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CHELMORTON - FIVEWELLS FARM - TOWN HEAD FARM - CHELMORTON THORN - CHELMORTON

DISTANCE: Approximately 4 ½ miles

DESCRIPTION: Standing at 1,200 feet above sea level, Chelmorton is the second highest village in England, beaten only by nearby Flash which is over the county border into Staffordshire.

This walk will take you up above Chelmorton towards Fivewells Farm, from where you should be able to see for miles around (weather permitting). This is true White Peak countryside, the land being divided and apportioned by dry stone walls.

The Limestone Way which is a long distance route cuts over the hillside close to Chelmorton and runs towards Taddington.

After an initial gentle climb up a stony track from Chelmorton the walk progresses along tracks and lanes and along footpaths through lush green fields. The route is quite easy going and should not be too difficult to follow.

1. Park your car on Chelmorton’s long main street, taking care not to block entrances or use designated parking for residents, and head towards the church at the top of the road. Chelmorton is a classic example of a linear village, its formation arising from dwellings following the main street or water course. With the medieval Enclosures Act, each cottage in Chelmorton was allocated a strip of land behind it, evidence of which can be seen to this day. Fields beyond the village are of a more rectangular shape and were formed around 1800.

2. At the top end of the village is the oldest part of Chelmorton. Here you will find the Church Inn, opposite which is Chelmorton’s church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The church has a slender 15th century spire which spikes the heavens at quite a high altitude; it is certainly the highest church in Derbyshire. A reference to St. John’s states that the church dates from 1111, substantiated by four strokes carved into one of the beams. Although much of the early building has disappeared due to restoration work in the last century, the porch is made up of sepulchral slabs or coffin lids from as early as the 12th century. In the churchyard is the broken shaft of an old cross.

3, Continue up the hill past the church and follow a track around to the right. On the left is a footpath heading up onto Chelmorton Low. Do not turn onto the footpath but notice the troughs fed by a spring comically named Illy Willy Water! These troughs would have been appreciated by horses and pack-ponies which used this old route when travelling across the Peak District.

4. Continue up the track which leads through a rake mined out years ago for lead. On the spoil heaps there are colourful patches of wild yellow pansies in the spring as well as a variety of other wild flowers in the summer.

5. On meeting a lane, turn right for only a few yards and then follow the footpath opposite through fields and stiles passing in front of Fivewells Farm. On the hillside behind, accessible by means of a concessionary footpath, is the much appraised chambered cairn of Fivewells tumuli. It is a New Stone Age tomb which must have commanded an impressive sight situated atop the hill at 1,400 feet.

6. On reaching another lane turn right and follow this grassy track which forms part of the Limestone Way. From here you can see the distant landmarks of Minninglow, Harborough Rocks and the conical summits of the reef formations which pinpoint the position of the Upper Dove Valley.

7. Where the grassy track meets a road turn right but shortly afterwards turn left down a further lane. At a crossroads go straight on down the road, heading to the village of Flagg. On reaching a house on the right, continue and then turn right on the bend shortly afterwards. The road dips down and passes a beautifully restored 17th century Derbyshire farmhouse. With a farm drive in front of you, cross the stile by the footpath sign on the right and head towards the trees. Go through a gateway then across the field to a stile in the wall on the right. Now you should head diagonally across the next field to a stile in the top right-hand corner. From here the path is easy to follow and should lead you back up to a road.

8. On reaching the road turn left and walk to a crossroads. This is known as Chelmorton Thorn. Although Chelmorton was strangely not mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is felt sure to be a Saxon village in origin. In the Middle Ages it was traditional to plant a sturdy thorn bush at a crossways or change of direction. I don’t somehow think that the little hawthorn which is growing there now has been around for hundreds of years, but it could possibly be a seedling of some medieval ancestral bush.

9. Around Chelmorton and Taddington are many old tracks and paths known to have existed for centuries. A reference in 1659 was made to a salterway leading past the villages from the salt basin at Northwich in Cheshire which passed through Macclesfield and Flash by means of packhorse routes, then on to Washgate and Brierlow before heading towards Chelmorton.

10. Go straight ahead along the main road at the crossroads but then turn right at the next junction and begin the return descent to Chelmorton. From this elevated position you can see towards Axe Edge and Buxton whilst over to your right is Calton Hill which is of volcanic origin. The igneous rock called basalt or toadstone which was extracted from here for use in road surfacing was formed from molten lava. Head towards the church in the distance but about midway down the lane you should find a stile on your left which will take you down through one of the aforementioned medieval enclosed fields to emerge back on Chelmorton’s main street.