Blackbrook Valley - From Eccles Pike to Chinley Churn
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 March 2020
Mike Smith discovers superb accommodation and great places to eat and drink in the Blackbrook Valley between Eccles Pike and Chinley Churn.
Looking from Pyegreave towards the valley of Combs
Combs Infant School, Village Hall and Chapel
Looking towards Combs Moss from the heights of Lesser Lane
The new rotunda at Combs Infant School
A goat grazing in the fields above Brookhouses Brook
Keeping watch in the hayloft of a farm near the centre of the village
Jess Lawton pulling a pint of Beehive Bitter
Rosemary Cook, Headteacher of Combs Infant School, in the Rotunda
Pyegreave, the former home of William Nightingale
Located 1.5 miles to the west of Chapel-en-le Frith, Eccles Pike is a conical hill that rises to 1,210 ft from the centre of a wide upland bowl. Inscriptions on the circumference of a topograph set into the distinctive pink-coloured rocks on its summit identify all the features in the magnificent 360° panorama visible from this much-loved beauty spot and vantage point.
The southern horizon of the panorama is defined by Combs Moss, a high ridge whose contours are reminiscent of Cape Town's Table Mountain; the view to the west takes in Axe Edge, the last great hill of the Pennines; peaks on the eastern horizon include Mount Famine and South Head, two prominences on the rim of the Kinder Scout plateau; and the northern horizon consists of the tilted strata of Cracken Edge and the bulky outline of Chinley Churn.
The summit of the Churn seems to be a stone's throw away when viewed from the summit of Eccles Pike, but is separated from it by the Blackbrook Valley, wherein nestle the hamlet of Whitehough and village of Chinley.
LET'S STAY AWHILE IN WHITEHOUGH
The summit of Eccles Pike is served by a small car park located on Eccles Road, a narrow lane whose sunken carriageway indicates its former use as a drovers' road. A journey down this ancient route terminates at a junction where a left turn gives access to Whitehough Head Lane and the approach to Whitehough, where visitors are greeted by the slogan 'Pax Vobiscum' on the village well.
This pretty High Peak hamlet sits in a deep, cosy hollow, where old cottages cluster around a beautiful triple-gabled Elizabethan hall lit by an array of wide mullioned windows. One of the hall's rooms, which is overlooked by a minstrel's gallery, opens up into the adjacent Old Hall Inn and forms part of the inn's busy dining area, where a wide choice of locally-sourced and home-cooked food is served. Accounting for the inn's great popularity, general manager Daniel Capper says, 'We always aim to make everyone feel at home, whether they are locals or visitors. The Old Hall is a classic British country pub, where we work hard to preserve the atmosphere of a traditional ale house.'
Daniel's great success at the Old Hall has enabled him to purchase another pub located on the opposite side of the road that passes through Whitehough. Formerly called the Oddfellows Arms because it was a meeting place for the Oddfellows Society, the pub was rechristened the Paper Mill Inn after Daniel discovered that it had been converted into a tavern by the owner of a local paper mill. The main food offering at the Paper Mill is pizza and it is also a venue for 'pop-up' street food.
The enterprising Daniel also hosts a hugely popular annual beer and cider festival and he offers first-class accommodation to visitors and corporate groups who choose to stay awhile in this beautifully-located old High Peak hamlet. Seven en-suite rooms, including two with four-posters, are situated in the Old Hall and four double rooms are provided in the Paper Mill. Further accommodation is located in a studio room and in an annexe known as the Cress, as well as in two village houses called Spring Cottage and the Shepherd's Cottage.
Daniel's latest venture is the purchasing of White Hall, an early 19th-century country residence situated in the depths of the Blackbrook Valley. This fine house, which is full of period features, will be used for high-end and other events.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
The Blackbrook Valley forms a natural routeway through the Pennines. A former tramway, which was constructed in 1794 to carry the horse-drawn wagons that transported limestone from quarries at Dove Holes, near Buxton, to the Peak Forest Canal at Bugsworth Basin, has now been converted into a walking route and bridle way known as the Tramway Trail. Part of the popular path runs between Whitehough and Chinley.
Two great viaducts, constructed over the Blackbrook Valley in 1867 and 1894, converted Chinley into an important railway junction linking lines to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and London, and brought over a hundred trains through the village every day. As a result of the Beeching cuts of the late 1960s, the only service now passing through the village is the Manchester-Sheffield line. However, the fact that both these two northern cities can be accessed in little more than half an hour has preserved Chinley's status as a favoured commuter village. The former railway hotel has been converted into apartments and land released by the drastic reduction in size of the station is now occupied by a new housing development called The Sidings.
REFRESHMENTS IN CHINLEY
Modern Chinley is a great place to enjoy refreshments and find good food. Tea on the Green, on Green Lane, was established five years ago by Helen Parkinson, who runs her very welcoming café with the help of her daughter Sadie. The many regulars and visitors who pop in for a chat and a drink find it hard to resist the great choice of locally-made cakes on offer. Helen puts on afternoon teas and has summer and winter menus. She has also constructed an innovative 'craft wall' made up of small crates which local artisans can hire to display and market their products.
The adjacent Post Office doubles as the Chinley Cheese Shop, which sells local food products and a very extensive selection of cheeses, including Stilton and Dovedale Blue produced at the famous creamery at Hartington. Rollies, situated on the same parade of shops, is a takeaway pizzeria and Café Bombay, on nearby Lower Lane, is a friendly restaurant and takeaway specialising in Indian, Asian and Balti food. Diners are invited to bring their own drinks. The 'Chippy of Chinley', also on Lower Lane, has long been a popular fish and chip shop. Previously known for Keith, the 'Singing Chippy', the shop has been run since last May by sisters-in-law Jennie Sherratt and Paula Clayton and Paula's son William, who come from Marple Bridge but are quick to sing the praises of the 'lovely people in the Chinley community' who have made taking on their chip shop venture so pleasurable.
UNDER THE EDGE AND UP TO THE CHURN
Chinley's main street heads towards the village war memorial, where it splits into two.
Stubbins Lane runs off to the left below the massive hill of Chinley Churn, whereas Maynstone Road takes the right fork to follow a route below Cracken Edge, whose jagged profile has been carved out by old quarry workings.
Stacey Goddard provides accommodation at Churn Barn on Maynstone Road for the many visitors who come to enjoy the splendours of the Peak District.
Stacey's holiday let, which has a hot tub and a games room, accommodates 12 people. They are greeted with 'welcome cakes' and a 'walks from the door' leaflet, which includes a short walk to the 1,480ft summit of Chinley Churn, from where they will be able to look back across the Blackbrook Valley to the 1,210ft summit of Eccles Pike.