This walk is approximately 6 miles. A very easy walk with a steep but steady climb to the cave (optional), starting at Hulme End Station SK17 0EZ
This is one of the easiest walks through the picturesque Manifold Valley following the disused narrow gauge railway track and the river Manifold, which joins the river Dove (see Dovedale) in the village of Ilam. The whole valley is 9 miles to walk but remember you have to get back.
The walk starts at the car park adjacent to Hulme End Railway Station, which is pay and display. Here you will find a cafe, gift shop and picnic areas.
To start this walk you will find the track which starts in the car park. It is tarmac and level the whole length so accessible for every capability. You do join traffic after 2 miles for a short time.
Within a few minutes of leaving the station you will notice paths leading of into the wooded areas. These go up to the old copper mines on Ecton Hill which was mined for over 300 years until the early 1900’s.
Carry on down the track for 1 mile where you will come to a part of the track that shares with a road. This goes through a rail tunnel (Swainsley Tunnel),for approximately 200 yards. It is quite dark in the tunnel but there are plenty of refuge areas to step into if car are coming through .
Now you are out in the light again follow the road for 1 mile The trail becomes a path again at a very picturesque and perfectly situated cafe called Wetton Mill. The caves above are where mammoth and Great Bear bones have been excavated as well as Neolithic artifacts. You will also notice 100 yards past the cafe the river completely disappears underground (seasonal) through the limestone bedrock leaving a dry river bed until the end of the valley at Ilam Village where it reappears and joins the River Dove.
From here follow the river and you will start to see the main attraction to this area through the trees high up on the hill above is Thor’s Cave. It is about 250 ft above the path it is quite a long steep step climb in places but well worth making the accent for the views of the Staffordshire Moors from it .
This is as far as we go today in the Manifold Valley. If you do feel climbing to the cave might be a little to much,reverse route now…
If you do make the climb then there is a short walk to the village of Wetton. Instead of coming straight down the steep decent (1 mile extra). From the cave take the rough path to the left of the cave up to a small style, cross over and go straight over the field towards a rock outcrop. Pass the rocks to the right until you get to some stone steps built into the fields wall.Climb over and follow the farm track up to the road to the village.
From the village of Wetton make your way back down to the farm track you came up from. Keep to the road sign posted for Wetton Mill this route will give you some great views of the valley and surrounding area. It will bring you out at the Cafe at Wetton Mill. Rejoin the path through the valley back towards the railway tunnel and Hulme End Station where the walk began.