Cratcliffe Hermitage is a unique place and well worth a visit, it is located in Cratcliffe rocks and it can be found by following the road past the turn for the village of Birchover and heading in the direction of Ashbourne, after five tenths of a mile you will come to a gravel layby on your left, this is where you should park your car. Then you need to cross the road and follow the track, bear right over a cattle grid and follow the footpath through the field and up the hill, in front of you is a wood, keep climbing up the field and head to the left hand side of the wood, you will come to a black metal bench called Hillary’s chair to the right of this is a gate leading into the wood, take the right hand track and this will lead you to Cratcliffe Rocks and the Hermitage.
The Hermits cave is no longer accessible to the public as an iron fence now bars entry into the recess where the hermit would have resided in the past. A carved out area of the rocks would have been where the Hermit would have slept, and on awakening the first thing that he would have seen is the carving in the rock of Christ being cruxified. The carving is about four feet in height, however the lower part of his legs have been damaged due to vandalism in the past. The carving is thought to date back to the 14th century and if this fact is correct it is remarkably well-preserved.
There is evidence outside the cave to suggest that there may have been some sort of lean to attached to the cave which would have extended the Hermit’ living quarters, also outside the cave entrance stands a large yew tree which may pre-date the caves occupancy. Before the iron railings were erected in front of the cave it is thought that climbers had used to use the cave to shelter and stow there equipment while practising climbing techniques on Cratcliffe Rocks and nearby Robin Hood’s Stride.
The identity of the Hermit who had once used this cave is not known, however information has been uncovered in the kitchen notes of Haddon Hall which suggest that the cave was occupied in 1549 as a payment was made to “Ye Harmytt” on the 23rd of December of that year for supplying the kitchen
with ten rabbits.
If you are in the area it is worth while making the short journey to see Robin Hood’s Stride, it is located close to the end of the wood which you entered when looking for Cratcliffe Rocks.
Robin Hood’s Stride is an impressive gritstone formation which is located on a ridge between the Alport-Winster road and Harthill moor. The reason this rock formation aquired this name is because Robin Hood is
said to have strode from one gritstone tower to another, the fact that the two towers are 15metres apart doesn’t seem to have weakened the legend at all!
Another name by which this gritstone escarpment is known is “Mock Beggar’s Hall” because from a distance the two gritstone towers resemble chimney’s and it does not take much imagination to see that the other rock formations could become castle turrets and fortifications.