Alstonefield - attractive Staffordshire village in the White Peak
...one of the Peak's prettiest villages
Between the Manifold and the Dove. Alstonefield is a charmingly unspoiled village, standing at 900 feet/250m on a ridge between Dovedale and the Manifold valleys and two miles from the nearest classified road.
The village retains its air of rural peace with a range of delightful 18th century mullioned-windowed cottages centred on its green, where a market was held between 1308 and 1500. Annual cattle sales were still held in the yard of The George public house up until the early 20th century.
Among the more important architectural features in the village are the mullioned-windowed Alstonefield Hall (private), between the Parish Church of St Peter (see below) and The George public house. The Hall is dated 1587 and latterly served as the Rectory. Stanshope Hall (also private), a mile to the south west, is a 17th century manor house with projecting gabled wings.
This large Staffordshire parish also includes the hamlet of Milldale, at the northern end of Dovedale, made famous by its description in Izaak Walton and local man Charles Cotton’s famous fisherman’s bible, The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653 and in print ever since.
WHERE IS IT?
Off the A523 eight miles east of Leek.
Although it’s in the middle of the stony country of the White Peak, the name of Alstonefield has nothing to do with stones. It was named after a Saxon landlord called Aelfstan, and this was his “feld” or open country, cleared from the woodland. A church is recorded here as early as 892.
Corn mills are recorded at West Side on the Manifold in 1667, and Lode Mill on the Dove. There was also a corn mill at the appropriately-named Milldale.
Alstonefield lies at the junction of several ancient trackways across the White Peak plateau, which later became packhorse routes crossing the rivers by narrow packhorse bridges like the one which crosses the Dove at Milldale. This was made famous by the account in The Compleat Angler, when Viator asks Piscator if people used wheel barrows to travel in this country. When Piscator asks why, Viator explains: “Because this Bridge was certainly made for nothing else; why a mouse can hardly go over it: ‘Tis not two fingers broad.”
Beresford Hall, the home of Charles Cotton, stood in the valley of the Dove but it was demolished in 1858. Only the Fishing Temple (private) built by Cotton in 1674 and inscribed with his initials and those of his friend Walton, remains on the banks of the river in Beresford Dale, just south of Hartington.
PLACES TO GO
The Parish Church of St Peter dates back to the 9th century and, due to a number of rebuilds over the years, now represents a blend of architectural styles.
The construction of the Carsington Water reservoir (01629 540696), west of Wirksworth, in 1992 gave recreational water-lovers a great opportunity in this generally lake-less landscape. The 741 acre/300ha reservoir has a thriving sailing club and facilities for windsurfing, canoeing and fishing, and there is a cycle hire centre if you want to cycle around its shores. There’s an adventure playground for the kids, and for nature lovers, the reservoir provides an important wetland habitat for many water-loving species of animals, birds and insects.
The National Trust’s Ilam Park (01335 350503), near Ashbourne, is set beside the River Manifold, and enjoys outstanding views towards the hills of Dovedale and walks into the Manifold Valley, where the river, like other limestone rivers in the Peak, disappears underground during the summer months. There is a well-appointed information centre and tea-room.
THINGS TO DO
Wolfscote Dale is the northern extension of more popular Dovedale. A pleasant way to explore its length is the six-mile route north from Alstonefield through Narrowdale to join the Dove at the Frank i’ th’ Rocks footbridge. Turn south here down the length of Wolfscote Dale, passing the limestone cliffs of Drabber, Iron and Shining Tors to reach Milldale. Millway Lane will then take you steeply back into Alstonefield in about a mile.
Alstonefield is conveniently placed for the traffic-free Tissington Trail, about a mile to the west, which gives miles of pleasant, gradient-free cycling. The Trail can be joined off the A515 Buxton-Ashbourne road.
FOOD AND DRINK
The George on the village green at Alstonefield (01335 310205) is an unspoilt, family-run pub which is justly popular with walkers. It serves homemade, locally-sourced food on a seasonal menu. Real ales and home-cooked food are also specialities at The Watts Russell Arms in the hamlet of Hopedale, near Alstonefield (01335 310126).
Ashbourne, ancient market town with fine church
Buxton, spa town and shopping centre
Bakewell, ancient market town
Chatsworth, the “Palace of the Peak”
Haddon Hall, medieval manor house popular as a film set
Tourist Information Centres
Ashbourne TIC, 13 Market Place, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1EU; Tel: 01335 343888; www.visitpeakdistrict.com; open daily.
Bakewell TIC, The Old Market Hall, Bridge Street, Bakewell, DE45 1DS; Tel: 01629 816558; www.peakdistrict.gov.uk, open daily.
Buxton Tourist Information Centre, The Crescent, Buxton SK17 6BQ; 01298 25106; www.highpeak.gov.uk; open daily
Carsington Water Visitor Centre, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1ST; 01629 540696; www.stwater.co.uk; open daily all year except Christmas Day.
Editor, Let's Stay Peak District & Let's Stay UK
© 2010 - Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 5 Oct 2015