The Manifold Valley (River Manifold = river of many folds/bends) is a long steep sided limestone valley. It begins kinda near Ecton and winds and gouges its way southwards several miles through the hills of Wetton continuing on a few miles farther before meeting up with the River Dove. Close to St. Bertrams Cave at Beeston Tor the River Hamps joins the Manifold.
There's roadside parking at Wetton Mill, SK095 561, near to the Nan Tor Caves it's then just a case of working your way southwards with the map references for the caves, most have a vague sorta path leading up to them.
For St Bertrams Cave, park at SK100 543, unless you wanna make a longer walk of it and continue south from Thor's Cave to Beeston Tor Farm.
An excellent place to spend the day.....it's sorta Creswell Crags on steroids....and even better some of the caves aren't gated.
If you time it right during a good dry spell the River Manifold may or may not be visible.....it disappears into a large swallet by Wetton Mill or the Darfar Bridge and re-emerges a mile or so further down stream.
The entrance to this cave is getting a bit overgrown, there's lots of dead wood and a fire pit mar the extreme beauty within, so after a bit of a tidy up I take to photographing this apparently small cave.
The cave has a smaller cave at the back, but it is a short dead end. Another smaller grotto goes into the right wall, but it is an even shorter dead end. The left wall of the main chamber kind of resembles elephant teeth, between one of the teeth is a small passage, crouching low I waddle inwards, as the passage turns right it goes over a step and I'm able to stand up. The walls have red stuff running down them, the bleeding heart of Elderbush cave it's like i'm in a living beast. Then the battery went in my camera and I'm entombed in darkness, after a short but intense freak out I put my clothes back on and wriggle free of the small tight space, blinking in the bright light in the main chamber, I try to coax my camera into a few more pictures but it's well and truly dead, not pining for the Fjords, just dead.
I'd need about a dozen pictures to convey the wonderful loveliness in this cave, it is everything Tolkien would have liked, as well as the elves themselves, I can imagine sitting in this cave, fully clothed, just as the sinking sun poured it's magical embrace all over us, I'd really like that I think.
Ps, I never take my clothes off at ancient places, I've thought about it, but never have, don't be scared.
From the entrance of Thors cave follow the path up round the back and up to the top of the Tor, so the cave is directly below you, after admiring the view up and down the wooded Manifold valley, go left, right on the edge of the cliff is this fast getting overgrown cave.
A rather odd name, don't you think? seven ways what, into the cave or steaming fish?
The entrance to the cave today is through the large collapsed wide open area, once your in there, theres three arches through which to observe the sun not doing anything in particular. 180 degrees from the three arches the cave continues to go back for a while, it's not a big one, compared to Thor's cave it is but a slight depression.
Dont stay too long or you might not have enough time to explore Elderbush cave, one of the best places in all of England.
It wasn't easy getting to the car park South of the caves, a diversion took me round Alstonefield, I got all turned round and my mind seemed to melt, getting there was a fairly hit and miss episode, but get there I did, eventually.
I followed the river Manifold for about a mile during one of it's disappearing underground tricks, there's one quite cool thing to see already, then the huge rocky tor comes into view and ones gaze is thrust upwards, it's a long way up.
Crossing a now rather defunct bridge the path goes upwards through the woods, taking a right hand turn I am only guessing which way to go, it's been at least decade since I was last here. Suddenly I realise I'm getting very close, and then I'm there, thankfully I was the only one present.
I carefully scramble up the entrance to the cave and learn early on how slippy it is in there, imagine a cartoon character suddenly finding themselves on ice, how I remained vertical I'll never know, perhaps it's 'cause I'm a big fan of everything Asgardian.
First I go over to the big crack in the right hand wall, it is apparently a serviceable entrance/exit to the cave but you need to have the skills of a snow leopard mountain goat, my skills barely approach those of a long legged bird, or something else totally without balance. I call this crack the suicide exit. Turning 180 degrees the cave splits in two, Thors nostrils Stubob called them, I see no reason not carry on this simile. So I slip and skip off up the left nostril, the simile carries on once inside, the floor is covered in a lubricious muddy clay.
There are gaps in the cave wall where you can see into the other nostril, the feeling is one of being in a cathedral, so I did what I always do in a cathedral, I took all my clothes off and writhed around on the floor speaking in tongues.
No, of course not.
The right nostril was just as slick, but it goes further back and it's got puddles, I really must invest in a big torch, it was most unseemly getting about in the dark using only the flash on my camera.
I find a dry spot on what would be Thor's philtrum and sit round for a while, marveling at all the colours in the cave, reds, greens, browns and all in between, the trees out side the entrance going up the Manifold valley are perfection.
I'm snapped back into reality by voices, I build up the fire rouse my family grab the spears and run off into action, yelling like madmen.
Could have happened, once.