The Carriage Ride Walk

As with all the way marked walks the carriage ride walk begins just beyond the cattle grid after you pass through the visitor reception. Ask for a walk guide at the reception, it’s a free guide that has all the parkland walks mapped out, with simple explanations. Purple signs mounted on regularly placed posts guide you along this walk of about 2 miles.

The Carriage Ride Walk takes you along original elements of the Carriage Rides and Walks that existed at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Stepping stones cross over the runoff from an ephemeral pool; a habitat for Dragonflies, frogs and other pond life.

The woodland track takes you into the Ancient Wood Pasture, now stock proofed, to provides a glimpse of the effect of removing commercial fir plantation from the landscape. This pasture was cleared in 2012; it is now grazed and has revealed what we call the Candelabra Tree, an Oak tree thought to be about 800 years old. In late April this pasture becomes a sea of bluebells.

Beyond the Ancient Wood Pasture the walk passes close to the grave of Sir James Croft.

On the walks leaflet the site of a Summer House is indicated, as shown on several quite old maps, however there is also mention of a Moss House in the survey of 1986/87 where.. “it is said that there was also a moss house, near the grave of Capt James Croft where the Rev Kevill-Davies entertained ladies from London.”

Towards the end of the walk you pass through ‘The Beech Hanger’ – Hanger, is the name given to a woodland on a hill side or slope. In autumn the golden carpet of fallen beech leaves makes a glorious display. The walk also takes past an old Quarry and a former charcoal burning platform.

 

Charcoal manufacture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making of the Carriage Ride Walk.

The impetus for this project was an organised Geological Walk, arranged by another of our Volunteers at Croft. Whilst explaining the ways in which limestone was processed, the discussion turned to Charcoal Burning Platforms; of which there were once several on the Croft Estate. A group of us set off in search of evidence of one that had been identified in an archaeological survey. During our search it became evident that we were trampling over long forgotten and overgrown tracks that, on further investigation, turned out to be former old Carriage Rides that were in existence in the late 19th century.

Somewhere under here there was once a carriage ride

 

At the end of the last Ice age it appears that the melt water from Wigmore Glacial Lake, just to the north of croft, carved out a gorge known today as The Fishpool Valley. This depression in the landscape has been worked for its timber as well as being prized for its natural beauty. It is this last feature, that represents an example of ‘the picturesque landscape movement’, that was at risk of being lost and forgotten. The valley hides a network of Carriage Rides and walks that were designed originally to allow the owners and their guests the opportunity to explore this hidden valley and to sit and perhaps paint or just enjoy the untouched and natural views. Over many decades these rides and walks have fallen into disuse and were at risk of disappearing altogether.

Further research uncovered a another survey that had mapped elements of the old rides and walks that followed the contours of the valley at three different levels. From the map in the second survey we believed we could create a route by opening up and uncovering rides and walks that had not been used for possibly two centuries.

The walk was opened to the public in April 2015. It is a walk that contrasts two features of the Fishpool Valley. On the one hand it has been a woodland industry with it’s quarries, lime kilns, charcoal burning platforms and timber extraction. On the other hand a playground for the wealthy owners to enjoy and show off to their esteemed visitors.

What is ‘the picturesque’?

Derived from the Italian pittoresco, “from a picture,” the term picturesque defines an object or view worthy of being included in a picture. In simple terms a picturesque view contains a variety of elements, curious details, and interesting textures, conveyed in a palette of dark to light that brings these details to life. In the mid-eighteenth century, tourists who followed the cult of the picturesque travelled to untamed areas of the British Isles in pursuit of this visual ideal; the excitement of exploring remote out of the way places.

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John Parsons