Situated on the edge of Tansley Moor, in attractive countryside, one and half miles east of Matlock is the village of Tansley. It straddles the main road to Alfreton, and its main street, Church Street, leads off in a northerly direction. The climate is bracing, the water supply good and the scenery beautiful. All this once made the village a pleasant resort for visitors and invalids who came to take the waters at the hydropathy.
Fast flowing streams brought industry to the locality and several mills were built in Lumsdale, which became part of the parish of Tansley, in 1865. They provided additional employment to the faming and quarrying being carried out in the area. At one time some seventeen mills all drew their power from one small, but rapidly descending stream, the Bentley Brook. Dams were constructed on the very steep hillside so the mills could operate.
The oldest of the mills dates back to the 1600s and most of the population of the village were employed in the corn and bleach mills. The mills fell into disuse in the 20th century, but the Lumsdale Project was launched in 1976 and by 1981 work began to preserve the complex of water mills and ponds. Today there are no more working mills and quarries, a wide range of light industries now providing employment.
Along Church Street stands the Anglican Holy Trinity Church, built in 1840. Another 52 years on Rev’d J Brodie Mais was made rector of the parish. At the time he was in poor health and not expected to live many months. His predecessor had died within twelve months of appointment and the rector before that had not been a strong man. The future seemed rather bleak for both church and rector. Fortunately the rector’s health improved and 50 years later at over 80 years of age he was still in office!
The autobiography of the rector’s son, "An Unrepentant Englishman" was published recently. It told the story of S P B Mais, who became a well-known and well-loved national figure in later life. After leaving Oxford University, he went into teaching and then into journalism with the Daily Telegraph. He wrote over 200 books: novels, textbooks, poetry, topography and an autobiography. But it is as broadcaster for the BBC that he is best remembered, especially during the Second World War when his Kitchen Front and Microphone at Large programmes attracted big audiences. He even presented a Letter from America, 13 years before Alstair Cooke began his marathon stint.
Built on rising ground of locally quarried stone, the Anglican Holy Trinity Church looks down on the village. Further down the street, the Methodist Church, built in 1829 has unusual modern windows, wrought iron railings and a gate at its entrance. The community centre built in 1879, was originally a reading room and the village hall was previously a school. These two buildings house the majority of the many village activities including the local amateur theatre group the Tansley Players. A recent addition to the events calendar is the annual well dressings, which take place in July each year.
For those requiring refreshment there are three public houses to choose from, The Gate, at the northern end of Church Street and, on the A615, The Royal Oak and The Tavern at Tansley. There is an even wider choice for enthusiastic gardeners. Attracted by the good loamy soil and a comparative absence of sharp late frosts, on the breezy hilltops' four garden centres have set up in business and two horticultural nurseries are also within half a mile of the village.
Within easy reach of Tansley is the delightful hilltop village of Riber. The ruin of Riber Castle, built by John Smedley in 1862, dominates the Derwent Valley from its lofty perch on the edge of the hill above Starkholmes. Smedley’s original idea was to build an observatory tower, but he found too many practical problems and decided to build a retirement home instead. The castle was constructed of massive blocks of local gritstone extracted from a quarry near the castle and employed skilled craftsmen, including plasterers from Italy, to work on the interior.
Tansley is quite well provided, with a primary school, shop including a post office, good outdoor recreational facilities and a village green. The gardens are neat and well cared for, and so they should be with so many gardening businesses in the village. Perhaps the bracing climate is the reason behind the name, Scotland Nurseries, which are situated on the eastern side of the village.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
The Heights of Abraham (Tel. 01629 582365) take a spectacular journey by cable car to explore two show caverns, follow woodland trails. Enjoy the magnificent view from the Treetops café and restaurant. Please telephone for details or visit website.
Mining Museum and Temple Mine (Tel. 01629 583834) is where you get a very realistic impression of what the conditions used to be like for men who toiled underground. After completing your absorbing tour of the museum you can visit Temple Mine. The museum is open daily throughout the year. Temple Mine is open on a reduced basis in the winter.
Peak Rail (Tel. 01629 580381) is a preserved railway operating steam trips from Matlock Riverside Station to Rowsley South calling at Darley Dale. Telephone for full operating details.
Tavern at Tansley (Tel. 01629 57735) at one time known as the George and Dragon, it was originally a farmhouse, where ale was served from the kitchen. Open lunchtime and evenings Monday to Saturday and all day Sundays. Food served lunchtime and evenings. There is a children’s play area, and an adults only garden at the rear. Accommodation is available.
The Heathers Coffee Shop (Tel. 01629 583036) situated at Tansley, on the B6014 just off the A615. The Coffee Shop is housed in Scotland Nurseries and provides first class food and service with an extensive range of hot and cold meals. Open daily.
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This is only a short walk, but nevertheless a very enjoyable one. It combines a visit to the charming little village of Riber, with some outstanding views over the surrounding countryside. The route back to Tansley can be quite slippery in wet conditions and the walker needs to be well shod.
The gentle climb up from Tansley brings you to the ancient hilltop village of Riber. The Manor House of 1633 and the Elizabethan, Riber Hall, now a hotel, are particularly noteworthy. The village though is best known for its castle, which can be seen for miles.
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