Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wetton and the Manifold Valley

Where to go for a weekend hiking? That's always the question. Finishing work at 5.00, 45 mins away from each other and its already dark. It's got to be the White Peak again. So out comes the OS map and we pour over it, looking for likely looking places with some interesting contour lines and perhaps some water, but perhaps not. Area picked we scour the internet for campsites (what would we do without it!) and make the necessary arrangements.

We realised that we'd not yet walked through the Manifold Valley so that's where we headed last weekend. We'd visited briefly on a previous trip to Alstonesfield and stopped a night at Heathy Roods Farm nr. Butterton but hadn't had much chance to walk along the river. I quickly realised if we could find somewhere to camp near Wetton it would be a brilliant excuse to visit my favourite pub, Ye Olde Royal Oak!

First off I rang Redhurst Farm, who I feel I should try to assist in this blog. The poor lady explained they'd not offered camping for a few years but unfortunately can't get themselves unlisted from the web. She kindly pointed me in the direction of Newhouse Farm which was our campsite for the weekend.

Friday morning the world was cloaked in fog which refused to lift all day. The thought of our views obscured should have put a dampener on things but the fog added a mysticism to the surroundings which only seemed to add to my excitement for the upcoming weekend. After a masterclass in how to put up a tent, instead of wanting to get in and tucked up, I couldn't wait to get out and explore. We went for an evening stroll round the village, taking in the 14th century church, village pub and spooky derelict barn.

Back in our sleeping bags I noticed the church bells ring for the first time to mark the hour. “Do they go all night”. “No, they can't, they must stop, maybe at 11.00 when the pub closes”. “Hmm... does that make, church...?”. “Are they real? Is someone up there ringing them?” That's kind of how the conversation went.

We really liked this campsite, an empty field with few facilities and a bargain out of season. But if you're a light sleeper then the generator noise and the church bells might be an issue. That said I grew to love them, even the 3am chimes!

Saturday morning we set off on a circular route along the Manifold, first heading south out of Wetton. Its the perfect picture of the English countryside, heading past farms surrounded by rolling green hills, reminiscent of Postman Pat backdrops. Then as the road turned sharply we headed straight on down a sloping footpath through the fields and down towards the Manifold River. As we headed down the grassy slope, Beeston Tor appeared on our left, the limestone wall watching over all below.

Down towards the river, the plan was to cross at the Stepping Stones and follow the trail along the other side. But mother nature had a different idea. The river was flowing rapidly and a couple of the stones were submerged under the icy cold water. We considered our options. A huge part of us (the daft, adventurous part) was tempted to try the crossing, perhaps with our boots tied to our backpacks. But with the river moving fast and the temperature so cold, it wasn't worth ruining a day's walking with an injury or a dunking so after checking out alternatives we had to head back up the way we'd come and carry on down the road.

The walk along the Manifold Way, once we got there was relaxed and easy. The river ran alongside us, sometimes running fast with the water whipped up into white peaks, other times calm and gently flowing along through the trees. Thor's Cave was a highlight 360ft up above the river, with views out of the 60ft cave mouth over the surrounding area.

Further on along the trail is Wetton Mill tea rooms, but we turned off up through Wetton Hills where we followed the muddy path between the hills steadily climbing until we came back out over Wetton village.

This was our first camping and hiking weekend since the clocks went back and it was strange to arrive back to camp just as the evening was beginning to set in. We lit the barbecue to keep us warm, them decided to cook. By 6.30pm it was all over, the darkness had set in and then what is there to do for the night except settle down in your sleeping bag! Any tips anyone?

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