Once upon a time (1819, to be exact), a road was built. What became the A625 headed westwards out of Sheffield, through Hathersage and Castleton in the Hope Valley, and wound its way across the Mam Tor landslip to finally arrive in Chapel-en-le-Frith. The Mam Tor routing replaced an ancient (and much steeper) cart route through Winnats Pass.
There was, however, a minor problem – the landslip. Mam Tor has been on the move for thousands of years, and it wasn’t long before the road had to be repaired. And then repaired again. And again.
In the 1970s a huge landslip meant that major repairs were needed but finally, in 1979, Derbyshire County Council admitted defeat and the road was abandoned. Today, Winnats Pass is the only (and very unsuitable) direct route out of the western end of the Hope Valley, but the remains of the old A625 have become a tourist attraction in their own right.
Usually, when we walk at Mam Tor, we park at Mam Nick and take the usual routes to the summit, but this weekend we decided to explore the old road instead, and it was definitely an experience!
As with any walk in the Peak District, particularly around Castleton at the weekend, my advice is to get there early, before the crowds appear. There’s plenty of parking along the old road up to and around the bus turning circle by Odin’s Mine, a disused lead mine at the foot of Mam Tor (please note that the mine is dangerous and shouldn’t be entered). Just head up the road and very soon you will start to see the signs of movement – the fissures in the road surface, the crumbling edges – before you round a corner and suddenly realise exactly why the road had to be closed!
The walk up the road isn’t bad going – just watch your step in places. The road brings you out by Blue John Cavern (or you can, if you’re feeling adventurous, strike out for the Mam Tor summit on your right). Otherwise there’s a very pleasant descent via a footpath heading east from Blue John Cavern that brings you out by Treak Cliff Cavern.
Whether you do the walk as a stand-alone or incorporate it into a longer walk/day trip, the old A625 is definitely worth a look as a reminder of just how unforgiving nature can be!