Annesley & Felley - More Hidden Valleys
w/e 07 September 2008
All this week's pictures were taken
with a Kodak DX6490
A few weeks ago we took our lead from a leaflet published by
Ashfield District Council and visited Bagthorpe in one of Nottinghamshire's
Hidden Valleys. The leaflet which looks at some of the haunts
of D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) and Lord Byron (1788-1824) includes
details of three circular walks of between 4.5 and 6.5km plus
a much longer fourth walk of 16km that takes in segments of the
other three. It also includes details of several features within
the area some of which are not included in the routes of any
of the walks but all fall in what Lawrence described as the "Country
of my Heart". The panoramic shot above is part of that country
so beloved by the author and was taken from one of the high points
in the area near junction 27 of the M1 motorway. It is looking
over Felley towards Moorgreen Reservoir and Lawrence's birthplace
at Eastwood. Bagthorpe
which is where one of those features in the leaflet lies, Wansley
Hall, is to the right of this view.
Two more of those features are Felley Priory which we visited
some time ago for Part 4 of the Monks Way series and Moorgreen
Reservoir seen above in this zoomed shot again from near junction
27 and which we have also visited previously - see here. The reservoir featured several
times in the works of Lawrence being called Willey Water in "Women
in Love" and Nethermere in both "The White Peacock"
and "Sons and Lovers". He wrote "The lake lay
all grey and visionary, stretching into the moist translucent
vista of trees and meadows" - a description as apt today
as when first written.
It is highly likely that aficionados of D. H. Lawrence would
be a little disappointed if they expect to see references to
him at various points when following the walks in the leaflet.
One field looks very much like another and one farm track is
also similar to the next. This one above, however, is a private
road that runs off Felley Mill Lane South (it lies between Felley
Priory and Moorgreen Reservoir) and leads to Haggs Farm. The
farmhouse is not visible from the lane but Lawrence renamed it
Willey Farm for "Sons and Lovers" and based the character
of Miriam Leivers on Jessie Chambers who lived there at the time.
He also wrote that it was where he got his first incentive to
Nearby was Felley Mill Farm but this and the
mill that was called "Strelley Mill" in "The White
Peacock" have long since been demolished. The leaflet says
that the mill pond is still "clearly visible" from
the bridlepath (right) but the flourishing undergrowth at this
time of year means it is not all that clear (left). A brook that
runs from the pond to the reservoir at Moorgreen provides a much
more attractive image.
We move now across the motorway to another of those hidden valleys,
this time in Annesley. "Hidden Valley" is somewhat
of a misnomer here as much of the area is covered by a new business
park but the features mentioned in the leaflet are not quite
so apparent. Only long distant views of Annesley Park and Annesley
Hall, which are both in private hands, are available from the
main road from Hucknall, neither being open to the general public.
The Hall is a Grade II listed building and was once the home
of one William Chaworth. Chaworth met his end in a fatal dual
with the Great Uncle of Lord Byron. Byron himself was also out
of luck with the Chaworth family as his love whilst still a boy
for young Mary Chaworth found no favour and she eventually married
John Musters, the squire of Colwick Hall. Annesley Hall is now
supposed to be one of England's most haunted houses.
It is possible to get much closer to the Hall on foot via the
quaintly named Dog and Bear Lane and this vantage point in the
churchyard of Annesley Old Church at the rear of the Hall does
give access to a good view of the Gatehouse Range which incorporates
the stables, dairy and coach-house. This too like the Hall and
several more in the vicinity is a Grade II listed building.
The Old Church itself is among those other listed buildings.
A word of explanation is probably in order here about the listing
of buildings. An English Heritage leaflet states that "Historic
buildings are a precious and finite asset, and powerful reminders
to us of the work and way of life of earlier generations"
and also that "English Heritage has the task of identifying
and protecting this inheritance in England". There are three
grades of listing: I - for buildings of exceptional interest;
II* - for particularly important buildings of more than special
interest and II - for buildings of special interest. Annesley
Old Church has been afforded Grade 1 status. It is another place
that is reputed to be haunted and, as it featured in the works
of both Lawrence and Byron, one does wonder whether it is their
ghostly figures that wander through the ruins.