The tendency of visitors to Derbyshire is to head north to the Peak District, missing all together Southern Derbyshire and its scattering of pretty villages of which Coton-in-the-Elms must rank as probably the most attractive. It might be somewhat presumptuous to claim it has Derbyshire’s answer to Bourton-on-the-Water - but without the gift shops and cafes. What it does have is a stream flowing by the side of the main street, with well mown grassy banks and a handsome brick bridge and wild fowl. The fowl even have their own road sign!
In the past Coton has been described as a small isolated village, lying in a predominantly agricultural area just outside the South Derbyshire coalfield. Although Netherseal Colliery, which was only one and a half miles away, once provided work for many of the villagers.
The pits have now closed, and the claim to isolation is no longer true, the village lying only two miles off the busy A38, which provides access to Birmingham. It is also within easy reach of several towns, including Burton, five miles to the north. The attractions of living in the country and the improved road communications have led to a rapid rise in the population of the village in recent years.
Coton-in-the-Elms was originally situated on a trading route and is mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it was held by the Abbot of Burton, on the condition that the Abbey supplied a hound on leash to the King when he visited Derbyshire. For many years the village was a chapelry and part of the parish of Lullington, until it was separated, in 1866. It has now overtaken Lullington in size.
Despite its air of peace and tranquility, the need to protect vital river crossing point has led to several skirmishes taking place in the area. The Lullington parish registers record that in 1642, Philip Greensmith, a soldier, was hanged at Coton for desertion during the Civil War. He was hung from a tree at Overfields Farm. This probably explains the marking of ‘Lad’s Grave’ on the Ordnance Survey Map, as the place where the unfortunate soldier was buried.
The present church of St Mary was built in 1846, twenty years before the separation, and as a result was consecrated as a chapelry of Lullington. It was the first church to be built on that site, but not in the village. There was a chapel in Coton as early as 1291, which stood behind where the Shoulder of Mutton now stands. It was disused after the Reformation, probably because the income was not sufficient to support the living. The chapel was demolished in 1571, when it is believed the bells were transferred to the church at Lullington, so that when the wind is blowing in the right direction the inhabitants of Coton could still hear them ringing on a Sunday morning.
There is a memorial in the churchyard to Corporal Russell Aston, who along with five other Royal Military Police soldiers was killed in Al Majar al-Kabir, near Basra, on 24 June 2003. He died three weeks before he was due to go home, when he and his colleagues were ambushed and slaughtered inside an Iraqi police station.
All the roads approaching the village were once lined with elm trees, but Dutch Elm Disease struck in the mid-twentieth century and there are now none left. The last to go were the three trees that lined the roadside along the main street.
The elm trees have gone, but The National Forest, has arrived embracing parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. Coton is at the heart of the forest, which is Britain’s most ambitious environmental project for over 1,000 years. The National Forest covers 200 square miles and combines new planting with existing woodland. During the first ten years over six million trees have been planted and the wooded cover increased from six to sixteen per cent. Access has been improved and over 20 new tourist attractions opened.
There are three pubs in the village, The Shoulder of Mutton, The Black Horse and The Queens Head, but no shops, just a coin launderette! The old school, replaced by a new one, is now the site for a mews development, but the ‘Old School House’ remains intact. Opposite is Manor Farm a Grade II listed building that provides bed and breakfast accommodation. The Methodist Chapel, built in 1922 to replace a smaller building in Chapel Street, is now a private house.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Beehive Farm (Tel. 01283 763980) is located on the edge of Rosliston Village and is open to visitors. The animal area contains rare breed poultry, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys, miniature Shetland pony, rabbits, guinea-pigs and peafowl. There is a play area, pet shop and café. Fishing, caravanning and camping are available.
Rosliston Forestry Centre (Tel. 01283 563483) is a great place for all the family with woodland walks, indoor and outdoor play areas, craft shops and a restaurant. You can also hire a cycle, go fishing and join an education programme. Open daily.
Chapmans Plant Centre and Woodland Walk (Tel. 01283 543546) stock an extensive range of quality garden plants. Chapmans Woodland was a winner of The National Forest Tender Scheme, and was thought to be an exceptional woodland creation. Open daily.
The Queens Head (01283 762573) is a pleasant spacious pub, situated on Coalpit Lane, that caters for private parties and functions as well as local and passing trade. Open Tuesday to Sunday lunchtimes and evenings (closed Mondays). Food served lunchtimes and evenings every day, except Mondays.
The Honey Pot Tea Rooms (Tel. 01283 763980) at Beehive Farm, provide tasty hot and cold food, including breakfast. Open Wednesday to Sunday 8.30am – 4pm from Easter to the end of October half term. Closed Monday and Tuesday, except for Bank Holidays. Reduced opening hours in the winter.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:
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COTON-IN-THE ELMS WALK
This delightful walk visits two of South Derbyshire’s prettiest villages and also two of National Forest’s important attractions, Beehive Farm and the Rosliston Forestry Centre.
Over six million trees have been planted, 47 miles of new hedgerow created, 60 new bluebell sites planted, over 200 boxes installed for noctule bats and 10 new otter holts.
The walk takes you through the Rosliston Forestry Centre, where there is plenty to see and do, from quiet places where you can observe wildlife, to the more boisterous activities of the play area. The visitor centre provides refreshments, workshops and information.
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