Thursday, 7 August 2014

The summer holidays are upon us so I thought it would do no harm to run this Blog from 2014 if anyone fancies a great day out with the kids. Take your bikes and use the old rail track for an outstanding traffic-free ride! 

Carole with one of the sponges she bakes 

A smell of baking always stirs nostalgia and memories from childhood of home made bread and cakes. These days it is also found in supermarkets where fans blast out the aroma from so called in-store bakeries, or more deliciously in artisan shops  like Mandeville's in Holmes Chapel. Until recently my son-in-law Adrian was a bit of a dab hand at baking cakes at BH. But since  a new cooker was introduced he has lost the plot. I am afraid like King Alfred  he has abandoned hope of becoming  Goostrey's rival to Mary Berry after a series of burnt offerings came forth from the oven. Now to my sheer enjoyment of  childhood memories a trip the other day to the Manifold Valley in the Staffordshire Peak District with brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Sylvia, was as memorable for home baking as the beauty of its landscape. I must admit despite some years of working in the Potteries,

Visitors enjoy the grounds and scenic views from Ilam Hall
 I was only vaguely aware of the Manifold Valley. It was only when my daughter, Emma, took a wrong turning several weeks ago on a trip to visit the John Smedley woollen mill in Derbyshire, we found ourselves in this corner of  hidden England  I vowed to return to explore its delights. We trio on a day out less than an hour's run from home base arrived at the visitor centre in Hulme End at the head of the valley just in time to find freshly-baked scones being drawn from the oven in the adjoining Tea Junction tea-room. A bustling Carole Davies was in charge of cooking - hence a smell of fresh baking to die for in what was the engine shed of the old Manifold light railway. Carole takes it in turns in the kitchen with the owner, Rebecca Simcock, to provide hungry visitors and walkers with a real taste of home. And it is all served like a "proper do," as we used to say when I was a lad, in real china teacups and plates and a pot of tea provided by Laura Grindey that would have done twice as many! My companions opted for Carole's still warm scones but I couldn't resist a hefty slice of lemon drizzle cake! Carole says apart from the regulars they have visitors from all over the world as well  as home-grown tourist, and everyone thinks it is - a wonderful oasis!
Butterton church
12th cent Ilam church
We left Carole and the temptations of her tea room to explore the valley, a compact  eight miles long and perhaps four miles at its widest. Within its boundaries is some of the finest scenic country to be found in these islands. A gaggle of  tiny villages, some no-more than a hamlet, with names like Waterfall, Ilam, Warslow and Butterton rise from narrow lanes which flow on popular days with booted walkers and cycling couples and children, many of them taking the now unused rail line in complete safety. At Ilam Hall, the National Trust maintain a caravan site in what must be one of the most picturesque places to pitch in the country, nestling between limestone hills and woodland. Spending a few minutes in the visitor centre at Hulme End provided us with all the information we needed for our day's exploration. And, yes, there was time for another cuppa before we left this iconic spot. In the ancient Warslow village church a notice invites visitors to brew their own and pop a donation in the box towards the repair of the tower!
*I wouldn't like anyone to be disappointed if they visit the valley - the tea room is open March to October, Tuesday - Sunday, 10am to 5pm and  closed December and January.Telephone 01298 687368.The visitor centre is closed Mondays except for Bank Holidays,
In Warslow church visitors invited to tea

Link the new sister site: 

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