Top 10 Strangest Things about the UK’s Peak District

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1. Ashbourne’s Gatepost Skulls

Ashbourne's Gatepost Skulls

Ashbourne is already a pretty mad place for other reasons (see below) but if you needed another reason to unnerve you and even send an ice-cold shiver down your spine, then the human skulls propping up the tops of the posts at Ashbourne church should do the trick. The hollow sockets stare out at you menacingly on your approach, boring you down and challenging you to enter the sacred grounds like a memento mori straight out of a Jacobean tragedy. They were apparently crafted by one Robert Bakewell in around 1700. Bakewell, you may recognise, is a bit of a name in these parts, more famously associated with the almond tarts, not skulls.


2. Chelmorton Stone Phone Box 

Chelmorton Stone Phone Box

One of the symbols of Great Britain which are recognisable all around the world along with the teapot, James Bond, Beef Eaters from the Tower of London and the Queen, is the bright red phone box. There used to be a law that every population area needed to have at least one public phone box for emergency reasons. Being red, that obviously made it stand out a mile away, again because of emergencies. In Chelmorton they thought ‘to hell with that’ and built a stone one instead so that it would blend in with the architecture of the area.


3. The Quiet Woman Pub


A 400-year-old pub in Earl Sterndale (already a pretty interesting name) is called the Quiet Woman. Why is she quiet you ask? Is it because she is a timid sort, given only to shuffling around in the background and in libraries. No it’s because she has been decapitated. She is nothing more than a headless corpse wandering round serving the guests. Not really of course. The story goes that the unfortunate lady in question was a little loose with her tongue and, as a punishment, had her head lopped off. Seems a little extreme to me.


4. Crinkle Crankle Wall

Crinkle Crankle Wall

Or as you may know it better – the ‘Crinkum Crankum’? Or maybe not. Though that is its alternative title. Apparently this term means ‘zig-zag’ in Ye Olde English but it’s really a wavy-shaped wall to be found at Hopton Hall. The wall is apparently less likely to suffer the wear and tear of age in this format. Fortunately, Noel Edmonds and his crinkley bottom are nowhere to be seen either. So a double win there, then.


5. Hugball


I mentioned Ashbourne was a bit curious in Strangest Thing Number 1. Well, here’s another fact about that place which stands it out from the normal; Hugball is a traditional game played in Ashbourne on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday when the menfolk of town all get involved in one big rolling grapple. The ‘game’ kicks off after a few traditional speeches and the blokes from one part of the town get stuck into the blokes from a different part. The shops have to board up their windows and chaos ensues. The aim is to get the ‘ball’ from one side to t’other but really it’s a good excuse for big old homoerotic free-for-all.


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