11 July 2015

Wirksworth

Old lead mining workings west of Middleton
No lead is mined in Derbyshire any more but for a thousand years it was a vital resource. The Romans knew about it and Derbyshire lead was even exported to Rome and Pompeii. Little mining towns and villages grew up on the back of the lead mining industry - Bradwell, Stony Middleton, Tideswell and Wirksworth to name but four. They were characterised by a jumble of small mine workers' cottages - most of which still stand today even though the lead miners have all gone.

One day I really must visit the lead mining museum in Matlock Bath. I passed it yesterday on my way to Middleton-by-Wirksworth for a nice, long country walk in beautiful summery weather. From Middleton I headed westwards by a hillside that is still peppered with the evidence of mine workings - piles of stones and hollows and broken walls. The hillside was still being worked in the early nineteenth century.

Then onwards .past old limestone quarries and down into the valley past Arm Lees Farm then up the other side where I decided to veer away from the course of the public footpath to investigate an ancient tumulus in Field 40 on Perasons' Farm. The mound is now covered with nettles. I tarried there a while, close to what was probably a burial site - maybe four thousand years old though little seems to have been written about it.
To the left, the ancient tumulus on Pearsons' Farm
Down to the course of the former High Peak Raulway and then down Hopton Incline which for many years was the steepest piece of railway track in England at 1 in 14. Old steam trains often had to have two or three runs at it in order to make it to Hopton Top. I sat on a bench there, ate my apple and swigged one of my bottles of water.
Old railway cottage at Hopton Top
Then onwards through Hopton Tunnel before leaving the old railway track and striking out in a south westerly direction to Wirksworth, past old mine workings and quarries. Down The Dale to the charming town itself. On a hot July afternoon it looked quaint and lovely though I was very aware that the place was built on hard toil. Appearances certainly can be deceptive.
Church of St Mary the Virgin in Wirksworth
Below - an old Saxon stone found beneath the chancel in 1821.
It is approximately 1200 years old
It was half past three and schoolchildren were about. Time to get my camera back in its case before the two mile hike up the hill to Middleton. Several of these secondary schoolchildren were doing the same and I felt a pang of pity for them - having to do this laborious walk day after day. Back in Middleton I entered "The Rising Sun" where the charming barmaid provided me with a pint of thirst-quenching bitter shandy and a packet of Lincolnshire-made potato crisps.

It had been another super walk, filled with such wonderful sights. As well as visiting the lead mining museum in Matlock Bath, I really must return to Wirksworth in the not too distant future. Shirley would appreciate that little town too.
"The Rising Sun" in  Middleton

15 comments:

  1. You certainly do take us on some interesting, fascinating walks, Yorky! Could I please have a swig from one of your water bottles? Thanks...I forgot to pack mine. :)

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    1. No water from my water bottle Lee! That's unhygienic but I will buy you a nice glass of chilled Jacob's Creek in "The Rising Sun". Hell you were huffing and puffing as we climbed up the hill from Wirksworth!

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    2. That was because I was in a hurry to get to The Rising Sun...I heard it was filled with the animals! ;)

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  2. Thereis something quite " cinemascope" in that second shot

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    1. Well if you are looking for a location for the next Kimmy Fry movie, you can forget this one!

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  3. I remember when Wirskworth still had working quarries. What a dump it was.
    I was expecting Roman legionnaires to come marching through those trees.

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    1. Apparently The national Stone Centre is in Wirksworth. I didn't have time for it yesterday.

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  4. Another great walk with you, thank you! The second picture is - for me - a perfect composition, as if someone had arranged those trees and clouds specifically for the photo.
    The old railway cottage looks very well looked after. Does someone live there, or is it a small museum?
    Actually, I don't think it is that bad for the school kids to go up and down that hill every day. They probably won't be as obese as their class mates whose mothers ferry them everywhere all the time.

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    1. Thank you for applauding my second picture Meike. Nobody lives in the cottage any more. I think it is used as a store for tools etc.. I went round the back to check it out even though there were a lot of nettles. My own children walked half a mile to school every morning and half a mile back at the end of the day. I always thought that this was very good for them but the hill up to Middleton is very long.

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  5. So if the Roman empire fell because of lead poisoning, little Derbyshire could have been responsible? And do you know if Hopton got its name because they raised hops there?

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    1. There at least five other Hoptons in England
      hop = ‘valley among hills’ + tun = ‘enclosure’, ‘settlement’ ( from Old English)

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  6. The weather was kind so you had a lovely walk and the photos show your photography skills off very well. It's a bonus that you know about the landscape unlike the rest of us who tramp about clueless. We rented a cottage in Wirksworth once and had a grand time although I seem to remember there was a pub there with the un-pc name of the black boy.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments Libby. The cheque is in the post. "The Black Boy"? There's one of those in Hull which recalls the part the city played in the slave trade.

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  7. The church photograph is interesting in that my memory of Wirksworth was that it was quite a crowded little town (we were looking for a house in the wider area) and yet there is hardly another building to be seen. Rather a good bit of photography there methinks. With a slight chuckle at Lee's comment it's pubs like The Rising Sun that I miss from my youth when there were so very many to choose from in Rural England and Wales.

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    1. Graham - I didn't "get" Lee's comment about animals. Wirksworth churchyard is like an island in a crowded townscape. A very interesting church that speaks volumes about the history of the area.

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