The Walking Group – Whitwell Churches Loop
Our walk began outside St. Lawrence Parish Church, the second church built in this area and mentioned in the Doomsday Book as serving Whitwell and Barlborough. It dates from 12th century. The chancel and transept date from the first half of the 14th century and in the north transept on the west wall is the marble tomb of Sir Roger Manners. Roger was born around 1575 at Haddon Hall, the younger son of Sir John Manners and Dorothy Vernon. On his father’s death he inherited the manor of Whitwell. A bachelor, he was active in county affairs and knighted by King James I in 1615. In 1618-19 he held the office of High Sheriff of Derbyshire. He died in 1632 and was buried, as requested, in the Parish Church.
A tarmacked path led us to the main road and onto the grassy verge where we ploughed through clover, nettles, bramble bushes and sadly, the usual detritus of empty pop cans and take-away meals, probably discarded by passing motorists. After turning onto a broad path, lined mainly by hawthorn hedges we spotted nestling beneath the branches, the cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) also known as lords and ladies. This striking cluster of orange berries is one of the UK’s poisonous plants.
The path became narrower the longer we walked on it with the hedges giving way to tall trees and eventually we saw golden fields of corn on each side of us and the Trent Valley Power Station in the distance on our left. We entered an area of sweet corn planted in defined rows and standing tall and straight with the vegetables starting to form on the stems. They must have been over 6 feet tall.
Under grey skies and on a wide tarmacked track, we held back to enable a horse and rider to pass us and arrived at a small oak tree with a plaque attached giving information that the Shireoak grew here at the point where the counties of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire merged. The original Shireoak was said to have had a 90-foot canopy, large enough to shade 235 horses.
Our walk brought us to All Saints Chapel, Steetley which is a tiny masterpiece of Norman architecture dating from 1120 (pre-dating Welbeck Abbey). The 56 foot chapel is divided into a rectangular knave 15’9’’ wide, a square channel 13’ 9’’ wide and a semi-circular apse. In 1870, after being used as a cow shed, roofless and overgrown, the chapel was restored by P. C. Pearson, a Victorian architect. The chapel was reconstructed in 1880. The chapel is open each day 10am – 3pm, but we were too late to be able to visit.
Both St. Lawrence Church and All Saints Chapel are under the care of our former curate and priest, Revd. Keith Cocking.
Soon we were traversing around a large, ploughed field and saw dramatic cloud formations in front of us; dark clouds were edged by bright sunlight. Once again, we were walking through another field of tall, sturdy sweetcorn, planted in such a way that we could have walked down the rows as in a maze, and lost our way – awesome.
We tramped through a field and Steve spotted a dragonfly speeding down the side of a hedge and back again into the field, a field incidentally covered in wildflowers, yellows, reds, blues and purples and lots and lots of blackberry bushes just waiting for the sunshine to plump up the fruit. We came upon a massive muddy puddle which we managed to negotiate and noticed lots of black flies flying over and settling on the surface. Perhaps they were water beetles.
In the middle of Whitwell we passed a memorial cross and further on an iron water pump and two benches which looked so inviting to me at this stage, but the leaders paid no heed and we soon arrived at the car and were on our way home.
Please note that the next walk on Sunday 3rd September will begin at 2pm and will be a Blackberry Walk in the area of the Handleys, Old Whittington. You will need a receptacle for the blackberries