Return to Hope

No, this isn’t inspired by Johnny Mathis blaring out at all hours, but my Christmas Eve trip out into the Peaks. I caught the Hope Valley line from Sheffield and walked along to Brough, with the intention of finding the site of the Roman fort Navio, before taking an anti-clockwise route up Win Hill.

Navio, first established around 80 CE, was strategically important for the Romans because it was the next fortress across middle England from Templeborough, remnants of which now stand in Clifton Park, Rotherham, just down the road from where I am now. In his Roman Britain (1955), the first volume of ‘The Pelican History of England’ (sic), I.A. Richmond outlined its economic importance also: ‘Yet another exploitation is the lead ore from stream deposits found in the Roman fort at Navio (Brough on Noe), from which the district was in part policed.’ Lead was invaluable to the Romans as a source of silver by the process of cupellation, and no doubt a major reason why they hung around in this distant island for as long as they did.

There are all but the slightest traces of the fort on the site. Buxton Museum contains the artefacts recovered from it. It must’ve been a bleak place to be stationed, even with the view across the River Noe towards Lose Hill, and Mam Tor to the west. Auden’s couplet sonnet ‘Roman Wall Blues’, with its memorable opening, comes to mind:

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I’ve lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

I didn’t go up Win Hill though, for two reasons: firstly, its summit, Win Hill Pike, was wrapped in low cloud; and secondly, my eye was drawn to a path which led from the road-bridge at Brough along the Noe to where it rushes in to the Derwent at the delightfully-named Shatton; and then by the path which followed the south bank of the Derwent to just south of Hathersage. On paper it looked an easy walk, and for two miles or so it was, until the path got muddier and muddier and so squelchy and slippery that my pace was considerably slower than the river’s.

It’s a wonder that I only fell over the once, and, moreover, that I didn’t slip down the steep bank into the river. As an exercise in eye–feet coordination, it was scarcely beatable.

mid-river riffles . . .
at right angles
to the flow

I was much relieved to reach the bridge at Leadmill and the wonder of pavement, leading to Hathersage.

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