Magical Manifold by Les Singleton


After feeling a bit ‘stir crazy’, because we’d not been for a proper walk for about a month, we decided to get out and into the Manifold valley. If you’ve never been here, you’re missing a magical place. The walking here is always what the books would call ‘strenuous’, as you’re forever dropping into, and climbing out of, deep valleys. That aside, the rewards are – well – MANIFOLD! It’s one of my very favourite dales, and it’s where I first fell in love with the great outdoors in around 1971. The newspapers have been reporting a massive amount of dandelions, and I have to say, they are spot on! We saw swathes of them in the fields. Someone once said that, if they weren’t classed as a weed, and so prolific, they would be a prized exhibit. If you look at one on its own, you do have to admire the beauty of it. In this shot, taken just as we left Wetton village, you can see the hump of Thors cave jutting upwards, just to the right of that tree.

The sky looks EXTREMELY angry here, and we fully expected to get wet at some point today, but just LOOK how green the ground is – all the recent rain and a few days sunshine have sent it growing mad!


If anyone can identify these birds, please let me know what they are. I JUST managed to get this shot before they flew off.


After walking down the lane from the village,we crossed onto the lower slopes of Thors cave. This is the view back. Behind us lay the stiff climb to the top.


And WHAT a reward!!! On a day like today, this is as close to perfection as you can get. A blood-heat breeze blowing, clouds but pin sharp clarity in the distance, and spring in the air. Big breaths of this beautifully scent-laden air were all we needed to feel revived and glad to be alive.


Looking across the valley to Grindon village. One of my favourite pubs, the Cavalier, used to be there. Alas, like so many others, it’s now closed. You can just see the spire of the village church, centre shot.


Looking up the valley towards Wetton mill, where I camped all those years ago at the start of my affair with the countryside.


A massive bonus, Sue spotted early cowslips on our way down from the top, we also saw our first early purple orchid close by. And some dainty white flowers (which Sue is going to look up). And, of course, the lovely celandine flower. The banks in the woods were a carpet of these.

The tiny but unmissable speedwell – a sharp dot of blue that shouts; ‘I’M HERE!’.


We rounded the corner to be faced with the huge mouth of Thors cave. As you can probably see, it’s quite a scramble, particularly in these damp conditions, to get inside it up the polished, slippery, wet limestone, .


But, of course, we did. This is the iconic view looking out of the mouth. Note the climbing paraphernalia hanging from the very top.


Sue explores the inner bowels of the cave. The thing about caves is, they’re exciting, and we always want to go deeper.

What you forget is, they are always muddy, wet things, and if you don’t have overalls, you get ABSOLUTELY filthy, in any weather.


Me, standing at one of the smaller entrances.


We slithered and slipped our way out of the cave, and started down into the valley. NOW we were seeing a REAL profusion of new flowers. We even had a comical (for Sue) episode where I tried to get up a really steep, muddy slope to get a picture of a perfect bunch of primula, only to keep sliding back down every time I made any progress. It was a scene worthy of the silent movies! You’ll just have to believe me on their perfection – I gave up, puffing and panting.

At the bottom, a glance over our shoulder saw the mouth of the cave looking back at us.


Why have I taken this picture? Well, this river (the Manifold) is dry for most of the time, as the water disappears down ‘sink holes’. With all the recent rain, it was running today.


The sun was now getting very warm (something we weren’t used to – sun, I mean) so we decided to ‘take a rack off’ and relax with our lunch. We chose this grassy knoll to enjoy the day. As usual, Sue reclined, and a half hour lunch was extended for ‘sun therapy’. A pheasant was playing ‘peep-bo’ with us in the long grass.

We left the footpath and fields, and joined the steep, winding road towards Hopedale. The view from this elevated road is fantastic, and with today’s clear conditions, a real treat.


New lambs were all around, and ran to mum as soon as they saw us coming.


This super dew pond was just at the side of the road. These sort of ponds are being restored in a lot of the peak district, as they are perfect habitat for such as newts, etc.


A bank of gorse, almost in flower. In a week, that hillside will be a riot of yellow.

Clouds, but no rain – not even a spit. Lucky us

Something I LOVE to see – one of the old stone walls being repaired and re-built. This would be a long job, I’ve made a note to come back and check on progress in a few months time.

Also, the Manifold valley is synonymous with stone barns, again many are being restored. This one looked like it was in the queue.


With a clearing and now PERFECT sky, we continued on our way. Looking at this picture, can’t you almost SMELL the ‘greenness’ of it?

Now then, if that’s not a good desktop picture, I don’t know what is.


What can I say? PERFECTION.


A chocolate-box cottage above Milldale.


And the pub at Hopedale, they do a really good pint of local ale called ‘Jaipur’.

After a swift half, and a chat to the very pleasant landlord, we returned to our lovely walk. This is the view over to Alstonefield. It wasn’t long before we were back at Wetton. Tired for our labours, but with that super feeling you get when you’ve got tired in a good way. It had only been just under seven miles, but we did over 1,100 feet of ascent – not a bad day!


This blog was brought to you by Les Singleton of Ricci’s Takeaway and Cafe

Area:Manifold Valley