Annesley & Felley - More Hidden Valleys
w/e 07 September 2008
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

Panoramic View Over Felley

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.

Moorgreen Reservoir

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.
Haggs Farm

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 write.
Brook at Felley

Felley Mill PondBridlepathNearby 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.
Annesley Park

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.

Annesley Hall

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.
Gatehouse Range

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.
Annesley Old Church

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.

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