I guess Alton towers theme park in the UK is about as famous at Disney world in Florida. It’s a fantastic theme park and we have been many many time but this time round when the little little Peckham’s and their girl friends and boyfriends whited to go again for the day and ride this years latest new roller coaster called “the smiler” Mrs P and I decided it was time to take a break from the madness and look for a quiet option. While we took time to spend time with the family we booked then into a motel for two nights and we took the VW Camper and headed for the lesser well known but heaped in history small village of Alton. Settlements at Alton can be dated back to the 8th century AD when a fortress was build by the Kind Coelred. On this site now the fortress and castle are long gone but something just as interesting is now in its place.
Take a journey with us through a rich historical valley or Churnet.
The King gave the fortress to a brave soldier by the name of Bertram de Verdun in 1176 as a gesture of thanks for the part he played in the crusades.
Bertram build an impressive castle on this high point over looking the valley sadly only the stone footings and a few sturdy walls remain. It was the starting point of our walk for the day. The site also now contains a youth centre that was built in 1847 by A.W.Pugin the same person who was partly responsible for the design and build of the Houses of Parliament in London.
The design was to represent a mock castle and have been a school, private home and Catholic Boarding school over the years.
The walk takes us through this lush valley and take in some cool history into the main exploitation of its local resources. The area was used for ore smelting of over 150years up until around 1850. The landscape has suffered, the hillsides were stripped of tress to feed the furnaces and the streams damned up into pools to exploit the water flow for milling and washing. Slag heaps and pools dramatically change the landscape. The local family of Talbot have been tirelessly replacing tress and restoring the land to naturally enhance and restored its beauty. On the 5 miles of valley walking we were able to take in some of the old buildings used in the time of milling and smelting. These buildings are now beautiful privates home with spectacular views. As well as the Catholic Youth Centre and castle ruins we have a ramblers retreat, a few pub, a mill and the old furnace house.
The weather was bright quite warm for the time if year but with some sunshine with the odd shower just to remind us we are in the UK.
We found some odd things along the way. This man hole cover was vertical on the side wall of the retreat, I never found out why. This great old tree has managed to swallow an old PO concrete marker post, creepy reminder mother nature would reclaim what humans have stolen.
The old mill over looking the pool before the scramble up the valley, quite a climb for myself and mrs P and then to our surprise some guy passes us on mountain a bike ….. What looked to us like know way could you possibly ride a bike up the guy pushed on passed to prove us to be very wrong . …yep
We crossed the top of the back of the valley through some fields,a crosse and up and down the old disused ore pits before we we sent descending back down towards the valley again passing the smelting furnace ( not shown as its a private residence with virtually none of the features of the furnace left) and on down winding through the pools and weirs cut out centuries ago.
We found a very novel way to gather Bunnie up and carry her over the most mud ridden areas and to dangle her paws into the water for a quick clean.
Finally the tranquility was broken as we rejoined the faster pace and back to life with motorcycles, joggers and even the screams of the joyriders in the Alton Towers theme park.
We had a great weekend meeting the kids back up at the hotel. I even managed to squeeze and feed 6 hungry persons at the end of the day all in the confines of our little house shell on wheels the VW Camper. Listening to the kids relay the days excitement and joy of the rides. And yep The Smiler was awesome. ….. So we are told. :-).
All images were taken using the Fujifilm X-E1 and 35mm Fujinon f/1.4 lens. Post process in Aperture 3.2. It you look closely at a few of these images you can even see the rain drop tails in the shots. The detail is super I love taking this camera and lens out with me.