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Potteries Orienteering Club

West Midlands Orienteering Association

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First published in The Potter November 2005
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2005

Apedale

Introduction

This mapped area lies to the north east of Newcastle around the higher reaches of the Lyme Brook mainly within the Apedale Country Park. The name is taken from the nearby Hamlet of Apedale on the hill above the valley, accessible only by a rough track and lying within the area of the map.

Mapping and Event History

In 1999 it was decided to map this area ready for the West Midlands Relays in June 2000. Dave Peel completed about 60% of the mapping when I had to ask him to suspend the work. Although we had permission from Staffordshire County Council, we received opposition to its use from the local Rangers. Dave Peel was re-deployed on a re-mapping of Park Hall and the event was switched to there. Three years later we re-opened negotiations and regained a restricted access. The map was completed and we have held Local Events there in November of 2003 and 2004, with a third event to be staged this November. We still have some restrictions on the areas of access, but we hope to improve this in the future.

History

I am sure it could be possible to write many pages on this topic as the area has a rich, mainly industrial, history. There was a Roman garrison at Chesterton above the N.E. side of the valley and evidence of locally produced pots have been found. From the Industrial Revolution the valley has been exploited for its coal, iron and clay.

Apedale Colliery was sited directly opposite where the Country Park car park is located. It was open from 1850 to 1969 and was a comparatively small mine with access to the underground reserves by inclined tunnels or drifts as called by the miners. It is now a Mining Museum offering underground visits. Up to the turn of the century another major colliery existed in one of the small valleys running west from the main valley. In the middle of the Watermills valley is an accidental monument to this mine and its owner. It is hard to visualize that at the end of the 19th century the valley was a site of a coal mine employing some 250 men and with a railway link. The mine owner was the squire of Apedale living in Apedale Hall, now demolished. Robert Edensor Heathcote built an 180ft high chimney to provide a ventilation shaft for his mine. Only the decorated base remains and includes inscriptions on all four sides:

Live and let live
Be just and fear not
Regard the end
REH 1840

The valley has been a major area for iron making. Evidence of 18th century blast furnaces has been found at the area at the head of the valley, and by the late 19th century up to 3000 men were employed in the industry, mainly at sites just off the map where the current industrial estates near Chesterton can be seen.

Geography

The Lyme valley runs through the western edge of the map. It reaches its head at the north end of the map where the brook is now classed as a ditch. Just above the end of the ditch is the main East-West watershed. Walk a short distance on the path west from here and water drains to the Irish Sea; the Lyme Brook is a tributary of the Trent. One of the most interesting features is fork shaped wooded valleys rising to the west of the Lyme in the centre of the map, the Watermills valleys. The valleys are narrow but complex contours and numerous water features make it interesting. Unfortunately this comprises the bulk of the section we are denied access to (at the moment?). The section though is open to the public. However on the slopes of the main valley there are similar interesting pockets of woodland. The area was savaged by the industries here in the 18th and 19th centuries and returned back to nature by the 21st century with a little restoration work to eliminate any hazards.

In the 1980s a section of the industrial wasteland was completely eliminated by an opencast coal mine and thereafter restored to open hillside with even contours, new fenced plantation and a network of new footpaths useful for planning the easier courses. The wide, open road that runs on the S.W. edge of the map was constructed during the land restoration. The old road was removed and all the strata below were removed to access the coal seems. The mine did extend to the other side of the road but this was restored to farmland.

John Heaton