The Manifold Trail
11. The Manifold Trail - (17 or 20 miles return) This trail follows the route of the former Leek & Manifold Light Railway in North Staffordshire which was open from 1904 to 1934. The original railway was narrow gauge (2' 6") and followed the Hamps Valley from the Southern terminus at Waterhouses, joining the Manifold Valley and on to a Northern Terminus at Hulme End from where it is possible to continue for about 2 miles along the main road to reach Hartington. This is an excellent trip out with many features of the railway and outstanding scenery.
The trail has a tarmac surfaced path throughout with a short intermediate section shared with a minor road. The going is fairly good. Whilst there are slight gradients the trail follows the valley floor throughout and there are no real hills unless the road section to Hartington is included! A return trip to Hartington took us 4 hours with plenty of stops. Suggest 3 hours for Hulme End trip plus 45 min for the Thors cave deviation (on foot)
View from Thors Cave
The cycle trail commences at Waterhouses carpark (pay and display) on the A523 Ashbourne to Leek Road. There is a cycle hire facility in the old goods shed. The path drops down to a cycle way alongside the main road before crossing the road on to the trail proper.
The trail crosses numerous bridges together with a long tunnel at Swainsley. Features along the route include Beeston Tor, Thor's Cave and the beauty spot at Wetton Mill. It is worth securing the cycles at the footbridge below Thors Cave before climbing up the signposted path to the cave where safe access is possible. Beware of the well worn rocks in the entrance though! At Hulme End there is a visitor centre in the original station building, until recently a council maintenance depot.
To go on to Hartington turn right along main road for 1¾miles, passing through Hulme End and up a slight hill.
Refreshments can be obtained at a farm 2 miles north of Waterhouses, Wetton Mill refreshment room, a pub and shop in Hulme End and Hartington where there are many faclities.
It is interesting that the three main trails have their northern ends in reasonably close proximity and it is possibly to travel along the High Peak or Tissington trails leaving at Parsley Hay or Hartington to reach Hulme End and then on the Manifold assuming a lift can be arranged at the end.