Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Upper Trent and Early Nineteenth Century Romanticism

Knypersley by Jason Snape

I first went fishing at the age of 6 on the river Churnet in Leek. My Grandad and I would fish for Sticklebacks above the bridge at the bottom of Ladderedge in the field that is now occupied by the Golf Club car park. Later, Perch became our prey, and they were a joy to catch on my Grandad's split cane rod. A year or two later, I was allowed to fish further afield. I joined what was then the Cheshire Angling Association and immediately started to enjoy fishing one of the club's main waters which was Knypersley Reservoir. We caught Perch, Roach, and lots of Bream and I loved fishing there. At that time I lived in Endon and I'd walk the 3 miles with all my gear, calling on my pals in Brown Edge on the way.

When I wasn't fishing at 'Knypo', I'd be playing there in the woods with my mates, or walking it's many paths with my Grandad who told me many tales about the place. His Grandfather had been Head Keeper at Greenway Bank, and the banks of Knypersley pool belonged to the estate of the now long gone country house. When my Grandad was a lad, his farm was only just up the lane from the pool, so he, as I, played in the grounds all the time. My Grandmother's childhood farm also had land that was adjacent to the estate and she also enjoyed the place.

The tower shown in the two pics above are probably the most famous landmarks at Greenway Bank Country Park. The facade was built in 1827 in the Gothic style, and everything about it's design was steeped in the romanticism of the early nineteenth Century. There was absolutely no expense spared in the design and construction of the tower to the extent that some of the river Trent was diverted to form a moat to compliment the tower and to complete it's fairy tale appearance. My Grandad had stayed in the tower many times when he was a lad, he was a friend of the boys of the family that lived there. Sadly, the tower has been empty for over sixty years.

The 'moat' begins it's life about a 1/4 of a mile away, upstream on the infant river Trent. Here, a sizeable weir was built for the sole purpose of diverting water into the moat (See bottom left of pic above). The moat then winds it's way, following contours, to pass in front of the tower and then runs parallel to Knypersley Pool for another 1/4 of a mile and then empties in to The Serpentine, Greenway Bank's second reservoir. I imagine that, during the Victorian times, the banks of the moat would have been well kept with ferns drooping into the running water and fresh, exotic plants (that would later become a pest to us) being introduced here and there. The extent that the architect went to in the design of the tower and this fairy facade is incredible. A large weir, 1/2 mile of canal and a canal at a gradient to promote a slight trickle, must have cost an absolute fortune. What a shame that it no longer runs and that most of the moat, along with the tower, is now derelict and overgrown. The best place to see the moat today is near to the dam between Knypersley Pool and The Serpentine. It can be seen for quite a while here and some of it's fine stone work is exposed along with a another facade, a small footbridge heading nowhere.

This pic shows the weir for the moat again. My Grandad and his pals regularly bathed in the pool below the weir in the early 1920s.

The majority of the moat looks like this today. This section is near to where it leaves the Trent and contains running water. However, it only runs for a short while and at the point here it once met a small reservoir that held water back to ensure a constant, regulated supply for the moat, the flow has recently been diverted back into the Trent, causing the reservoir to dry up and become overgrown. This in turn has left the majority of the rest of the moat, quite dry and overgrown.

The river Trent above the moat weir. This pic was taken after a very long period without rain and would usually contain a greater depth of water. I'd be surprised if there wasn't a healthy population of wee broon troots.

One of the places I enjoyed visiting as a lad was Gorton's Well the remains of which are shown in this pic. Gorton was a hermit. Apparently, no Victorian country estate was without it's own hermit. Usually, one's hermit lived in a cave somewhere on one's land, and this was all to add to the fairy tale romanticism of the age. They were often given a place to live, and fed and the guests of the house would go and visit what was very much promoted as some sort of circus act.

Gorton's Well is a spring. A series of troughs has been constructed at some point with walls surrounding them. I can remember my Grandad telling me that at one time the structure had a roof and that many folk from the local farms, including my Grandmother, used to wash all of their clothes here. The tall wall that was constructed around the well as a deterrent to deer is still in good repair.

Walking deeper into the woods, eventually Gorton's Cave is reached. My Grandad used to tell me that this was where Gorton the hermit lived.

There are many, very old initials carved into the supporting rocks of Gorton's Cave. These initials are those of my Great, Great Grandfather.

Walk a little further past Gorton's Cave and eventually you will drop down to the lovely upper Trent. From here, the river runs into Knypersley Pool. The reservoir was built by Thomas Telford in 1827 to feed the Caldon Canal.