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Walk Derbyshire – Thor’s Cave & The Manifold Valley

Walk Derbyshire – Thor’s Cave & The Manifold Valley

7 miles (11km): moderate trail and field-paths. Two steep climbs.  Muddy sections.

RECOMMENDED MAP: Ordnance Survey 1:25000 scale Outdoor Leisure Sheet 24, The Peak District, White Peak Area.

BUS SERVICES: None beyond Hulme End.

CAR PARKING: At Wetton Mill.

REFRESHMENTS: at Wetton Mill café.

This walk criss-crosses the Manifold Valley, climbing its steep sides twice along the way.  The Manifold seems to be lesser known than its more popular neighbour, Dovedale, but this factor, if nothing else should encourage walkers to explore its beauties.  For thirty years from almost the beginning of the twentieth century, a light railway followed the valley bottom all the way from Hulme End to Waterhouses on the Leek/Ashbourne road.  

Toy-like locomotives with huge headlamps below their tall funnels, hauled attractive yellow-liveried coaches three or four times a day up and down the dale.  Originally intended to move milk in churns from farms in the upper valley, its business was soon taken over by road transport and although still popular with walkers and sightseers, its passenger trade was never enough to make the railway pay its way and, as a result the service closed down in the 1930s.  With foresight the local authority took over the remaining track bed and turned it into an all-weather trail for walkers and cyclists.

An exciting diversion early in the walk climbs up to Thor’s Cave where hyenas and sabre-toothed tigers had their lairs in pre-historic times.  Later when Neolithic people came along, they used the cave as their home in times of danger.  Centuries later on, during the unsettled years following the retreat of Roman administrators back to their homeland, the cave offered a safe place for Britons left behind in order to hold out against marauding land grabbers.  Hidden treasure has been found in the area of the Manifold Valley.

The walk starts and finishes at Wetton Mill, the only source of refreshment along the way.  Originally water-powered the mill ground corn for the inhabitants of farms and villages on the surrounding uplands.  Now owned by the National Trust, Wetton Mill is a popular stopping place for walkers and cyclists alike. Leaving the mill, the route follows the Manifold Trail as far as a footbridge on the left, crossing the frequently dry river bed at this point. A steep climb reaches Thor’s Cave before returning to turn left along the trail.  This is then followed, swinging right with it to follow the River Hamps, upstream past a caravan site. After about half of a mile, a stile on the right is crossed before climbing a path, uphill to Grindon.  Field paths following a side stream lead back down to the valley bottom and a left turn along the trail back to Wetton Mill.  

1. From Wetton Mill turn left along the trail (surfaced).

2. Cross the Wetton/Butterton road at Dafar Bridge and continue along the trail for about half a mile,

The River Manifold at this point frequently begins to disappear below ground, following a series of fissures downstream almost to Ilam.

3. Look out for a footbridge on your left and cross it to climb up to Thor’s Cave, returning to the trail in order to continue the walk.

The portal of Thor’s Cave makes an excellent frame for the view across the dale. Bram Stoker, author of ‘Dracula’, used Thor’s Cave as the imaginary setting for his lesser known work, ‘The Lair of the White Worm’.  A film made in 1988 loosely based on the novel used the cave in the dramatic blood-drenched opening sequences.

4. Retrace your steps back down into the dale and re-join the trail.  Turn left and follow it for a little over a mile, crossing Weag’s Bridge along the way.

5. Where the Manifold is joined by the River Hamps, turn left to follow the trail, upstream along the Haps as far as a bridge over the river.

6. Do not cross the bridge, but turn right and cross a stile.

7. Follow the path, uphill roughly parallel to the trail and then bear leftwards still going steeply uphill.

8. Go through a gate beside the muddy remains of a pond and continue by path uphill with a wall on your right.  Aim for the prominent spire of Grindon church dead ahead roughly a mile away.

9. Keep to the left of Buckfurlong Farm and out along the farm road.  

10. Continue along a walled path, then right and immediately left when you reach the public road.  Follow this lane as far as Grindon church.  – No 11. refreshments, but the village and its church are well worth exploring.

In 1862 the lord of the manor of Grindon went to Staffordshire Assizes in order to establish the rights of the rindle below the village. A ‘rindle’ is an intermittently flowing stream, why the squire should go to the expense of making such a claim on a very minor stream, albeit one which can dry up from time to time is unrecorded, but it was so important to him that he placed a stone making this claim near the church gate.

12. From the church go back down the side lane, almost to the road and turn 

13. left on to a field path (signposted).

14. Go through stiles and cross a field, heading downhill towards a stream (the ‘rindle’).  Cross it by a footbridge and bear right.

15. Still going downhill keeping the stream and a wood on your right.

16. Entering National Trust woodland at Ladyside, cross stiles all the way downhill back to the Manifold Valley Trail.

17. Turn left along the trail and follow it for a little under a mile, as far as Wetton Mill.



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