Entrance to (St Bertram's ?) cave - Beeston Tor - River Manifold Valley (Staffordshire)
Jackson, J W
Jackson, J W
River Manifold Valley - Beeston Tor
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The Manifold rises at Flash Head, less than a kilometre south of the Dove, and takes a winding course to pass just south of Longnor. It then turns south to meander through gritstone countryside before reaching the limestone area at Ecton, near Hulme End. Here a sudden transformation overtakes the river. So far, its surroundings have been unremarkable, but at Ecton the scenery changes dramatically as the river enters a deep limestone valley. The Manifold sweeps past Ecton Hill, once the site of the most productive copper mines in England, and on to Swainsley Hall, built by a Leek mill owner. From Hulme End it is shadowed by a cycle track which follows the course of the former Manifold Light Railway, built in 1898 to carry tourists and freight along the valley and up the Hamps valley to the railhead at Waterhouses, but which closed in 1934. Downstream, the Manifold valley becomes deeper and grander, with crags such as Ossam's Crag, until it reaches the old watermill at Wetton Mill. Beyond here the river usually disappears underground most summers, so from here to Ilam the Manifold is usually 'dry' between May and October. The nearby river Hamps does the same, and the water from both rivers reappears at the 'boil holes' near Ilam Hall. Beyond Wetton Mill Thor's Cave comes into view. This is a huge cave in a prominent spur high above the valley, which can be seen for miles around. This cave displays some remarkable features: the arch is symmetrical, 30 feet high and 23 feet wide, and the roof is supported by massive limestone columns deep in the interior. To facilitate entrance, since the cave opening is 250 feet above the road, steps have been built; and the cave, which is the most attractive feature of Manifold Valley (running almost parallel with Dovedale), may be reached from Ilam or from Wetton. The cave has yielded many objects of archaeological interest which show it was inhabited by both early man and prehistoric animals but it is now primarily an object of interest to tourists, who scramble to its entrance, climb through it and admire the view from the spur above the cave. A poor man called Titterton Mycock, fell from here in a state of inebriation in 1825, and was dashed to pieces on the rocks below. (The cave was used to film Ken Russell's version of the 'Lair of the White Worm' by Bram Stoker). Beyond Thor's Cave, The Hamps valley joins the Manifold at Beeston, about two kilometres below Wetton Mill, and just below this lies Beeston Tor, one of the largest and most spectacular limestone crags of the area. St Bertram's cave lies at the foot of the crag and is traditionally the place where the saint lived as a hermit. When it was excavated in 1926, Saxon brooches, coins and rings were found, so the cave was certainly used during this period. Below Beeston the terrain opens out slightly and the river winds towards Ilam through a grand, often wooded, valley, though in summer this contains only a dry river bed. Castern Wood here is a nature reserve and those lower down are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on account of their Lime Trees. Just upstream of Ilam Hall the water from the Manifold and Hamps reappears at the boil holes. The Manifold joins the Dove below Ilam, and though there is little doubt that the Manifold is the larger stream, the combined river is then called the Dove.