The Manifold Valley has some of the most spectacular scenery in the Peak District and is rich with wildflowers, butterflies and birds. Surprisingly, the river beds of the Manifold and Hamps that flow through the valley are frequently dry, as the waters soak away into the porous limestone rocks below and only reappear in wet weather.
The Leek and Manifold Light Railway used to run through the valley. Swainsley Tunnel, which forms part of the walk, was constructed for the railway to keep the noise and fumes away from Swainsley Hall. Lack of sufficient business forced the closure of the line and it has subsequently been turned into a trail for walkers and cyclists, only two miles of which is not car-free.
Thorís Cave is an awesome site; a footbridge and a steep and sometimes slippery climb take you up the cave from the valley floor. The cave was excavated in the 19th century by Samuel Carrington, the Wetton schoolmaster, who discovered many relics of prehistoric man.
Wetton Mill, owned by the National Trust, is the starting point of many walks. It is a very popular spot with visitors to the valley and the tearoom, housed in one of the former grist buildings, provides most welcome refreshments.
Length: 4.75 miles.
Start/Finish: Off the road car parking is available along the roadside near Wetton Mill. Car parking at the mill is for patrons only.
Location: When starting from Wetton Mill, access by car is possible from Wetton, Butterton, Warslow and Hulme End. The car park at Weagís Bridge can be reached from Grindon and Wetton.
Terrain: Very good, easy walking conditions throughout, unless you climb up to Thorís Cave, which apart from being steep can be slippery. Care is needed walking through Swainsley Tunnel, a different and interesting experience for many walkers. Ideally try to undertake this walk away from the peak holiday season, as it can get very busy and there is some walking alongside the road.
1. Walk to Wetton Mill, turn left over the bridge, passing Wetton Mill Tea Rooms on your right.
2. Continue up the road for a short distance, before turning left, in front of Dale Farm, along a gated road, signed Hulme End 2.5 miles.
3. The road climbs very gently, with good views of the river through the trees.
4. Soon the road descends and you begin walking much closer to the river, until you reach the new Wetton to Hulme End road.
5. Turn left, cross the bridge over the river, and walk past the entrance to Swainsley Hall. A few yards further on turn right, along a road signed for Wetton Mill.
6. Follow the road through the old railway tunnel, which is well lit and does have a number of refuge points, if you think you need them. Vehicles from opposite directions take it in turn to pass through the tunnel.
7. The road continues for one mile, before arriving at the turn off for Wetton Mill, where you continue straight on along the road.
8. Follow the road as it gently curves round, to join another road, which also comes from the Wetton Mill direction.
9. At this point you bear right going through a gate and along a traffic free section of the former Manifold Valley Light Railway.
10. On reaching Thorís Cave, you can leave the trail and climb up to the cave to admire the wonderful view, before returning. The climb can be very slippery and possibly dangerous in wet weather.
11. Continue along the trail until you reach a car park, off the Wetton to Grindon road. It is worth turning left here to view Weagís Bridge, before returning in the same direction along the trail.
12. After passing through the gate (See Point 9) and joining the road, turn left. Do not follow the route you followed previously.
13. The road takes you over a packhorse bridge, past a barn and across a small ford.
14. At a road junction turn right and within a few yards you will be back on the road that passes Wetton Mill and the starting point of the walk.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Thorís Cave, rises 350 feet above the Manifold Valley, its 60-foot entrance is imposing but the cave inside is comparatively small. The railway track that once ran through the valley has been converted for the use of walkers and cyclists.
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 most weekends and during school holidays. For further information, when the above number is not available, contact Leek Tourist Information Office (Tel. 01538 483741) who will be able to supply details.
Milldale is a delightfully positioned hamlet at the northern end of Dovedale. It attracts walkers like few other places of its size in Britain. Most come to explore the beautiful Dove Valley, with its famous Stepping Stones and strange rock formations, but there are many other excellent walks in the area that either start, or pass through Milldale.
The Royal Oak (Tel. 01335 310287) situated in the heart of Wetton village is a 400 year old pub, with two cosy bars, open fires and beamed ceilings. Accommodation is available. There is a campsite at rear of pub. Food served lunchtime and evenings Wednesday to Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Wetton Mill Tearooms are situated mid way along the Manifold Valley next to the river. Open April to October every day from 9.30am. During the winter months open at weekends only. Hot and cold drinks and light snacks are served.
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Wetton is a compact little village of limestone cottages that seem to huddle together in an exposed position against the cold at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. Winters are now much milder, but some of the older residents still recall the times the village has been cut off from the outside world.
In the summer, Wetton is a picture with its pretty cottages and lovely gardens and it is not surprising that so many people decide to take their holidays in the village. For the more adventurous there is the campsite behind the pub, but for those who prefer four walls there is plenty of choice. The very tidy village notice board even provides a map, showing precisely where holiday accommodation is located.
All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.