Manifold Valley 6 mile walk
...6 miles of peace
This walk dips in and out of the peaceful Manifold Valley, which never attracts the crowds of neighbouring Dovedale...
Thor’s Cave from Wetton
Thor’s Cave is the archetypal caveman’s home – a gaping 20m/60ft-high void in a crag 76m/250 ft above the winding valley of the Manifold. Sure enough, firm evidence of prehistoric occupation has been found, and it has also attracted the attention of film-makers over the years. This walk dips in and out of the peaceful Manifold Valley, which never attracts the crowds of neighbouring Dovedale.
Wetton is a typical White Peak village, attractively set around its tiny village green nearly 30m/1,000 feet up on the limestone plateau and overlooking the deep valley of the Manifold. The Royal Oak public house welcomes walkers, and the parish church of St. Margaret’s, re-built in 1820, retains its venerable 14th century tower.
Start from the car park south of the village and turn right to where the road to Wetton Mill enters, then turn left along a lane signposted “Thor’s Cave.” Follow the upper drystone wall to a fence stile which gives access to the Cave around the foot of the crag to the right.
Care is needed to explore this stupendous void, because the bare rock floor slopes upwards from the entrance. The view, framed by the great dome of the entrance, across the winding Manifold Valley towards Ossom’s Hill is worth the visit alone.
Formed from the harder reef limestones of the Carboniferous age, Thor’s Cave may be the remnant of a much older cave system exposed by Ice Age glaciers. Further fissures lead on from the back of the cave, and other exist nearby where the Pleistocene and Romano-British remains have been discovered. The cave takes it name from the Norse god of thunder.
Descend the steep steps which have been constructed through the trees from the cave entrance to the footbridge which crosses the River Manifold below.
The River Manifold disappears for most of the summer to run in underground fissures. This happens at Wetton Mill and it bubbles to the surface again over three miles downstream in the ground of Ilam Hall.
The valley is threaded by the Manifold Track, a walking and riding route converted by Staffordshire County Council as long ago as 1937 from the former trackbed of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway. The railway, which used Indian rolling stock, was a short-lived enterprise which opened in 1904 to serve the nearby copper mines at Ecton Hill, and closed in 1934.
Cross the Manifold Track to a stile which points the way to Ossoms Hill and a footpath which contours up through Ladyside Wood, with splendid views back towards Thor’s Cave gaping from its crag opposite. A couple of stiles and a slab bridge across the stream leads you into Grindon village.
The parish church of All Saints, Grindon is sometimes known as “the Cathedral of the Staffordshire Moorlands.” Although rebuilt in Victorian times, it stands on a much more ancient site, as the Saxon stone coffins and font inside testify. The graceful spire is a local landmark, seen in many views from the Manifold Valley. Note also in the church the plaque which records the air disaster during the bitter winter of 1947, when an RAF aircraft which was dropping food and supplies to the village which had been cut off by the snows, crashed on Grindon Moor. The 17th century Cavalier pub provides the social hub of this charming little upland village.
From the car park near the church, follow the road northwards, leaving it at a stile near a gate just before the fork to Ossoms Hill. The path heads downhill through gates into the depths of the valley of the Hoo Brook, where you cross the footbridge and turn right following the edge of Ladyside Wood and contouring round Ossoms Hill. The valley known as Waterslacks leads down back into the Manifold Valley to Wetton Mill .
Wetton Mill Bridge was rebuilt by the Duke of Devonshire in 1807 to serve his copper mining interests at Ecton Hill further upstream. The mill itself was a grist mill used by local farmers until 1857. All this area is part of the National Trust’s South Peak Estate, and it was the Trust which provided the café and toilet facilities at the car park at Wetton Mill. The crag of Nan Tor, above the café, has caves which have revealed evidence of use by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers 8,500 years ago.
The path leads up west from the mill through a rock cutting and out into a lovely little dry valley to reach the former Pepper Inn, built in the 18th century as an alehouse for miners from Ecton, and later, in a chequered career, used as a smallpox isolation hospital and button factory.
At a lane, turn right at a stile crossing a footbridge and follow a wall which rises over the shoulder of tumulus-topped Wetton Hill. You then pass through a former quarry site to enter the lane which leads you back into Wetton at Manor Farm, near the church.
Start/finish: Car park (with toilets) in Wetton village
Distance: 10 km/6miles
Approximate time: Three hours
Highest point: Grindon, 316m/1,036ft
Map OS Explorer Sheet 24, The White Peak
Refreshments: Pubs in Wetton and Grindon, café at Wetton Mill
Terrain: Some steep climbs in and out of the Manifold Valley, but nothing too strenuous
These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District 2010
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015