Walks with Nellie
by Sally Mosley
This is not intended as a walk guide
It was a fabulous winter’s day when Nellie and I headed over the hills to check out Warslow. With the temperature overnight being below freezing an inversion mist was settled over Hartington, clinging to the valley and creating a hoare frost where it settled. It was as though a magic wand had encased anything and everything with a covering of sparkling ice crystals.
I parked at Hulme End and set off along the Manifold Way heading to Ecton along the trail that meanders beside the river. Bright sunshine initially provided rays of warmth but around the corner and into the valley proper no sun had penetrated because of surrounding high hills and it was perishing cold.
A few fellow walkers, a mob of cheery cyclists and a jogger passed us by, all happy to be out and about on such a glorious day. When visibility allowed me to see some distance in each direction, Nellie was allowed to trot off the lead as we practised her recall abilities that at times were brilliant. She does however have occasional ‘naughty Nellie’ stubborn moments!
I’ve a passion for the history and geology of this incredible valley and with the mist now risen and bright light shining like a spotlight on some sections, it was possible to see evidence of much mining having taken place here that has left behind many tell-tale scars. Other more natural features to be found here and there are where land has been upended millions of years ago leaving beds of limestone at strange shaped angles.
When we arrived at the tunnel, Nellie and I left the trail and headed uphill on the road to Butterton for a while until we came to a bridlepath on the right. This eroded narrow path, lined by trees, descended to cross the Warslow Brook by means of a substantial wooden footbridge. From there our route was uphill again as we roller-coasted our way to Warslow. A courtesy path led us around cottages to the side of Villa Farm followed by School Lane taking us up into the village. Over to our left I could make out the 19th century former Warslow Vicarage which has unusual stone gables described by Historic England as being crow-stepped.
The lovely village school is now an activity centre with local children now attending Manifold Primary School further up the village for their early years of education, located in what used to be the secondary school premises many years ago.
Ahead of us was Warslow Church now dedicated to St Lawrence but prior to 1850 it was the Church of St. James. The current building dates mainly from around 1820, although it is known that an earlier structure stood on the site. Within is a font believed to be Norman in origin and several stained glass windows by William Morris and Co including the fabulous alter windows. Two side windows have unusual and unique mosaic surrounds. There is also a silk lined boxed pew where members of the Harpur-Crewe family would have sat when attending services - Warslow is a former estate village of the Harpur-Crewe family of Calke Abbey. Warslow Hall on the outskirts of the village was used by the family as a country retreat.
Under the outside wall of the church beside the porch I saw what looked like a cross base together with part of a circular cross shaft that could possibly be medieval.
One of the graves here is recorded as being that of David Martin, native of the parish of Perranworthal, Cornwall who died 28th June 1873 when killed at Ecton Mine aged 73.
Nellie and I then headed up Quarter Lane for a little wander around the village that contains a rich variety of houses old and new, many built in natural stone that was quarried locally. The Old Post Office has been converted into a house and its phone box alongside contains a defibrillator. It’s a common sight these days making good use of an otherwise redundant structure.
A right just before the Greyhound pub and we were making our way back down Leek Road to rejoin the B5053 where we turned left and headed to the outskirts of the village.
After a right on Butts Lane we stopped so that I could look over the wall to our side at incredible views over to Ecton Hill with the copped spire and buildings of The Hillocks or Castle Folly clearly visible. Another right down The Dale would have taken us back to the bottom of the valley. However, I had other plans for this walk and at the junction on a bend continued ahead along Cowlow Lane, a road that I had never walked before. It was absolutely divine! I passed a string of hidden away cottages and houses that offer the most glorious views. It was a lovely way of descending back to Hulme End, with only a short stretch of road walking beside the B5054 to access the car park, passing a roadside milestone on the way that confirmed this to be the route of a former turnpike road.
Before heading for home we called at the Hulme End Tea Junction for a warming drink and piece of scrumptious carrot cake. This was Nellie’s first tearoom experience and I’m relieved to say she was very well behaved. Thank goodness, because I have lots more tea-stops planned for the future!
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: I do love a bit of telly. I’m fascinated by football but my favourite programmes are The Dog Rescuers, Dogs Behaving Badly and For The Love Of Dogs. I’m a big fan of Paul O’Grady and would love to meet him so that I could cover his face with wet slurpy kisses, although I don’t fancy spending time in those Battersea kennels! Coronation Street is one of mum’s favourite programmes but I can’t stand it, so when she is trying to watch I keep pestering her by putting toys on her lap and demanding she plays with me, or chewing at the throw on the sofa which makes her angry. She can get really cross when she’s trying to watch her silly soaps in peace and even threatens me with being locked in the kitchen!