Monsal Trail | Peak District Towns and Villages | Staffordshire | Derbyshire | England | UK
Peak District Towns and Villages: Monsal Trail
Villages around Monsal Trail
|Chelmorton has a real upland feel to it, sitting as it does in a natural bowl surrounded by low hills. It is in fact one of the highest villages of the area. The site is an ancient one, with a spring rising just above the modern village, near the church. This church is the highest in Derbyshire and was built in Norman times - the south arcade still dates from this time while the north arcade and the tower are thirteenth century - the spire was added much later.|
Another aspect of interest around Chelmorton is the field patterns. Those around the village are in 13 long narrow strips, a system dating from medieval times (and maybe as far back as Saxon times) but only enclosed relatively recently - probably in the 17th century. The larger fields more distant from the village were enclosed as late as 1805, and these are of a completely different shape - larger and usually almost square. This type of field pattern can also be seen near some other local villages, such as Litton. Another echo of the past is the name of the road which runs across the bottom end of the village. This is the old road between Buxton and Bakewell and is called 'The Ditch', a name which may be a relic of an ancient village boundary.
There is a public house, the Church Inn, and good footpaths lead directly from the village into the adjacent hills, particularly Chelmorton Low with the neolithic burial chamber at Five Wells Farm.
Chelmorton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Cressbrook is located on the River Wye about 4 miles north of Bakewell. It grew up around a cotton mill and consists mainly of former mill cottages, though some of the oldest houses in and around the village are lead miners' cottages, testifying to a history that predates the mill. |
In 1820 the tiny cottages in Ravensdale (known locally as 'The Wick') were built followed in 1840 the model village of pretty cottages at the top of the hill. The Cressbrook mill owners were generally philanthropic and as well as fine housing they provided piped water pumped up the hill from a spring near the river and they funded the village band, which still survives.
Above the mill is Cressbrook Hall, the house of mill-owner Henry McConnel. The house stands on a bluff overlooking the river and is a fanciful piece of Gothic architecture. The position is superb, with magnificent views down Monsal Dale. Farther up the hill is the rest of the village, for the most part consisting of the cottages once occupied by the millworkers.
The heyday of the mill was the 19th century when it produced high-quality cotton for lacemaking. After World War I all the local mills struggled to make a profit and cotton spinning ceased here in 1965. The mill finally closed in 1971 after which it was allowed to decay for several years before being restored.
The demise of the cotton industry brought great changes to the village. As there is now almost no employment within the village the population has declined and faster transport links have meant that they have been replaced by an influx of older professional people who work within a wide radius of the village. House prices have risen so that local young people can rarely afford them. This has meant that the population has aged - to the extent that the local school closed in 1997, when its roll was down to 6 pupils. A number of the cottages have become second homes or holiday homes, and of course many of these are empty for much of the year.
The scenery around is magnificent. Along the River Wye, just upstream of Cressbrook Mill lies Water-cum-Jolly, a beautiful river gorge with fine limestone cliffs which attract many rock-climbers, bird-watchers, walkers and fishermen. North of the mill lies Cressbrook Dale, or Ravensdale, a fine gorge-like limestone dale with numerous crags and the remains of several lead mines. Most of this dale is a National Nature Reserve renowned for its range of rare flowers.
The village has a fete and well dressing each year in early June.
Cressbrook Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Flagg is located between Monyash and Taddington, high up in the centre of the limestone dome that makes up the White Peak. It is rich pastureland and Flagg is a predominantly farming community. Aside from the many local farms there is a Hall of 16th Century origin.|
On the A515, which pass Flagg to the south, lie two pubs, the Duke of York and the Bull I' th' Thorn. The latter has been a hostelry since 1472, much added to since that time, but is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area. It is well worth a visit to sample its interior, in the centre of which is the medieval hall house which predates the hostelry.
Flagg races, a point-to-point event, take place here on Easter Tuesday every year. This is a quite unique event of the area and usually attracts large crowds. Point-to-point over an area of limestone walls is a notably dangerous sport!
Flagg Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge
The area around is limestone and the village stands on the 'Foolow Beds'. Huge, deep slabs of Carboniferous limestones that mark the transition from the Dark Peak in the north to the White Peak in the south. There is much evidence of lead-mining locally. There are also some interesting geological features, such as Waterfall Swallet, where one of the local streams disappears underground. This lies along the road to Eyam. To the north the ground rises up to Eyam edge and the landscape changes rapidly to gritstone. The whole surrounding area is a fine one for relatively gentle walks.
Foolow has a well-dressing in late August.
Foolow Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
Great Hucklow & Little Hucklow
|Great Hucklow was once a lead-mining village and one of the former mines beneath the village was afterwards mined for fluorspar. It is now a pretty little village nestling below Hucklow Edge and has become a popular place to live. It was a centre of Unitarianism from the late 17th century and now has a Unitarian Conference Centre. |
The village was once famous for its plays, which were written by a local resident, L. du Garde Peach, who lived in what is now the conference centre, and performed in a converted lead-smelting mill. These plays were based on local Derbyshire 'types' and acted by local people - du Garde Peach effectively created his own genre. The theatre ran from 1927 to 1972 and when du Garde Peach died in 1976 the tradition unfortunately died with him.
Above the village, on the plateau behind Hucklow Edge, there is the 'airfield' of the Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club, and most weekends a number of gliders will be airborne overhead.
Great Hucklow has a well-dressing in mid-August.
Near to Great Hucklow are the small hamlets of Windmill, Grindlow and Little Hucklow. The walking around here is gentle and very pleasant with easily followed footpaths crossing old drystone wall field systems while above Great Hucklow there is access into the beautiful Bretton Clough.
Great Hucklow & Little Hucklow Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
King Sterndale & Cowdale
|King Sterndale and Cowdale are two tiny hamlets perched on the edge of the limestone plateau above Ashwood Dale and the River Wye to the south of Buxton. Both hamlets consist mainly of farms. King Sterndale has a notable Hall, in the grounds of which the foundations of a medieval village have been found. There is also the stump of an ancient cross on the village green. |
King Sterndale lies very close to Deepdale, one of the most beautiful of the local dales, and a nature reserve on account of its range of flowers. Excavations have shown that Thirst House cave in Deepdale was occupied at various times by both man and wild animals from the Ice Ages to Roman times.
King Sterndale & Cowdale Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Litton is a small village lying 2km East of Tideswell. It is situated in a picturesque area just to the east of Tideswell and the eastern end of the village overlooks Tansley Dale and Ravensdale, a National Nature Reserve. It is a popular area for walkers.|
Litton's derivation is as the historical seat of the Lytton family, who settled here shortly after the Norman conquest. Sir Gilbert de Lytton accompanied Richard III on the crusades and his descendants held many sovereign positions including Sir Rowland de Lytton, who served Elizabeth I. Subsequent to the Lyttons the land passed down through the Alsop, Bagshawe, Upton and Statham families as well as Lord Scarsdale.
There is a pub, the Red Lion, and a small shop. Litton has a well dressing in late June.
Litton Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Longstone is made up of two small villages, Great and Little Longstone. The villages have many fine 18th century cottages, built during an era of prosperity from lead-mining and shoemaking. There is a village green in Great Longstone, with an ancient cross and a nearby manor house which has medieval origins. Across the road is Longstone Hall, originally built during the 14th century, but rebuilt in the mid 18th, with a prominent brick facade. There is a rather nice church hidden round the back of the village.|
Great Longstone and Little Longstone have well-dressings in late July.
Just along the road, to the west of Little Longstone, is Monsal Head, a famous beauty spot and viewpoint. There is a small car park with a fine view down the valley, and a much larger car park, with public toilets, 100m away. A few hundred metres towards Ashford there is an old Quaker burial ground.
To the north of Longstone lies Longstone Edge, a fine viewpoint for the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately the top of the edge has been intensively quarried for lead and, more recently fluorspar, which has left some impressive holes in the ground but rather detracts from its scenic value.
Longstone Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Miller's Dale was once an important railway junction, where passengers for Buxton joined or left the trains between London and Manchester on the old Midland Railway. Since the railway was closed in 1970 the station has become an important car park and access point to local walks. The hamlet is still dominated by the impressive, massive railway viaducts across the Wye valley here.|
Downstream lies Litton Mill, a small hamlet grouped around a former cotton mill on the River Wye. The mill was built in the late 18th century and burned down in 1897 (there is a photograph in the Angler's Rest in Millers Dale), but was then rebuilt. In its early years the mill was known locally and nationally for its harsh treatment of its apprentices, many of whom were orphans both local and from as far away as London. This was the subject of an expose in the form of a book by Robert Blincoe in 1832 which is said to have helped the passage of the Factories Act of 1833 and may have inspired Dickens when he wrote Oliver Twist.
There are two Nature Reserves near Miller's Dale. Priestcliffe Lees and Station Quarry belongs to Derbyshire Naturalists' Trust, while Monk's Dale (a dry tributary valley of the Wye) is a National Nature Reserve. Both are rich in classic limestone flora and fauna of the area.
There is a small church and a pub, the Angler's Arms and 1km away is Ravenstor Youth Hostel.
Miller's Dale Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Peak Dale, which is divided almost in two by the former Midland Railway, comprises Upper End on the west side of the railway and Smalldale on the east. Both were built to house quarrymen in the days when the stone was largely hewn from the quarries by hand, and so the settlements are composed mostly of small stone cottages and are surrounded by past, present and future limestone quarries. |
Some of the former quarries have been filled in and landscaped, but others have been flooded and are now filled by blue lagoons. Some of the old quarries are used for various sports activities.
Peak Dale Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Peak Forest does not have many trees, for it is named after the Royal Forest of the Peak; a 'forest' being an area set aside for hunting rather than a wooded place. North-west of the village lies Chamber Knowl Farm, where the Swainmote (one of the courts of the Royal Forest) used to meet, but the present building dates from the eighteenth century, long after the forest was abolished.|
The Royal Forest originally covered most of the northern half of the Peak District when founded by William the Conquerer, but this area was gradually whittled away by encroachment until only a small area around Peak Forest remained by the 16th century, and the forest was finally abolished in 1674.
The current church dates only from the late 19th century, but the church on this site has an interesting history. It was founded in 1657 by the Countess of Devonshire (at a time when the Commonwealth had forbidden church-building), and is one of a very few in the country dedicated to Charles the King and Martyr - so it is clear where the Devonshires' sympathies lay! Until the late eighteenth century the vicar had the right to conduct marriages between 'any persons', 'from anywhere' and 'at any time'. The village hence became a sort of local Gretna Green.
A less accessible feature of Peak Forest is Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak. It is the deepest local pothole; an alarming, evil-looking chasm in the side of Eldon Hill to the north of the village. Access from the village is via Eldon Lane, and is a half-hour walk. The hole is approximately 60 metres deep, but was probably once much deeper, having been part-filled by stones over the years. It was first descended in 1780 and is now quite regularly descended by potholers. Near to Edlon Hill is Starvehouse Moor, a very interesting area and one of the few Limestone Heaths that can be found in the Peak District. Here you will find the curious phenomenon of heather growing on limestone. Made possible by the acid nature of the Loess soils in which it grows.
The village has a shop and a pub, the Devonshire Arms. There is a well-dressing in mid-July.
Peak Forest Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge
|Sheldon is a small farming hamlet perched high above the River Wye, South of Ashford. From just outside the village there are fine views of the Wye and the lower part of Monsal Dale.|
Lead mining flourished around here in the 18th and 19th centuries and most of Sheldon dates from this period. One of the most famous and certainly the best-preserved Peak District mine, the Magpie Mine, lies just 1km south of here.
Sheldon has a pub, the Cock and Pullet, popular with hikers.
Sheldon Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Taddington is clustered around an ancient well on the north side of a ridge formed by a sill of Dolerite in the surrounding limestone. It is one of the highest villages in the area.|
The church is mostly 14th century and has an enigmatic decorated shaft in the churchyard. The origins of the shaft are obscure, but it dates from at least Norman times.
At the eastern, lower end of the village (known as Town End), is a pub, the Queen's Arms, and outside the village on the A6 lies the Waterloo Hotel. Taddington has a well-dressing in mid-August.
Blackwell and Priestcliffe are two hamlets of a dozen houses each, sited between Taddington and the River Wye. Most of the dwellings are active farms.
The area below Blackwell, between it and the River Wye, has a series of ridges and terraces in the fields which are the remnants of a Britano-Roman field system, dating from around 400 AD. This was centred around a fortified settlement on the top of Chee Tor, overlooking the River Wye.
Taddington Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
This fine church was funded by the local wool trade and by lead mining - for Tideswell was a major centre for the lead-mining industry from medieval times to the nineteenth century. As the mining declined from 1850 onwards so did the population of the village and it has only started to recover in recent years.
The nearby hamlet of Wheston is one of the smallest hereabouts with about 15 houses, mostly farms, and a hall which is reputedly haunted. There is an agricultural supplier here but no shops or amenities.
The main point of interest is the fine, recently restored 15th-century cross just on the western edge of the hamlet. Unusually, the cross is essentially complete despite its age. It is thought it once marked the boundary of the Royal Forest and has the Virgin Mary on one side and Christ crucified on the other.
Tideswell Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Wardlow is a small farming and former lead-mining village strung out along a road which follows the route of the Portway, an ancient Iron Age track that ran from Southern Derbyshire to the great Iron Age fort on Mam Tor. Later adopted by the Romans to reach thier fort at Navio, near Brough, the road is still called Castlegate but known locally as 'Scratter'.|
The village layout, with farms spaced out along the through road, has probably changed little since Saxon times.
The area around is dotted with relics of the local lead-mines, which were numerous and extended into nearby Cressbrook Dale and Ravensdale and towards Longstone. The village provides excellent access to Cressbrook Dale National Nature Reserve and Longstone Edge, one of the few Limestone Heaths in the Peak District. There is a pub and a roadside cafe at Wardlow Mires.
Wardlow has a well-dressing in early September.
Wardlow Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
|Wormhill is a small farming village found to the north of Chee Dale and west of Tideswell. The manor house, Wormhill Hall, was built in 1697 and then heavily restored in the late 19th century. The hamlet was relatively much more important in Norman times than it is today for it was once one of the administrative centres of the Royal Forest of the Peak.|
Just to the west, the hamlet of Tunstead was the birthplace of Thomas Brindley who was apprenticed as a millwright but became a famous civil engineer and was responsible for the design and construction of the Bridgewater Canal. In the centre of Wormhill the village well is dedicated to Brindley. The well is 'dressed' each year in late August or early September.
In Great Rocks Dale, to the west of Wormhill, lies Tunstead quarry. Probably the largest quarry in Europe. Quarrying originally took place on the Western side of the Dale, but the owners (ICI at the time, now Buxton Lime Industries) obtained permission in 1978 to begin quarrying on the East side, working towards Wormhill. Vast numbers of trees have been planted to screen the future quarry workings and these can be seen to the west of Wormhill village. The quarrying will eventually completely remove the hamlet of Tunstead, which is already largely deserted and gives some idea of the long-term threat the quarry poses for the environment of this area.
Wormhill Photo Gallery - click on the images to enlarge- Click Here for a slide show
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