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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Grangemill & Ible

Posted Sunday, May 13, 2007

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Grangemill & Ible:

The rural West Derbyshire hamlets of Grangemill and Ible stand about a mile apart near the junction of the Griffe Grange Valley and the Via Gellia on the Cromford to Newhaven Road, and are connected by a steep and narrow winding lane which runs between the two.

Both hamlets have their own claim to fame; Grangemill’s is local, whilst Ible’s is national or even international. Thinly disguised as `Tible’ it was immortalised by D.H.Lawrence as the setting for his short story, `Wintry Peacock’ written during a stay at nearby Mountain Cottage in 1918/19.

For those unfamiliar with this sparesely populated and remote area of Derbyshire, Grangemill sits at the busy crossroads of the B5056 Ashbourne to Bakewell road and the A5012 Newhaven to Cromford road, about four miles west-south-west of Matlock as the crow flies. The best approach is from the A6 at Cromford, where a right turn carries the B5056 climbing steadily up the densely wooded valley along the Via Gellia towards Hopton, Carsington and Grangemill.

The Via Gellia is named after Sir Philip Gell of Hopton Hall, who financed the road up the valley in the nineteenth century. It begins at the Via Gellia Mills at the bottom of the Clatterway that leads steeply up to Bonsall, and ends two miles further west at the Grangemill crossroads, although half way up at the Hopton turn-off it ceases being the Via Gellia and becomes part of the Griffe Grange Valley.

Lawrence described it as “The navel of the world”, and wrote, “I felt like I was in a valley of the dead……I looked down into the white and black valley that was utterly motionless and beyond life, a hollow sarcophagus”.

This two and a half mile stretch of winding, steep-sided tree-cloaked valley road once had three toll gates, one at either end and another at the Hopton and Carsington road junction, and was a busy trade route for the carriage of minerals from the early 18th century. It remains so, with heavy lorries carrying limestone almost twenty four hours a day from the number of large quarries which dot the surrounding landscape. Conversely, it also marks the boundary of the Peak National Park, for as the road climbs westward up the valley towards Grangemill, everything to the right is inside the Peak National Park, and everything to the left isn’t!

Grangemill gets it’s name from the old medieval monastic grange of Ivonbrook, one of several in this area owned by a variety of different monastic houses, and farmed by monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 in 1536.

Ivonbrook is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a Manor belonging to Henry de Ferrers, but in 1085 it was described as `waste’.

The original corn mill on this site was built by the monks of Ivonbrook Grange, hence the name `Grange Mill’ – and Ivonbrook Grange still exists as a farm a little way along the road to Winster.

The present semi-derelict mill, built on the same site as the earlier mill, was erected in the mid 18th century, and the old mill pond which once fed the mighty overshot wheel, is now a well-stocked picturesque roadside fishing pond, owned and run by eccentric mill owner Andrew Fincham.

The three-storey Holly Bush Inn which stands at the crossroads in a prominent position in front of the mill, is well known to walkers as a welcome watering-hole on the Old Portway, the ancient pre-Roman trade-route which runs north/south through the centre of Derbyshire.

The Holly Bush was originally built as a farmhouse around 1660, and played a dual role as both farmhouse and inn for three hundred years until farming here ceased a quarter of a century ago. These days the Holly Bush is an excellent country pub, a `Free House’ which serves good home cooked food, and it’s enterprising landlord has turned the old farm buildings into five modern holiday cottages.

Opposite, situated in the converted old cheese-factory, are the workshop premises of high quality furniture maker Nigel Griffiths, who has gained a high reputation for excellence since taking over the premises in 1982.

The cheese factory was one of many in this area of Derbyshire, famed notably for the `King’s Stilton’ which is still made at nearby Hartington.

Beside the main entrance, near a foundation stone laid by Teresa Chandos Pole-Gell of Hopton Hall on 20th March 1875, stands a massive old cheese-press, a relic left over following the closure of the factory in 1946.

James Croston, writing his `On Foot Through the Peak’ in the 1860’s describes the road that leads up to Ible as `steep and rutty’, and the surrounding landscape as `cheerless and uninviting’.

Sixty years later in 1918, D.H.Lawrence walked up that same road from Mountain Cottage, which sits high on a plateau overlooking the Griffe Grange Valley close to Middleton-by-Wirksworth, on his way to visit a friend across the valley in the hamlet of Ible.

Almost eighty five years later I followed in Lawrences footsteps, and found the lane up to Ible just as steep and equally as painful - despite the fact that unlike Lawrence, I was not suffering from Tuberculosis – simply from forty years of smoking!

The lane climbs up through the trees on the lower slopes, winding its way ever upward in zig-zag fashion for about a mile to Ible, set high in the hills, and giving one the impression of being on top of the world.

Indeed, Ible seems stuck in a timewarp and consists of a collection of farms and farm cottages in what appears a strangely remote and isolated outpost from civilisation. My first thought was that it must be almost exactly the same as when Lawrence knew it, except for the tiny chapel which has recently been converted into a holiday cottage that stands beside J.P.Wayne’s `Holstein Herd’ Farm.

The road twists and turns through the hamlet from Whitecliffe Farm to the colourful oasis of Hopping Farm on the hillside overlooking Grangemill, and walking brings its own rich rewards around every bend.

From the magnificent views, to the quaint orchard corners and the row of ancient weathered stone troughs at the roadside, the place has ample charm and character. The ivy covered wall of Chestnut Farm has a datestone above the front entrance of 1786, and the hamlet surprisingly has an English Tourist Board Recommended hostelry at Home Farm, which stands next to Wainsmore Fold, and one or two wonderfully appointed holiday cottages.

Lawrence’s connection with the area was via his mother Lydia, whose family, the Beardsalls, originated from nearby Wirksworth.

D.H. Lawrence was an English teacher in Nottingham when he eloped with Freida Weekley, the daughter of the Professor of English at Nottingham University. Freida was the neice of the German World War One flying ace, Freidrich von Richtoffen, known famously as `The Red Baron’.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 they were living on the coast of Cornwall, but were suspected by the authorities of being German spies and were hounded out. Lawrence realising the need for obscurity, contacted his aunt in Wirksworth who arranged for them to rent Mountain Cottage - far from the madding crowd!

`Wintry Peacock’, published in Metropolitan Magazine in August 1921, tells the tale of the writers brief excursion to Ible in the winter of 1918:

“Farmers were just turning out their cows for an hour or so in the midday, and the smell of cow-sheds was unendurable as I entered Tible….and then I saw the peacocks. There they were in the road before me, three of them, brown speckled birds with dark blue necks and ragged crests”. Lawrence’s tale relates to one of these birds named `Joey’, and the story revolves around the peacock, the farmer, former Lance Corporal Alfred Goyte, recently returned from the fighting in France, and his wife Maggie.

I obtained a copy of the `Wintry Peacock’, took it with me to Ible, and read it sitting by the stone water trough in the centre of the little isolated hamlet in the hope that I might better capture the essence and feeling of Lawrences words. Just as I finished reading, a lifelong resident of Ible appeared, and I enthused about the story. I was disappointed to learn that there had never been anyone named Alfred or Maggie Goyte living there, and was assured that the tale was pure fiction.

I resigned myself to my disappointment, bid farewell and set off to walk the half mile down the steep hill to Grangemill, when upon rounding a bend by Walnut farm, there by the roadside, resplendent in a cloak of blue feathers that shimmered in the bright autumn sunlight, stood a peacock as proud as I ever saw!

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