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The Bridge over the River Dove - the village of Doveridge on the Staffordshire border

PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 August 2019

Doveridge's ancient bridge

Doveridge's ancient bridge

Ashley Franklin Photography

Ashley Franklin explores the village of Doveridge and meets the residents who love to live there

Marieanne Taylor recently moved to Doveridge from Milton Keynes and is already in love with the village. 'Whenever I walk down the road, people say "Hello", even though I don't know them. I never got that in Milton Keynes - not even my neighbours acknowledged me!'

I spoke to Marieanne while I was at St Cuthbert's Pre-school Playgroup. The formation of the playgroup is itself a heartwarming story about a past incomer to Doveridge, Helen Lyon. In 1972 she procured a loan from St Cuthbert's to set up a pre-school group and it was such an instant success that the church waived the repayment on the loan.

Rachel Male fell in love with Doveridge on the first day of moving in with husband Paul. Popping in to the village store/post office, postmistress Helen Priestley welcomed her to the villgage, and 'I felt at home straightaway,' recalls Rachel, who is now clerk to the Parish Council.

I felt the warmth of Doveridge's welcome when I wrote about the village in 2005, and it was Helen who greeted me again as I walked into the store. In 2005 she compared it to the Cayman Islands, where she'd been living, saying: 'Doveridge is similar in the sense that it's tranquil, very community spirited and everybody knows and looks out for each other.'

Angela Ainsworth's house The Willows.  Top left - Angela in her wildflower meadow; top right - Angela's wildlife pond; bottom left - the back garden view; bottom right - Karen Brown with her flock of sheep, including three rare Hebridean sheep;Angela Ainsworth's house The Willows. Top left - Angela in her wildflower meadow; top right - Angela's wildlife pond; bottom left - the back garden view; bottom right - Karen Brown with her flock of sheep, including three rare Hebridean sheep;

Ironically, I renewed my acquaintance with Helen on a warm, sun-drenched day. 'Even more like the Caymans today?' I asked. 'Better than the Caymans,' replied Helen. 'I don't think we're due for a hurricane at any time.'

Forget the West Indies: here in West Derbyshire, at the southern end where the River Dove straddles the border with Staffordshire, you couldn't find many more quintessentially English villages. 'We are the village with everything,' says proud Parish Council Chair Karen Brown. 'We have a church, store, post office, pub, school, playgroup, playing fields, a village club and village hall - well used by various groups including the WI, Mulberry Theatre Group, a dance club and Tai Chi group - and we've got football, cricket, tennis and bowls clubs, bell-ringers, a preservation society, a senior residents' club, a free music festival - Dove Fest (22nd July) - a scarecrow festival, and idyllic countryside with wonderful walks and abundant wildlife. You couldn't wish for more.'

Actually, there is more… I was told that Doveridge was the first Derbyshire village to set up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, which now covers the whole village. 'Everyone here feels safe,' says Watch Chair Jean Holbeche, who also pointed to a defibrillator outside the village hall. The other one is at the primary school - and all the pupils know how to use it along with the staff. Also, while some villages have all but lost their agricultural heritage, Doveridge still has nine working farms. It also has one of the oldest trees in England - with a link to Robin Hood - the only suspension bridge in Derbyshire, the prettiest well in the county, and reputedly the finest shooting grounds in the country. Although Doveridge lacks a village green, the centre of the village - with its row of bright, different-coloured terraced cottages - is one of the most charming sights in Derbyshire.

Ironically, the origin of Doveridge's name is so far from the village centre that many residents under 50 have probably never seen it. Recorded as Dubbrigge in the Domesday Book, this is the '(place at) the bridge over the River Dove.' This late medieval bridge had to bear the busy A50 traffic until 1977 when a modern wider bridge was erected alongside. Twenty years later the new bridge became part of an even busier A50, which now by-passes Doveridge. Although the ancient bridge sits in isolated retirement, it is part of the Doveridge Trail produced by the village's Preservation Society. The trail takes you over another bridge, a delightful and immaculately-maintained Victorian suspension bridge, the only one in - or half in - Derbyshire. This bridge is one of the few vestiges of the estate that once dominated Doveridge: it was erected in 1898 reportedly to divert a footpath and thus prevent commoners walking too close to the front of Doveridge Hall.

Natasha Clark, headteacher at Doveridge Primary School with her pupils together with visitors from Derby High SchoolNatasha Clark, headteacher at Doveridge Primary School with her pupils together with visitors from Derby High School

Ten years before - specifically in the years 1888 to 1892 - villagers walking by the Hall may well have caught a glimpse of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Arthur Sullivan and Lily Langtry, as they were occasionally entertained by Lord Hindlip. Previous incumbents of Doveridge Hall included the Cavendish family - the Hall was actually built in 1769 for Sir Henry Cavendish (3rd Lord Waterpark) - with a later descendant, Sir Henry Manners Cavendish, appointed by Queen Victoria to be her Lord-in-Waiting. Doveridge Hall was demolished in 1938. If only the village's preservation society had been active then!

The preservation society would also have gone on to save the village's water mill, demolished in the 1970s. However, the equally historic church - both are mentioned in Domesday Book - still stands sentinel. Although mostly 13th century, Norman remnants include the arch over the north door. Fine stained glass - including that depicting St Cuthbert - and a huge east window of plain glass add grandeur and ambience to the glorious interior. Even older than the church is the churchyard's awesome yew tree, believed to be over 1,400 years old and the second oldest in England (the oldest is in Darley Dale). It has become a visitor attraction as legend has it that Robin Hood married Maid Marian here. Many places claim a connection with Robin Hood but Doveridge's does have some clout. Robin was reputedly born in the hamlet of Loxley, on the outskirts of Uttoxeter nearby, and an age-old ballad sung by Tutbury minstrels relates the story of Robin meeting Clorinda, Queen of the Shepherdesses (thought to be one of Marian's aliases). She apparently killed a buck in front of Robin and so impressed him that he proposed immediately. She then inflamed his desire further by seeing off eight yeomen who tried to steal the buck. The lyrics then sing of their nuptials:

When dinner was ended, Sir Roger, the parson

Of Dubbridge, was sent for in haste,

Doveridge's ancient bridgeDoveridge's ancient bridge

He brought his mass book and bid them take hands,

And he join'd them in marriage, full fast.

The parson from Doveridge could have been summoned to Tutbury or somewhere else, but let's not allow nitpicking to stand in the way of a good story.

At the end of Church Lane is another historic site: looking like a miniature bandstand, the Cavendish Memorial Well was one of the village's many sources of water pre-mains. Ever since Doveridge WI created a garden here to celebrate Conservation Year in 1971, it's wreathed in colour in spring and summer. The WI also provided the central seat in 1951 for the Festival of Britain. Recently, the village stocks were re-located here - unlike the seat they're no longer in use.

Further down from Church Lane is the oldest house in Doveridge, the black-and-white-timbered Lower Street Farm. The farmers here are Graham and John Deville. There are several Devilles in Doveridge, confirming that family roots are well-bedded here. One reason for this could be, as Parish Council Chair Karen told me, because people who come to Doveridge love it so much they never want to leave. Karen drove me through the village - pausing to admire the thatched splendour of Brookside Cottage and the imposing elegance of Manor House - to show me three rare Hebridean sheep in a flock she tends in the grounds of Angela Ainsworth's house 'The Willows' - another grand dwelling. 'The sheep are wonderful lawnmowers,' smiles Karen.

Angela has created a lovely wildflower meadow and wildlife pond in her handsome garden. 'Doveridge is a real village - so friendly, quiet and sociable,' she says. This was something I heard wherever I went and especially in the store/post office, run for the last 15 years by Linda Priestley and husband Graham. As in 2005, it is still the social hub of the village, even more so with the addition of a café, Chinwags, in 2009. A chinwag with Helen in the café revealed that it came about through a happy accident - quite literally: 'A car drove through this part of the store - the driver thought he was in reverse - and rather than rebuild the wall, we decided to use the insurance money to help make this the café extension we always wanted!'

In recent years, Linda has seen an increase in visiting ramblers and cyclists - both the Staffordshire Way and National Cycle Network come through Doveridge - though the store has thrived mainly through being tailored to local customers' needs. As Linda points out: 'The beauty of a village store is that most of the goods are here because the village has a need for them.'

As Vice-Chair of the Parish Council, Linda saw the need for a Neighbourhood Development Plan and one of the key issues was the call for a purpose-built pre-school building - very much due to the success of the playgroup, which has a commendable Rising Fives scheme where pre-schoolers visit Doveridge Primary School.

When I arrived at the primary school, pupils from Derby High School were there as part of a programme to give, in the words of Headteacher Natasha Clark, 'our children an experience of the multi-cultural society that they are growing up in.' Natasha speaks with evident passion about her 'fabulous children, highly supportive parents and dedicated staff.' She also loves the advantages of a rural school: 'We have lots of green space for our forest school and our children spend a lot of time whittling, tree-climbing, pond-dipping, making campfires, even making bread. Also, being a small school, we get to know the pupils - and their families - better. We know and celebrate the children as individuals.'

However, the school is likely to become bigger. New houses are being built in Doveridge, which was the primary reason the Parish Council, motivated by resident Jackie Dew, initiated a Neighbourhood Development Plan in 2015. The Plan was endorsed last summer. As Linda Priestley explains: 'Effectively it means we now have a more positive influence on how this area develops, particularly with regard to housing. So, although 200-plus houses have outline planning permission, the Plan safeguards us from over-development.'

Arguably, the new housing will secure Doveridge's amenities and may even bring better sports facilities for teenagers and seniors, and faster broadband - all on the Neighbourhood Development Plan's wish list.

The new estate will surely be a boon to Danielle Willis and Dean Maymon who have just taken over the village pub, the Cavendish Arms. 'It's always a risk taking over a country pub, but also an exciting challenge,' says Danielle. 'As it is, the pub needed refreshing so we're going to refurbish the interior, provide a new beer garden and overall make it a family-friendly pub again.' They've already introduced live music, a family quiz and themed food evenings to go with their 'traditional, honest pub food - with a bit of a twist.'

The Cavendish may well attract some custom from the 25,000 people each year who pass by it on their way to Doveridge Clay Sports Club. Here, there are 70 acres of grounds - with all shooting disciplines catered for - in beautiful, rolling countryside. I met former double World Champion shooter, now coach, David Beardsmore who reckons the facilities are the best in the country. The club also has four holiday cottages.

Respectfully, the Clay Sports Club is situated well out of earshot, which is just as well as the Doveridge Drone - the noise from the worn-down concrete surface of the by-pass - has still not been attended to. There will doubtless be extra traffic noise arising from the new development.

'I think that the 227 houses allocated to the village through the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan will change its character,' says resident Tim Deville. Although, as Chair of the Preservation Society, he is delighted that preliminary survey work ahead of the housing development unearthed an intact Bronze Age urn. 'I will still love Doveridge, though,' he adds. 'It is a strong community with plenty of character - and characters!'

'I've been here for 30 years and I know it's a village people are drawn to,' says Parish Council Vice-Chair Linda. 'My mum lives in London and is very much drawn to Doveridge,' says Parish Council Clerk Rachel. 'I'm trying to persuade her to come and live here.' I suggest, Rachel, that you show her this article!

Special thanks to Tim Deville, Philip Slack and the Parish Council for their help with 
this article.

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