The dance, High Sharpley was written around about the turn of the Century (in either 1999 or 2000) and at the time I was dancing with Anstey Royale Chalfont. They are a womens side, but I learned their dances so that I could help them out if they were ever short of a dancer. I was inspired to write a dance with lots of polka steps after seeing various mens Northwest sides dancing at Saddleworth at the Rushcart weekend. I had also been practicing some Playford tunes to play with The Bang On The Wall Band and it suddenly occurred to me on the way home from Saddleworth that you could do a polka step to the tune, Gathering Peascods that I happened to be playing a lot at the time. I also liked the idea of making different shapes with the set, and this idea probably came from seeing Sergeant Musgraves Dance, in particular the diamond figure I had seen in one of their dances (most likely Portland Hill). Anstey Royale Chalfont danced High Sharpley out in 2001. When I joined Sergeant Musgrave Dance, it was suggested that I teach them the dance, and it is now a firm fixture in the repertoire.
The name High Sharpley comes from the name of a rocky outcrop atop a hill in Leicestershire not far from Loughborough. However my original idea was to call the dance Sharpley Road, which is where I was living at the time (Northwest Morris dances are often named after the town or area where they originated, and as it was composed mainly in my spare bedroom that seemed logical to me). The name change was suggested by Bill Wilkes who's partner Jenny dances with Anstey Royale Chalfont. I have not actually visited the top of Sharpley Hill as the landowners have fenced it off and there are notices up banning access. Apparently this is because the area is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), but there have also been suggestions that the owners may wish to quarry the land which would be a real shame. You don't get a very good view of High Sharpley from the road, but I found the following description on a rock climbing website at:
"High Sharpley is the most surreal landscape in Leicestershire. Its name is apt - a towering sharp ridge of miniature pinnacles surrounded by a field of biscuit-like boulders. The jagged summit commands superb views, High Sharpley is just the place to be alone when everyone else is at work (or school). When you are in this lunar landscape of rock it is difficult to believe you are in mid-England."