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Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007
The steep hillside village of Curbar spreads itself along the west facing slopes beneath the massive gritstone escarpment of Curbar Edge high up on the east bank of the River Derwent.
The main A623 Baslow to Chapel-en-le-Frith road runs along the valley floor and crosses the Derwent at Calver Bridge, and from here Bar Road, a narrow and winding lane, begins a steep ascent beside All Saints church and climbs eastward for about a mile, dissecting Curbar village before cresting the Edge.
But the best approach to the village is from the opposite direction, - along the old road from Chesterfield which climbs steadily through Old Brampton and then skirts the fringes of Leash Fen and Big Moor before arriving at Curbar Gap, where it divides Baslow Edge from Curbar Edge before plunging in a series of sharp bends down through Curbar Village and into the Derwent Valley.
The panoramic views from Curbar Edge are as magnificent as they are dramatic and offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of Derbyshire. The various `Edges’ are linked together to form a gritstone barrier which divides the higher shale and gritstone moorland from the lower limestone dales and meadows and runs for several miles in a roughly north/south direction from Froggat to Baslow.
Curbar Edge is extremely popular with visitors and during the summer months spaces in the large car-park at Curbar Gap are at a premium with picnickers, climbers, hikers, hang-glider pilots, and simply those who appreciate the wonderful countryside, all vying for a parking space which will enable them to explore the multifarious delights and activities that Curbar Edge freely and generously affords it’s visitors.
Conversely, the village that lies below has nothing to offer the visitor by way of entertainment or refreshment and remains completely devoid of any trace of tourism. In complete contrast to the majority of Derbyshire’s rural villages, the dwellings in the modern settlement of Curbar are almost exclusively twentieth century with the exception of one or two late nineteenth century buildings, and a curious 17th century structure with an unusual conical - shaped roof which was once the village lock-up.
This is a village with very little traceable history and one of only a handful in the county with no retail outlets of any kind. Here there are no pubs, no shops, and thus no facilities for either visitors or residents, - but all these can be found a short distance away down in the village of Calver.
Here there is a post-office, newsagent and general store, three pubs, a restaurant and a number of thriving commercial enterprises, all more readily accessible to the heavy traffic which passes through Calver on the busy main road.
The road through Curbar Gap is pre-Roman and was a major east–west trading route across the peak district during the middle-ages and up to the end of the nineteenth century. Curbar was a welcome resting place for the jaggers who led their pack-horse trains across what Defoe called ` a wild and desolate howling wilderness’, and around half a dozen ancient track-ways or trade-routes converged to pass through Curbar Gap.
There is ample fresh water here with dozens of springs rising on the hillside beneath the Edge, evidenced by names like Springwell Cottage and Well House. This must have attracted early settlers to the area for there is evidence of prehistoric settlement on the moors above with a number of stone circles on Big Moor, and the recently excavated Bronze Age settlement at Gardom’s Edge which boasts hut circles and an ancient field system.
Today’s Curbar village is a neatly balanced mixture of large and expensive properties interspersed by numerous paddocks and some magnificent landscaped gardens. It is strictly a place for the upwardly mobile in both senses of the phrase, for property prices are in the six figure bracket, - and it is a long drag up the hill from Calver for those without motorised transport!
All Saints Parish Church serves the three parishes of Calver, Curbar and Froggat. Built in 1868, it stands at the bottom of the hill near Calver Bridge and opposite the Bridge Inn, having the local school as it’s next-door-neighbour. Also within the parish boundary is Cliff College, a Methodist training centre which plays a major role in the life of the three neighboring villages. At the opposite end of the parish and just inside the Curbar boundary is the beautifully situated Chequers Inn, set by the roadside beneath Froggat Edge and noted for it’s excellent food and service.
Despite it’s lack of amenities Curbar still has it’s attractions and they are best enjoyed on foot, although the more adventurous can explore the village and surrounding moorland on horseback from the well kept Curbar Stables, which are situated at the top of Bar Road and specialise in pony trekking on the moors above the village.
Just beneath the stables and opposite the entrance to The Green, a public footpath signposted `To Baslow via Gorse Bank Farm’ leads off to the left and within two hundred yards stands a curious circular stone building with two tiny windows and a conical shaped stone-slate roof which used to be known locally as `The Beehive’. This is one of the County’s last surviving lock-ups and dates from the 17th century. When the new County Jail was opened in Derby in 1827 many such parish lock-ups were let to families, and this tiny one-up, one down former prison was inhabited right up until the 1950’s.
Curbar has an old circular pinfold half way up Bar Road opposite a lane called appropriately `The Pinfold’, which in turn curves upward to meet The Hillock, The Bent and The Green at the crossroads in the village centre. Here stands a fascinating stone well-spring with a double arched roof and a circular drinking trough. Close by is the Wesleyan Reform Chapel of 1861.
The Peak District National Park and Curbar Parish Council undertook a joint initiative which marked the Millenneum by planting trees in Curbar Warren, close by the village’s spacious playing field. This is known as Curbar Millenneum Woodland, and already it has improved and enhanced an environment already abundantly blessed with a magnificent and scenic landscape.