Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Walk to Thor's Cave

I mentioned in my last post on  Alstonefield that we had been on a long walk before we got to the village.  The walk was along the trail in the Manifold Valley where the Leek and Manifold Light Railway (1904 -34) used to run bringing tourists into the valley and to Thor's Cave. 

 We left the car in the parking area near Wetton Mill and walked along the track
 We could see the cave in the distance. 

The track follows the line of the dry river bed.  It's dry because the river flows underground at this point.
We were getting closer to the cave, the question was should we or shouldn't we try to make it all the way to the entrance?
 The answer was yes, we would give it a try.  So up the stone steps we went, in defiance of ageing knees. The route curves up and round amongst the trees.

 Gently winding upwards, not a soul in sight, just the sound of woodpeckers beating out their rhythm on the trees.

 We saw some lovely wild flowers and plants along the way including wood anemone, dog's mercury and wild garlic.
 Onwards and upwards 
Until we got to the entrance.  We passed a group of walkers, three ladies with Nordic walking poles, on the way down and there were a couple of people and a dog just coming out of the cave as we arrived.

Next question - could I get inside?  It is about 10 years since I'd last been inside so I was determined to try.
A last look at the way we had come and then it was time to scrabble and scramble looking for hand and foot holds to get inside.

 We made it!
The next things was to take a few photos to prove it whilst trying not to worry about how I was going to get out, as you can see the rock was quite smooth and slippy underfoot.

 It was quiet, apart from the cawing of crows and jackdaws. 
 The cave was like a natural cathedral its walls soaring high up above.

The colours and textures in the limestone rock were wonderful.

 Excavations have shown that the cave was occupied from about 10,000 years ago and was probably occupied up to Saxon and Roman times making it one of the oldest sites of human activity in the Peak District.  Finds from the cave can be seen in museums around the district including Buxton Museum.

We walked back to the mill where we bought  delicious takeaway cheese and chutney sandwiches to go with the flask of coffee we had brought with us from home.  It was a lovely day, quite warm and spring like with no sign of Storm Katie waiting in the wings for the Easter weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In Alstonefield

Yesterday we went for a walk along the trail in the Manifold Valley and on our way home we visited the lovely village of Alstonefield.

We parked in a free car park on the outskirts of the village and above is the first thing we saw in the field over the stone wall.  I'd been hoping to see some lambs whilst we were out and about and sheep number 14 didn't disappoint with her three lovely little ones.

We were headed towards the church not knowing if it would be open or not but I wanted to see what it looked like.  Of course it was at the opposite end of the village from the car park but not too far to walk and there were some lovely buildings to see along the way.  It really is a beautiful, historic and well kept village.  There were groups of walkers sitting on the communal green areas just resting or eating sandwiches.

We wandered past the old post office now a private house.  I'm never happy about taking photos of people's homes without their knowledge but I thought as this had once been a very public building and was of historical interest that they perhaps wouldn't mind.

Over the door was a sign that the building had also been a shop.  It says...
J Hambleton,  Mercer and Grocer, Dealers in Coffee, Tea, Tobacco and Snuff.

I've recently been reading a book about the rise in popularity of coffee houses in the late 17th and 18th centuries and as well as coffee,  tobacco and snuff featured heavily in what was consumed in these places so I found this sign of great interest. 
This lovely stone house stands opposite the church and judging by its small windows and large chimneys it is quite an old building.  On a map I found on line it is labelled The Hall and dated 1587.

 St  Peter's is a twelfth century church which was altered and renovated in 1590 and again in 1870.

 Inside is warm, bright and clean with colourful kneelers attached to each of the carved box pews.

 The Norman Arch in the chancel was completed in 1100

 The low pews were built in the 17th century

 The carved two tier pulpit used to have three tiers

 I did take a photo of the bells in the tower but I'm afraid it didn't turn out so well.  I was interested because four of the bells came from the now demolished church of St John's in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent.  I often walk through the old churchyard and under the railway bridge on my way into the town.

Apparently the painted pew at the end of the aisle belonged to the Cotton Family of Beresford Hall.  One of the members of the Cotton family, namely Charles Cotton was the co-author with Isaac Walton of The Compleat Angler first published in 1653.

Another view of the old hall through the church doorway.
In the centre of the village is the George Inn.  Behind this inn there used to be a wool market and on Church Street was a button factory making silk covered buttons.

As we arrived in the village I saw some animals I had hoped to see and as we left we passed by a creature I certainly hadn't expected to see.
 All for now, I'll be back in a few days with more of our walk in the Manifold Valley.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Woodland Walk

To enjoy the good weather on the first day of Spring yesterday we decided to go out for a walk.  We made for the local RSPB Nature Reserve at Coombes Valley which is just a few miles away from us.

 We decided to follow the Woodcock Trail

 The trail makes its way across the edge of the reserve, quite high up and with lovely views over the surrounding farmland and countryside.

 There are a couple of viewing stops on this walk

 It takes quite a while to walk the trail as there is so much to see and do.

The leaflet says that the walk is one mile long but when we got back to the information centre and asked the volunteer on duty she said it was more like three, I expect this includes the paths through the reserve that lead to the start of the trail.  It certainly did seem longer than just one mile.

It is quite rocky underfoot at times and there are plenty of warnings about the steep drop at one side so we probably took extra time being carefull not to trip on the rocks and roots to avoid plunging down there.
It was a lovely morning and very quiet; we had the trail to ourselves nearly all the way around.

As we walked we could see buzzards thermalling in the sky above.

We also saw pheasants and robins

We looked on the stream to see if we could see the dipper that had been reported as being spotted down there by an earlier visitor, but we didn't see it.  We could hear a woodpecker somewhere close.

The only woodcock we saw was on the bench where we sat for a while before making our way back to the car park.

We were out in the sunshine and fresh air for over two hours and it was a great walk on which to enjoy the lovely spring weather.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Five on Friday

It's Friday so I'm joining in with  Amy at Love Made my Home for this week's Five on Friday.  Click on the link at the bottom of this post to find others who are joining in too.

It has been one of those weeks this week.  Not awful but more irritating or concerning.  Irritations have come from the laying of a bitumen cover over the pavement on our road and knowing when we could leave the house and when we couldn't.  Also from what we thought was a leaking washing machine but turned out to be pipes leading from it.  After one or two false diagnoses which included tests which kept flooding the kitchen floor it seems to be finally sorted out.  Concerns have been that both of our elderly puss cats have been poorly this week.  I was up most of the night with one of them but after visits to the vets for medication all seems to be well again, thank goodness. 

On Monday we had a lovely walk around the grounds of the Wolseley Centre which is the headquarters of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.  After the warmer temperature we'd had on Sunday it was back to being quite chilly again, definitely glove and scarf weather.  We spent some time photographing the smaller birds on the feeders.

Below are five of the birds I saw and photographed. 
 1. Reed Bunting

 2. Blue Tit
 3. Siskin
 4. Chaffinch

 5.  Thrush

We also saw wrens but they were too quick to capture on camera.

Have a great weekend everyone.