A small rather isolated farming village two miles south east of Hartington, just off the busy A515 between Ashbourne and Buxton. It is a popular spot for walkers who come to walk beside the river Dove through Beresford Dale and Wolfscote Dale. The Tissington Trail provides one of many other options particularly when a circular walk from the village is planned.
The route that leads down to Wolfscote Dale and the River Dove is appropriately named Biggin Dale after the village. It is a National Nature Reserve and contains a fine range of flowers in spring. Most of the time it is a pleasant limestone dale but during periods of heavy rain, underground waterways emerge from springs, producing a swift running stream.
Biggin is an old village first mentioned in 1223, when it was called Newbiggin. At that time there was a monastic settlement of the Cistercian order, owned by the monks of Garendon Abbey in Leicestershire. They established a sheep ranch at Biggin Grange, which although rebuilt since monastic times, still retains one ancient outbuilding. Farming has continued to be an important occupation in the village ever since the monks set up their farm.
At the time when lead mining was at its height, there were several mines scattered throughout the parish. Quarrying was also important although all the quarries are now closed. Hartshead, near Heatcote supplied stones for making aerodrome runways in World War II. The small hamlets of Heathcote and Newhaven are both in the same parish as Biggin.
Newhaven House Hotel on the A515, currently closed for repair, was built by the Duke of Devonshire in 1795, to take advantage of the coaching trade. Erected close to two important turnpike roads, the Buxton to Derby and the Nottingham to Newhaven, it was the last public house in England to have a perpetual licence. This was awarded following a visit by King George IV, who was so impressed by the warmth and hospitality of the landlord that he granted the licence.
The remoteness, and the much harsher winter’s of the past, have led to the Biggin residents finding themselves cut off from the outside world. In the severe winter of 1947, the roads were almost permanently blocked with snow. Fortunately, trains on the Ashbourne to Buxton line usually managed to get through.
For many years Biggin was the venue for the biggest sheep sales in the area. The sheep sales in October 1985, having over 20,000 sheep entered for purchase. Now sheep are sold at the market in the new Bakewell Agricultural Centre. The loss of the sheep sales meant the loss of some profitable business for the Waterloo Inn. This though has been compensated by the gradual increase in thirsty visitors to the village, mainly walkers. Increasing leisure time and early retirement have meant weekdays and not just weekends are busy in good weather conditions. The Waterloo is a popular inn, both with tourists and locals, judging by the number of games teams listed on the pub notice board.
Following the closure of the railway line, it has been re-opened as the Tissington Trail, which brings additional walkers and cyclists to the village. As a result of the increase in visitors, more accommodation providers have emerged in the village. There is a caravan and camping site in a field to the rear of the Waterloo Inn and other sites in the area.
Biggin Hall is almost certainly the oldest house in the village. It was built in the 17th century, and is a good example of small-scale farm architecture of that period. There is a stone inside on which the date 1642 is carved. A Grade II* listed building, it stands in eight acres of grounds, and is currently used for holiday accommodation. It has recently been renovated in keeping with its original character. Many of the stone mullioned leaded windows have only recently been allowed to show the light of day inside, having been obliterated in the 1790s to avoid window tax.
The impressive looking church of St Thomas was built in 1848 of limestone acquired from a nearby field. It still holds regular services, but the former Methodist Chapel closed its doors some years ago and is now a private house. There is a smart new village hall and a school in Biggin, a busy corn merchant and one or two small businesses.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Manifold Valley Visitor Centre (Tel. 01298 84679) housed in the old Hulme End Station, where information displays outline the history of the railway, the industries and local community. Open on a seasonal basis - Leek Tourist Information Office (Tel. 01538 483741) will be able to supply further details outside opening hours.
Ilam Village with its alpine style cottages and close proximity to Dovedale makes it a very popular attraction. The National Trust grounds and country park of Ilam Hall are open to the public.
Hartington The picturesque village of Hartington with its spacious market place, village green, delightful duck pond and limestone houses, which sparkle in the bright sunlight, make it one of the major tourist centres in the Peak District. Hartington’s main industry apart from tourism is cheese making. Cheese can be purchased from the factory shop opposite the duck pond.
The Waterloo Inn (Tel. 01298 84284) at Biggin is a popular village pub with a tiled floor, and a real fire in winter. Open daily. Food served lunchtime and evenings. There is a 20 pitch site for caravan and camping at the rear of the pub. Outside seating.
Beresford Tea Rooms, Hartington (Tel. 01298 84418) Open seven days a week from Easter, this busy little café provides a good selection of light meals and teas. It also houses the village Post Office.
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A superb walk taking in a wide variety of scenery, best walked in the spring or summer, when the wild flowers are growing. The walk includes a nature reserve and two dry dales, each of a completely different character to the River Dove that separates them. Tissington Trail, popular with walkers and cyclists, provides an interesting contrast for the final section of the walk.
Shortly after setting off on this walk Biggin Dale is entered, a large part of which is designated as a National Nature Reserve. It contains many limestone loving plants, including purple orchids, harebells and purple flowered meadow cranesbill.
After leaving the Dove at Coldeaton Bridge, the second dry dale is entered and the route soon becomes hemmed in by its steep rocky sides. On emerging from the dale, the Tissington Trail, a former railway track, is soon joined. The track was converted in 1963, and ever since has been a very popular area for leisure.
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