Manifold Way cycle trail
Hulme End, Staffordshire SK17, or Waterhouses, Staffordshire ST10, Peak DistrictRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This is a great cycle ride through the lower Manifold Valley, along the former route of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway in Staffordshire’s White Peak area. Look out for the impressive Thor’s Cave and interesting rock formations along the way and relax in the peaceful setting of Wetton Mill tea-room.
- Bus stop
Start: Hulme End visitor centre car park, grid ref: SK103593 or Waterhouses old station car park, grid ref: SK093503
From the car park at Hulme End, join the Manifold Way and follow it to the end at Waterhouses. Look out for the following points along the way. At point 1 pop into the visitor centre within the old railway station at Hulme End where there are various books and local walk leaflets you can purchase.
Swainsley Tunnel is a tangible reminder of the Leek and Manifold Light Railway and was constructed to keep the noise and fumes away from Swainsley Hall.
The Leek and Manifold Light Railway ran for thirty years from 1904 until 1934. It transported dairy products from the valley to the main railway south of Waterhouses.
The tea-room at Wetton Mill is a great place for a break and to admire the beautiful surroundings, including the limestone grasslands of Wetton Hills; an excellent habitat for ground nesting and ground feeding birds. Part of the River Manifold is subterranean, disappearing underground just past Wetton Mill and reappearing in the grounds of Ilam Hall. Look out for the bright blue flash of kingfishers along the river.
Located close to the stone built village of Wetton, the mill was a water mill for grinding corn for the local community. It closed down in the mid 19th century, but it remains a popular stop-off point for tourists, with a tea-room, toilets and two National Trust holiday cottages.
The impressive Thor's Cave rises 360ft (110m) above the River Manifold and has a 60ft (18m) high entrance. Its worth taking a small detour from the track to explore the cave and savour the excellent view of the valley.
Thor's Cave dominates the central area of the Manifold Valley and its entrance can be seen for miles around. Excavations in the 19th and 20th centuries found human and animal remains, stone tools, bronze items and pottery.
Beeston Tor is a wonderful example of a limestone crag and is one of the largest in the area. The areas of grassland are managed by traditional methods of stock grazing by both sheep and cattle.
Overlooking the confluence of the River Hamps with the River Manifold, Beeston Tor is one of the largest and most spectacular limestone crags in the area. Findings of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains suggest that the caves have been used by both humans and animals for at least 50,000 years.
Continue along the trail, where a short climb will lead you to the old station car park at Waterhouses.
End: Waterhouses old station car park, grid ref: SK093503 or Hulme End visitor centre car park, grid ref: SK103593
- Trail: Cycling
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 8.5 miles (13.7km) or 17 miles (27.4km) round trip
- Time: 1 hour
- OS Map: Landranger 119, Explorer OL24
Linear route from Hulme End to Waterhouses (or vice versa). Flat, even-surfaced track with gentle gradients. Traffic-free, apart from one small 2 mile (3.2km) section from Swainsley tunnel to Wetton Mill, where the track is shared with motor vehicles.
- How to get here:
By bike: National Cycle Network Route 54 runs through the Manifold Valley between High Peak Junction and Waterhouses. See sustrans website
By bus: 442 Buxton-Ashbourne, every 2hrs, alight Hulme End visitor centre.
108 Ashbourne-Leek-Macclesfield, alight Waterhouses cycle hire centre
By train: Buxton 12 miles (19.3km) from Hulme End, Uttoxeter 10 miles (16.1km) from Waterhouses
By car: Hulme End: from the A515 Buxton-Ashbourne road, take the B5054 to Hulme End, car park next to the visitor centre. Waterhouses: on the A523 Leek-Ashbourne road, car park at the old station
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