The Manifold Valley winds its way through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Peak District National Park. These valleys have been described as the Switzerland of Staffordshire. Referring to the railway line, the "Tramway and Railway World" of 14th July 1904 says :- "The line passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world". How very true this is!

The Manifold Way closely follows the rivers Manifold and Hamps, and runs from Hulme End to Waterhouses, a distance of 8.25 to 9 miles depending on which route you take.


The Manifold Valley at its starting point at Hulme End station.
Note the wonderful profusion of cow parsley on the edges of the trail.

Just resting in the buttercups on the flood plain.

At Hulme End there is a visitors centre within the old station building, where you can purchase various booklets, nature books and a variety of local walk leaflets. Also there is a wonderful model of the old railway station at Hulme End with a small section of track where the model trains runs down to Butterton and back.

The Manifold Way itself uses the route of the disused Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. It is a very even route with no gradients, the bulk of which is traffic free. There is a section about 2 miles long where the track is shared with motor vehicles, from Swainsley tunnel down to Wetton Mill. However, there is an alternative route to this section by using the old gated road from Swainsley to Wetton Mill. The Manifold Way is surfaced throughout its length, so it is ideally suited for walking, cycling, wheelchair users, buggies, prams or people with very limited mobility. Car parks are located at both ends of the track, and at various points along the length. There are two tea rooms, one at Wetton Mill where you will be assured of the warmest of welcomes from Jannette, the other is at Lee House. Cycle hire is presently only available at Waterhouses, from Peak Cycle hire or Brown End farm who are an independent operator, their telephone number is 01538 - 308053.

                                                 The Manifold trail was recently voted the top cycle route in a Sunday newspaper.

At Hulme End we have an excellent village shop, which is open all hours (nearly). Judith seems to stock most things you will require. We also have a local public house the Manifold Inn which serves cask conditioned ales and fine food. You can be sure of a warm welcome from the manager and his crew. And, of course, Riverside B&B!
Public houses are also available at Waterhouses.

All of this land is of great importance for both the flora and fauna it supports and the geology of the underlying rock strata, therefore, much of the land is safeguarded as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Common spotted orchid found along the valley.

Keep an eye out for the elusive Kingfisher along the river.


Over thousands of years the rivers Manifold and Hamps have carved out steep sided valleys into the limestone plateau of the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park. Today one of the characteristic features of these limestone valleys is that, although the rivers are still there, for part of their length they now flow underground. They are only fully surface flowing when the rivers are in flood.

The Hamps river begins its journey on the bleak Staffordshire Moorlands flowing south through the villages of Onecote, Ford and then Waterhouses. At this point the river turns north into limestone country where during dry weather it disappears underground, reappearing over four miles away at Ilam Hall.

The River Manifold is also partially subterranean, disappearing just past Wetton Mill and reappearing in the grounds of Ilam Hall. It originates high in the moors close to Axe Edge and flows twelve miles south through the small villages of Longnor, Hulme End, and Ilam to its confluence with the River Dove near Thorpe Mill. The Manifold Valley is more open and pastoral than the Dove, with grassland and woodland along its banks, occasionally interrupted by the impressive outcrops of reef limestone such as Beeston Tor, Thors Cave Redhurst and Ossoms crags.


The awesome Thor's Cave

The Woodlands, grasslands and limestone crags of the Manifold and Hamps Valleys combine to provide a rich variety of wildlife habitats. The semi natural ash woods which are amongst the best in Britain, thrive in abundance on the thin limestone soil. The existence of these trees gives an indication that some of the woodlands have been here for hundreds of years. These are called ancient woodlands and contain many species of shrub including Guelder Rose, Mountain Currant, Hazel and small leaved lime trees.

The habitat provides food, shelter and nesting for a wide variety of birds, to date we have recorded some 80 species. Also present in the woodlands are red deer, foxes and badgers, while stoats and weasels are frequently seem running along the dry stone walls hunting for food. We have had unconfirmed sightings of otters in the River Manifold.

The Valley sides support some of the finest limestone grassland in Britain, containing a wide variety of wild flower species. We have recorded 120 different species to date. Many of the wild flowers are important plants for butterflies and the valleys have several species present, count to date is 18 species.

[Wildlife survey of Manifold Valley]

The hills and valleys of the Manifold and Hamps area are made up of beds of limestone covered with thin layers of soil. The limestone was laid down some 360 million years ago beneath warm shallow seas and was formed by the build up and subsequent compression of the remains of millions of sea creatures and plants. You can see evidence of the way the rocks were formed by the numerous fossils, especially Brachiopods and Crinoids. There are two main types of limestone in the valleys, there are the solid masses of reef limestone, with good examples to be found at Beeston Tor and Thors Cave. More layered beds of rock were laid down in horizontal beds in the deeper parts of the sea. Evidence of past tectonic activity and earthquakes is clearly visible especially by the roadside at Apes Tor where the layered limestone strata has been crumpled and folded under immense pressure. Apes Tor is located near Ecton Hill along the side of the River Manifold, easily accessible by a minor road.

For Brown End cycle hire visit

Map of the Manifold Valley Trail.

Cycle Route number 54


[High Peak Trail]  [Tissington Trail]  [Dovedale]  [Ecton Hill]  [Well Dressings]  [Monsal Trail]