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River Manifold

images/rivermanifold.jpgThe river Manifold, as with the river Dove, rises under the dark shadow of Axe Edge, just to the south of Buxton and flows out of the gritstone moors in a deeply incised valley, keeping close to the Dove as far as Longnor. Past Longnor the two valleys assume very different charaxters. The Dove continues to cut through spectacular hills, whilst the Manifold flattens out quite considerably offering more distant views across fields, often with hedges rather than dry stone walls.

Passing through Hulme End, Ecton Hill lies ahead heralding the start of the limestone and the more attractive part of the valley. On the western bank are the villages of Warslow, Butterton and Grindon. At Ecton are the remains of an old copper mine. The Duke of Devonshire had holdings here in the 18th century, which extracted enough copper to pay for the Cresent at Buxton with merely a year's profit as well as finance ongoing additions to his house at Chatsworth. Mining for copper ended around 1840.

The River Manifold disappears underground, except in very wet weather, when it reaches Wetton Mill and does not reappear until it reaches the grounds of Ilam Hall. The Manifold's only tributary the river Hamps also flows underground through a series of caves and subterranean passages.

Wetton Mill is a focal point for visitors to the Manifold valley. The mill house itself is 16th century and used as a corn mill until 1857. It is owned by the National Trust and there is a tea room and a shop. The handsome bridge here was built by the Duke of Devonshire in 1807 for packhorses carrying the copper from Ecton mine.

South of Wetton, a lane leads down to the Manifold Valley and Weags Bridge, a small bridge and car parking area with a nature reserve on it's western bank. This is the closest you can get by car to the dramatic limestone cliff known as Beeston Tor, a popular haunt of climbers.

There are several caves in the area. St Bertram's Cave at the lower end of Beeston Tor was excavated in the 1920's and 30's, showing the site to have been occupied from iron age to relatively recent times. Saxon coins and jewellery were found here. Thor's cave gapes darkly from an outcrop of grey limestone almost 300 feet above the river bed. Past exploration of Thor's cave have found evidence of occupation from the iron and bronze ages and finds have included the bones of three species of bear, bison, cave lion and rhinocerous.

The Manifold eventually meets the river Dove at Ilam and continues as the Dove, forming much of the boundary between Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

In 1902, a light railway was built which ran from Hulme End to Waterhouses and closed in 1934. The Staffordshire County Council reconditioned the trackway into an eight mile footpath, making the manifold valley easily accessible for walkers and cyclists.