still see an abundance of gateposts which once led to a farm or field, and cart tracks to mines.

One easy to spot is on the banking opposite Rake End corner on Long Hill this runs both ways across the banking to a drift mine down near the stream, the rails coming out used to be clearly visible, these tracks won’t be seen for much longer though, as there has been a lot of tree planting which will of course obscure this part of the Goyts history.

There is an ancient route we haven’t mentioned which is now a footpath. This runs the full length of the valley along the skyline on the opposite side to the Roman route, coming from beyond The Cat & Fiddle along Stake Side, Shining Tor, The Tors, Cats Tor then Windgather Rocks and Taxal Edge.

Some of the more modern roads have changed as well as in the photo of Fernilee before they altered the curve and also before Fernilee Tip.

You can see the Cromford High Peak Rail Line between the walls in the foreground.
Fernilee, Long Hill.
Fernilee, Long Hill.
Along all these high routes the severity of the weather undoubtedly took its toll and there are numerous tales of travellers freezing to death, either through loosing their way, one too many at a hostelry or just getting caught out by the cold. It wasn’t unknown when the stage coaches were running that a passenger travelling on the outside would be discovered frozen to death on arrival, one incident is recorded by the wayside on the road from Saltersford to Rainow / Bollington this stone on the verge has writing too both sides.

One side reads -

The other -

Another is recorded as John Warrens Diary tells us 1860 Saturday night Jan 21st Robert Edge of Gite Cloff (Goyts Clough) was starved to death between Buxton & Gite Cloff he left a wife and 7 children.
Wayside Stone on the road from Saltersford to Rainow / Bollington Wayside Stone on the road from Saltersford to Rainow / Bollington
In Yorkshire during the 14th century there was a breed of clean legged horses, bay in colour which were the general purpose horses of the time carrying pack and pillion. They had always been used as a good strong workhorse by the people but no one realy knew their origins.

They carried the goods of the Chapmen and as a result initially became known as Chapman horses. The name Cleveland Bay came from their colour and the association with the Cleveland district of North Yorkshire, these horses were well suited to the hard conditions of the Pack Horse trail and bred to be not too small as to damage goods on bankings and walls etc, but not too tall as to be difficult to load and unload.

The picture shows a fine example of a Clevelend Bay Stallion aptly named Chapman from 1960.
The picture shows a fine example of a Clevelend Bay Stallion aptly named Chapman from 1960
The first turnpike road over Long Hill was completed around 1780 and a toll gate was recorded for Long Hill in 1793 but its exact location is not known. The toll house at Fernilee was built in 1826 and was situated at the end of Elnor Lane, from here the road ran in front of where the village Hall stood, up behind Goyt Vale Cottages then up Long Field onwards to join the current carriage way at the bottom of the long straight. When you reached Rake End corner, the original turnpike carried on down the valley and up the other side, to the top of Long Hill then following the current road.

So why make a new road? Well one of the reasons was that a good part of the old Roman Road was above the snow line, the winters were much more severe than today and there were many weeks when the road was impassable through snow & ice and the road surface was in need of constant repairs.

This first turnpike on Long Hill was constructed by John Metcalf of Knaresbourgh Yorkshire, known as Blind Jack he contracted smallpox at the age of six leaving him blind. I think he must have had some sight as he was very good at the design and layout of roads and was responsible for many routes in Lancashire & Yorkshire. He also designed part of the Whaley to Macclesfield turnpike.

If you have never walked the old road then do so and have a look over the wall near where the Toll Bar stood at the end of Elnor Lane and just before what was Fernilee Village Hall and see what an obstacle the road crosses. You don’t notice as you whizz by in a car but it becomes more obvious what you paid for on this toll, also beyond the top gate on the Long Field past the old Quarry and the watering hole on your left ( I am sure many a thirsty horse took a drink here) there is another substantial bridge.

You can begin to see how difficult these natural barriers were to cross and what a difference these roads made to travel between Whaley and Buxton. Another thing to take into account is that the road from Chapel to Dove Holes through Barmoor Clough didn’t open until 1801 so this turnpike up Long Hill was, as roads in the area go at that period ground breaking.

The second alterations of the road completed around 1824 left it much as it is today with the addition of the Horwich End through Fernilee portion, then winding its way up in front of Goyt Vale Cottages and rejoining the original route where the long straight is now, following the more gradual incline from Rake End Corner around by White Hall Lodge.

These alterations were once again improvements to combat the rise in larger and grander traffic using the road. This portion of the Highway was attracting many visitors to the Spa at Buxton which after the building of The Crescent in 1784 was developing into a major resort for the treatment of many ailments and coach travel was the only way for the wealthy Infirmed to get there, even when the railway arrived in 1857 it terminated at Whaley. It wasn’t until 1863 that the line was completed to Buxton, also from 1841 (Penny Post) the need for greater speed with the developments in the Postal system and the carriage of parcels called for easier travel and better upkeep of roads between Derby & Manchester.

As a margin note Buxton had two Railway stations with two different lines one LNWR to Manchester - West and the other The Midland to Millers Dale – East, they both opened on the same day Saturday 30th May 1863 such was the rivalry, they stood side by side and through the influence of Sir Joseph Paxton both had the same gable end with the glass fan window facade, only one of which can be seen today. So from that time you could catch a train from Whaley Bridge to either side of the country and travel in relative comfort at a reasonable cost, so began Buxton’s boom years.
Errwood, Looking across at Bunsall Plain.
Errwood, Looking across at Bunsall Plain. Bridge Building the old way, but sadly this photograph was not taken in the Goyt.
Bridge Building the old way, but sadly this photograph was not taken in the Goyt.
Fernilee Toll Bar
Fernilee Toll Bar
1780 Turnpike (in 2010)
1780 Turnpike (in 2010)