Heights of Abraham | Peak District Towns and Villages | Staffordshire | Derbyshire | England | UK
Peak District Towns and Villages: Heights of Abraham
Villages around Heights of Abraham
In the 18th century Aldwark was a busy staging post for stagecoaches plying the Buxton - Derby route, and had several inns, but these have all closed and now it is a peaceful and secluded farming hamlet.
Aldwark Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge
|Birchover is larger than first appears, with rows of cottages clustered along a road which heads straight up the hillside to the historically significant Stanton Moor. It is a very good centre for exploring both Stanton Moor and Harthill Moor on the opposite side of the valley.|
At the bottom of the village is the Druid Inn and there is a church hidden in a hollow below it. The church has some unusual paintings which seem more appropriate to the namesakes of the Inn than a church. Behind the Druid Inn is Rowtor Rocks, a small gritstone tor with a fine view similar to the better-known Robin Hood's Stride across the valley from it. It contains several finely balanced rocking stones which can be moved by the application of a shoulder. One of these could once be moved easily by hand, but was shifted from its position as a prank by fourteen young men on Whit Sunday 1799 and although it was replaced it is not now so finely balanced. The steps and seats which are carved out of the rock here were the work of the Reverend Thomas Eyre, the builder of the village church.
At the top of the village there is an active and important stone-cutting works and behind this are quarries where high-quality gritstone is extracted for building purposes.
Birchover Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|After the bustle and noise of Matlock Bath it comes as a surprise to find just over the hill a peaceful village like Bonsall nestling in a deep dale. Bonsall is a village of many parts; The steep road up from the Via Gellia is called The Clatterway. At the village green The Dale splits off to the left while the High Street carries on all the way to Town Head. Between Town Head and The Dale is Uppertown while just along from The Dale is the hamlet of Slaley. |
Bonsall has a long lead-mining heritage and once boasted five pubs. The moor above is pock-marked with the remains of lead-mines and the village comprises mainly small lead-miners and weavers cottages.
At the centre of the village is an old market cross on a circular base of steps outside one of the two remaining pubs, The King's Head, dating from 1677. Just along church lane is the Victorian church, which overlooks the village. Over in The Dale is the other remaining pub, The Barley Mow, which hosts the annual Bonsall Chicken Race on the first Saturday in August.
Bonsall Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Carsington & Hopton
|Carsington and Hopton are two small villages to the north of Carsington Water that run into each other along the single narrow lane that connects them. They are well placed for exploring Carsington Water and the southern edge of the Peak. There is a pub at the Carsington Water end of the village. |
Hopton Hall, which is hidden behind and interesting and curvaceous high brick wall, is the home of the Gell family, who have been here since 1208. They were the lords of the manor of Wirksworth and became rich on the proceeds of lead-mining. Many of their tombs are in Worksworth church. Others were more widely famous - Sir John Gell was a Parliamentarian general during the Civil War and held Derby for Parliament. He brought the Mace here from the House of Commons when Cromwell finally dissolved Parliament during the Commonwealth. Another Gell founded the school at Wirksworth and yet another built a road to connect the lead-mines along the Griffe Grange Valley above Cromford - this became known as the 'Via Gellia' and is now the A5012.
Carsington & Hopton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
It's a busy, bustling place at the junction of the A6 and the Via Gellia (A5012). There are several shops in the area around the Greyhound Inn, including the magnificent Scarthin Bookshop. On the other side of the A6 the road to Cromford Wharf and the Cromford Canal takes you to Arkwright's Mill, which is now a major visitor attraction, and the village church, which contains Arkwright's tomb and lies in a secluded spot near Willersley crag. Opposite the crag on the other side of the Derwent is Willersley Castle, built by Arkwright as his home and now a hotel. Just up the A6 toward Matlock is Arkwright's grand and imposing Masson Mill, which now houses a useful and interesting shopping complex.
Cromford Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Darley Dale is a long, drawn out Derwent Valley settlement that lies A6 to the north-west of Matlock. It is principally residential now but was the location of the Mill Close Mine - the last major lead mine in the Peak, which closed in 1939. Now there is a lead smelter on the site. Largely ignored by the traffic passing through it nonetheless has some very interesting nooks and crannies. The old town is down and to the west of the road towards the river and the parish church has a Norman font and a very old and impressive yew tree with a 33-foot girth. The tree is claimed to be over 2,000 years old. On the main A6 road above the church is the Whitworth Institute, founded by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a local industrialist and local benefactor.|
Either side of Darley Dale there are excellent walking prospects and scenery. To the West is Stanton Moor with both ancient and industrial heritage while to the east is the much quieter Fallinge Edge, now largely accessible thanks to the CROW act. Both Stanton and Fallinge are gritstone and sport incredible heather in late July and August.
Darley Dale Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Grangemill & Ible
|Grangemill is situated at a crossroads on the Via Gellia, the A5012 road from Cromford to Buxton. There are a few houses, the former mill, and a pub called the Hollybush. |
Ible is situated on the hilltop just to the east. Relatively untouched and untroubled, it is one of the Peak's best hidden little hamlets, with a small cluster of farms on a bluff overlooking the Griffe Grange Valley below.
|Matlock, the county town of Derbyshire, is a former spa town situated at a sharp bend in the River Derwent, where it turns south to carve its way through the ridge of limestone which bars its route towards Derby. Just downriver of the main town lies Matlock Bath, which is enclosed by the limestone cliffs of the gorge and contains the main tourist attractions of the locality.|
The coming of the railways in the 1870s transformed Matlock again, this time into a resort for day-trippers from the Derby-Nottingham area and further south. From then on Matlock spawned tourist attractions in the form of show caverns, cable railways, petrifying wells, pleasure gardens and even recently a theme park. The evidence of the change which came over the place can be seen best at Matlock Bath, where the amusement arcades along the main road provide a sharp contrast with the elegant Victorian villas above.
The town has a full range of shops and facilities, however the principal hotels are both in the Bath - the New Bath Hotel is out on the road to Cromford opposite Wildcat crags and the Temple Hotel is on the hill below the Heights of Abraham. The Grand Pavilion at Matlock Bath is a pleasure palace built in 1910 alongside the River Derwent. It houses the Peak District Lead Mining Museum and has recently been purchased by the community after years of neglect. There are plans to refurbish it with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant as a theatre and venue.
The tourist information centre is now at the Peak Rail
shop on Matlock Station. The telephone number is 01335 343666.
Matlock Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Middleton by Wirksworth
|Middleton by Wirksworth (so called to distinguish it from another Middleton near to Youlgrave) is perched high on a hillside above Wirksworth and Cromford.|
Founded in Saxon times as a farming hamlet around an unusually high spring, the village developed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a lead-mining centre (like nearby Wirksworth) and a few of the older buildings in the upper part of the village date from this period.
The arrival in 1825 of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, which passes just below the village, brought rapid change. Middleton sits on some of the purest limestone in Europe, and the ability to transport this stone meant that large quarries developed all around the village and higgledy-piggledy groups of quarrymens' cottages spread across the hillside. Among other things, Middleton stone is noted for being used for WWI war gravestones.
The quarries around the village closed in the late 20th century and Middleton is now more of a commuter village with some light industry centred around the former quarries.
The village is spread out around a long main street with several narrow sections where it passes between old buildings. There are two pubs and a post office, plus a nice Victorian church and several Non-Conformist chapels, only one of which is still active.
DH Lawrence spent a year here living in a cottage on the road down to the Via Gellia to the north of Middleton.
Middleton by Wirksworth Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Wensley is a small village of former lead-miners' cottages which overlooks the Derwent Valley above Darley Dale. It provides good access to the beautiful Clough Wood and Cambridge Wood and from there to Stanton Moor. Deer are frequently seen around this area. There is a pub here.|
Wensley Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
The village still has the feel of a lead-mining centre, with rows of former miners' cottages clinging to the slope of the north side of the hill. There are shops and a pub called the Bowling Green, which bears the date 1473 though the present building is much newer. Outside the village proper to the south is the Miners' Standard, a well-known former miners' pub and just up the hill from this there is an unusual building which was once used for storing lead ore.
Parking in Winster can be a bit tricky if you are planning to use it as a base from which to explore the area and it is best to park in the vicinity of the Miners' Standard rather than the Main Street
Winster Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Wirksworth was well established by Saxon times and the Abbey of Repton owned the mining rights here in the 8th century, the Abess sending a coffin of Wirksworth lead for the burial of St Guthlac in 714. After the Danes sacked Repton in the 9th century the area fell under Danish influence, giving rise to typically Danish names like 'Wapentake'.
The town is now a small bustling local centre whose main industry is limestone quarrying. It has a range of small shops and as many pubs as you would expect in an old market town, of which the Hope and Anchor, the Red Lion and the Black's Head are the most notable.
The town has a welldressing in Whit week, and every September there occurs the unusual ceremony of 'Clypping', in which the church is encircled by the congregation holding hands around it. Wirksworth has also recently developed an excellent Arts Festival, which happens over a weekend in September. The Festival includes all forms of Art, with the market Square the centre for music, dance and street acts while many of the houses around the village play hosts to many different forms of artistic expression. Tours and tour maps can be bought in the local shops during the festival.
Wirksworth Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
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