Mossy Roof

Farm to Cask: a hike and a farm brewery in the Peak District

Peak District Orientation

I have been enjoying “Farm to Table” restaurants that have been popping up lately, so why not look for farm to cask (or keg) as a logical extension?  Maybe it would be more accurate to say “hike to farm to brewery to pubs” in this case, but farm to cask sounds kind of catchy.  I was staying in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom (read my story about a beery week in Sheffield here) for the annual beer week there and I noticed there was a brewery up in the foothills of the Pennine Mountains above Sheffield near the end of the bus line at a place called High Bradfield.  This area is on the eastern flank of what is known as the Peak District — peaks .. views .. farm brewery .. pubs .. beer .. my kind of adventure.

High Bradfield is one of several locales I spent time at during my Peak District explorations.  I have a bunch of writing to do about these visits and I’ll use the same map over-and-over to orient readers.

The Peak District

The Peak District is an area of highland moors (expanses of open rolling infertile land) and dales (valleys) that rise above and separate the metropolitan areas of Sheffield and Manchester to the West.  The highest ground is low mountains (less then 3000 feet) known as the Pennines which run north to south and extend much farther north than the area called the Peak District.  The Pennines are often called the backbone of England and much of the Peak District is England’s first national park.  The Pennine Way, which may be the U.K.’s most notable long-range hiking route, starts in the Peak District and travels 267 miles (429 km) into Scotland..

The Peak District is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but it also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. I found that this could get a bit confusing as a visitor center in one “shire” would often lack much information about the neighboring jurisdictions.

Bradfield Walk Route
click for interactive map

The countryside here offers big vistas across green fields, often dotted with sheep or other livestock.  Public footpaths cross and circle private farmlands and provide hikers with many options for taking in this wonderful landscape.  I learned that the public footpaths were usually well marked where they intersect a road, but generally not marked until you got to the next road.  There would be a beaten track to follow on the more popular routes, but the way to go wasn’t always clear on the less traveled routes.  For this day, I rode the bus to a place called Stacey Bank and a country pub along the road called the Nags Head.  I didn’t stop in at the pub because I wanted to save it for the end of the hike and lunch.   The dam for Damflask Reservoir is just North of Stacey Bank and I crossed it to find a public footpath that followed the West bank of the reservoir nearly to Low Bradfield.  Just uphill from there is the village of High Bradfield, and a beer stop.

High Bradfield

High Bradfield is a cute stop in the road with a pretty, old church, several houses, and a pub called Old Horns Inn.  I stepped in to the pub out of the rain and ordered up my first pint of beer from the Bradfield Farm Brewery.  The friendly barkeep told me a little bit about the area and gave me directions for finding the brewery.  A recent highlight for this area was hosting a stage of the Tour de France in 2014.  As you can imagine, this was a huge deal in such a rural area.  Bicycling the country roads remains a very popular pastime.

Tour de France in Upper Bradfield
image by ibd1979

Bradfield Farm Brewery

Bradfield - DSCF2139.jpg

Just down the country road I found the Bradfield Brewery.  It is by itself on a hillside farm that I understand used to be a dairy operation.  Bradfield brews a variety of nice cask and bottled ales  There is a carry-away shop at the farm brewery, but no tap room.  The old barn that houses the farm brewery is jam-packed with tanks and equipment.  The friendly shop attendant told me that the owners had converted from a hundred cow milking operation to a farm brewery in about 2005.  The farm brewery now produces more than 100,000 pints of beer per week.  I have to say I like milk, but I like beer better.

Although I couldn’t get a beer at the brewery, I learned that the Nags Head Inn (where I started and would end my hike) is owned by the brewery and is their taproom.  Cool!  The hike from this point was on a countryroad and was pretty much downhill.

Nags Head Inn

Bradfield - IMG_2674.jpg

The Nags Head Inn was a friendly country pub that is clearly a place where friends meet.  The pub building and a couple of farmhouses are situated by themselves along the country road and look like they have been there for a long time.  A pleasant fire was crackling in the open fireplace and mad a nice spot to dry out a bit following what had been a damp dayhike.  The full range of Bradfield’s brews are available and I paired one up with a tasty, homemade sausage pie with a beer chutney.  The bus stop for the ride back to Sheffield is just a few steps down the road.

Click on any image in the gallery to scroll through a slideshow of larger images.

This is one of a series of stories about hikes and beers in Great Britain.  See all of the stories by CLICKING THIS LINK.

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