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The Inns of the Ashbourne to Haddon Turnpike.

Or The Inns of the Haddon to Ashbourne Turnpike if we're being pedantic, for that's the direction we rode it. That's right. Today is a little bit different. Today you're accompanying me on a virtual bike ride as we visit a number of inns, some extant and some extinct. One we've met before and one we haven't. And one that's not even really on the route. Today we're going to ride the Ashbourne to Haddon turnpike, nowadays the B5056, and do a bit of inn-spotting. Despite the forecast suggesting that it's going to be sunny and dry, a day suitable for my best summer bike, I'm choosing to ride VooDoo, my hefty winter training machine-cum-load hauler, for I want to take a proper camera on this jaunt and not just rely on the phone. You can ride whatever bike you want – road bike, hybrid, mountain bike, electric bike, penny farthing... A word of warning though, there are a couple of steep bits so the latter might not be the best choice.

My trusty VooDoo with camera-carrying capacity.

To avoid too much quarry traffic we'll meet early at Picory Corner, just south of Haddon Hall, where the old Ashbourne to Haddon turnpike meets the A6, itself the former Rowsley to Bakewell turnpike.

Permission for the construction of our route was granted in 1811 and the new road would connect the two existing north-south roads which ran from Ashbourne to Buxton and from Matlock to Bakewell. As I freewheel down to our meeting point and go from bright sunshine to mist and back again several times I do hope that the former will come to dominate meteorologically.

Picory Corner – the start of our ride.

OK. Are we all ready? The let's go.

We follow the road heading for Youlgreave with the waters of the River Lathkill to our left, flowing towards their imminent mingling with those of the Wye a hundred yards or so from our starting point. After about a mile we turn left to cross it at Hawley's Bridge and start a gentle climb alongside Toll Wood, the only reminder of the former existence of a tollhouse close to the junction with the road leading up to Stanton-in-Peak.

The road steepens a bit now as we pass the gatehouse and one of the entrances to Stanton Hall. I don't want to worry you but this is nothing compared to what we'll meet shortly and in a few minutes we take a short detour off our route and climb – and I do mean climb – up into Birchover. Those of you riding electric machines are probably smiling whilst those on penny farthings probably wish that you'd brought along one with a smaller front wheel.

Why the detour? Well, I wanted to show you the Red Lion Inn.

The Red Lion Inn in Birchover.

I have to admit that despite living all of three miles away I have never been in the place even though it's been run for the last decade or so by a former work colleague and her husband. It's currently on the market if you fancy owning a Peak District pub, complete with its own microbrewery. I really must try to call in before they move, just in case it turns into another bygone boozer

Feeling a bit like the grand old Duke of York, having brought you all up here it's now time to turn round and freewheel back to the main road. Just why we've done this we'll see in a bit.

Rejoining the main road the gradient is easier now. It's certainly easier than that we experienced going up into Birchover. There are even occasional short stretches of downhill and it's not long before we reach Brimsbury Well with its stone horse trough, believed to have been installed by Stanton Hall, which used to supply both passing horses and the local populace with drinking water. Except we don't come to the trough for it was stolen.

Brimsbury Well.

Gritstone troughs are quite valuable so it is no real surprise that some light-fingered but strong-armed individual decided to remove from its site. Gritstone troughs with inlaid lead lettering are also quite distinctive so it is no real surprise that it was recovered. Where is it now? Well, you remember that haul up to the Red Lion? It's now sitting outside the pub and filled with plants. Didn't notice it? Look again at the photograph further up the page.

Brimsbury Red Lion Birchover.
The Brimsbury Well trough outside the Red Lion in Birchover.

It is a somewhat incongruous location for it though, as in addition to providing water for equine and human travellers on the turnpike road it also acted as a signpost with the distances to Winster (spelt Winstre) – 1 mile, and Bakewell – 4 miles, inlaid into its two end faces.

Only one uphill mile left to Winstre.

Having not stopped for a drink at the non-existent Brimsbury Well we continue on, round the left-hand bend where the road starts to point a bit more heavenwards, and on our left is Dudwood Cottage. To my eye it's a little too big to be a cottage. It did in fact used to be the Piper's Inn, the first hostelry met by anyone travelling this route south from Bakewell. The 1871 census for Elton shows John Dale, a cow keeper, living at Pipers Inn on New Road but with no mention of him also being an inn keeper.

I've found no later record of its being an inn either, so it possibly shut up shop quite early.

It has offered accommodation since those days though as an old school friend of mine used to camp here when visiting the area in the 1980s. I've heard that Jesse, the then owner, disapproved of the demon drink and removed all reference to it from his home by renaming the place but this might well be apocryphal as earlier maps show the place as Dudwood Cottage.

The former Pipers Inn taken in March 2021 – before the emergence of any foliage obscured the view.

As neither John nor Jesse are still there to offer refreshment let's press on up the hill, through the zigzags and past the Elton/Winster crossroads up to the summit where we find the Miners Standard.

Originally a farmhouse built in the mid 17th century it evolved to supply sustenance to a growing band of lead miners who lived close by. If you want to quench your thirst from having pedalled up the hill you're in luck for the Miners is still going strong. I have to say that even though I've not made it into the Red Lion I have had the odd pint or three in here.

Miners Standard  Winster
The Miners Standard, Winster.

The green opposite the pub is home to a number of capped lead mine shafts and a bike that I'm glad that I didn't have to pedal up the hill.

Having arrived at the top of the hill we can now enjoy the fruits of our labour and freewheel for a bit. In fact we can freewheel virtually all the way down to Grangemill where we find... a mill.

Back then with a chimney and cart.

It hasn't altered much over time.

Now it's lost its cart and chimney and gained a car.

We also find our third inn, the Holly Bush. Just like with the mill we have a then...

c1905 when Martha Needham was the licensee.

...and a now. Like the mill it hasn't altered much either.

Holly Bush Inn Grangemill
The Holly Bush Inn, Grangemill.

Predating the turnpike by a couple of centuries or so, I managed to have a couple of pints in the Holly Bush in the last millennium, playing cricket as I did with the then landlord, before crossing the road for a coffee and turkey roll with a local farmer.

As well as providing a comfortable stopping point for weary travellers the Holly Bush also provided less welcoming accommodation for others, housing as it did the holding cells for prisoners being transported from the north of the county to Derby. One such was Elton-born 'gentleman highwayman' William Buxton. Having been tried at the Old Bailey where it was recommended that he face the death penalty, Mercy showed her face and he was instead sent to a prison hulk on the Thames for five years. He managed to escape and returned to both his familiar lands and his familiar ways. He was eventually caught again and tried in Derby where he had an appointment made for him with the gallows tree which he kept.

There's to be no hanging around for us though. I don't know about you, but I'm putting my lights on for the climb through the trees, past the quarry, to Longcliffe. It's still early but I like to give those quarry lorries as much indication of my presence as possible, especially as it's still a little misty in places.

As we cross the Via Gellia, the building on the right, or at least a small part of it for it's been highly modified, used to be another of the tollhouses on the road.

On we go, up to Longcliffe where we pass the former Jug & Glass. Regular readers of this rubbish may remember meeting it in this post. For those that didn't, or can't be bothered to click the pic or the link, it's a former coaching inn, often listed as being in nearby Brassington, which possibly dates back to the 1790s.

It's downhill all the way now. Well, nearly. As we hurtle down past the junction with Pasture Lane don't forget to look for the site of the now demolished tollhouse at Hipley and then it's just a couple more miles of undulating tarmac before we arrive at the A515 and the end of our journey. Back in the turnpike days travellers wanting accommodation would turn right into Fenny Bentley for the Coach & Horses or left and travel another two miles for all the options that Ashbourne provided. Today there is yet another option, the Bentley Brook Inn, where you can eat, sleep drink and marry or any combination thereof. If my memory serves me well it was the home of Leatherbritches Brewery when I paid my only visit sometime in the late 1990s or thereabouts. Another cricket linked one as I recall.

The Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley.

So that's it, our virtual bike ride to see the inns of the Ashbourne to Haddon turnpike is over. I'm off home now and I won't be reversing my route as the morning's passing and the traffic's increasing. I'm not at all bothered by those quarry lorries. I find that the vast majority of professional drivers are just that – professional. Far more of a concern, which will apply to this now sunny Saturday morning, are all the staycationers which have flooded the Peak District over the last couple of summers. All the Keiths from Kimberley and Kimberleys from Keighley in their hired KombiKampers who have no idea just how wide, how long or how sluggish at accelerating their vehicle is. Virtually all of my close passes and close calls this summer have been with motorhomes. I'm going home via the Lost Valley®.

Fortunately VooDoo can cope with the less than perfect road surface of the Lost Valley®.

Where's the Lost Valley®? It's lost and long may it remain lost, especially to all those Keiths and Kimberleys from Kimberley and Keighley with their KombiKampers. It doesn't come totally hazard-free though.

Certainly preferable to all those KombiKampers.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Like me, you must have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. If you haven't done so already you can subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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