You should be standing near the northern-most tip of Carsington Water. The village of Hopton is nearby, behind the trees on the far side of the main road.
It was on farmland close to Hopton in 1953 that the oldest ‘made’ object to have been found in Derbyshire was discovered – subsequently named The Hopton Hand Axe.
Comparing this hand axe to similar ‘ovate’ hand axes (ovate referring the ovoid, or egg-like shape), the most recent advice is that this tool could be up to 350,000 years old. Tools like this are more commonly found in the south of England, which didn’t get covered by ice sheets during the ice ages.
It is not clear if people were in Derbyshire 350,000 years ago. Was this axe dropped by a prehistoric hunter or moved here later by glaciers and floods? If people were in the Peak, they were sharing the ancient landscape with wild animals and feeding themselves by gathering berries, nuts and roots. They hunted some of the animals, but others, such as cave lions, wolves and bears, would prey on people if they got the chance.
The ancestors who used this handaxe probably belonged to the species Homo Heidelbergensis – from which both Neanderthals and modern human are thought to have descended.
RWP Cockerton, a member of Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society describes the discovery of the hand axe,
In the Spring of 1953 at the invitation of Col. Gell of Hopton Hall I walked over some of his ploughed fields with him in the hope that some scattered stones turned up in ploughing might provide clues to the ancient road system near Hopton.
…on a ploughed field just south of Sycamore Farm…I picked up an ovate implement, which was lying loose on the surface of the field hitherto entirely unnoticed.
Dr Kenneth P. Oakley of the Department of Geology of the British Museum (Natural History) to whom the implement was sent for examination reported as follows:
“The Acheulian ovate in flint is an important discovery, and I am glad to know of it. I am studying the distribution of Acheulian hand-axes in Britiain, and, as you know, very few have been reported in the Midlands.”