St Mary's Mappleton

The tiny village of Mapleton, one and three quarters of a mile from Ashbourne, stands on the Derbyshire side of the River Dove that divides it from neighbouring Staffordshire. It is a village of attractive red brick cottages, somewhat unusual in the Peak District where stone normally dominates. The village borders the Peak District and acts as a gateway to the Dove Valley. The houses stretch out in a line along the road through the village mostly looking over the river in the direction of Okeover Hall, a private residence not open to the public. 

As with so many towns and villages in Derbyshire, there is a problem with either the pronunciation, or the spelling - with Mapleton (or should it be Mappleton?) there is problem with both. Locals invariably pronounce the name according to the latter spelling, but the church notice board, many local guidebooks and the Ordnance Survey prefer the former. Whatever the spelling, this little village is a place not to be missed with its lovely walks and air of peace and tranquillity.

The Tissington Trail on the east of the village follows the tracks of the former London and North Western Railway’s branch line from Ashbourne to Buxton. Ashbourne never got the mainline it wanted and had to be content with a branch line – this may have been no bad thing as the additional development that would have ensued might have detracted from its present day charm.

When the line closed after a short life of only 70 years, the railway track was removed and a path was laid in its place for the use of walkers, pedal cyclists and horse riders. A car park was sited at the Mapleton end of the Trail, where bicycles can be hired. Light refreshments, maps and information can be obtained during peak periods.

Along the narrow winding road from Ashbourne to the centre of Mapleton, up a tree-lined drive, is Callow Hall. The grounds covering 44 acres with splendid views from the Hotel’s elevated position of the valleys of the Bentley Brook and the River Dove. Once the property of the Rev H Buckston, it is a handsome Elizabethan style stone mansion. The Manor House to the south of the village is a substantially built house looking out across the water meadows to the river.

The Okeover Arms closed its doors in 2002 and was put on the market, but re-opened again in time for Christmas 2003. This is not the only time it has been closed. It lost its licence temporarily when the family of Ealdred Okeover thought he was spending too much time in the pub and used their influence to have it shut down.

In an area where traditionally built stone churches are normally found, St Mary’s Church comes as something of a surprise. It is a small church, stone built, but with a most unusual pillared porch and a dome, it has been christened ‘Little St Paul’s’ by some visitors. Some critics have been more scathing in their comment, which seems unfair just because it lacks traditionalism.

Close to the bridge is a handsome five-bay Georgian House, built in the mid 1700s by Rowland Okeover and known as ‘The Okeover Clergy House’. The house was originally divided up as three almshouses, later reduced to two, for the widows of clergymen.

A low single arched bridge crosses the Dove, and on the Staffordshire side of the river is the former Okeover Corn Mill, some distance behind that stands the hall. Okeover Hall dates from the 18th century, a pleasing mainly Georgian building of red brick round three sides of a courtyard, with a more recent extension. It has a church only a few yards away, built as a private chapel.

  

There is a public road across Okeover Park, once the province of deer, but it is sheep that now hold sway. Motorists confronted in towns and cities with road calming measures undertaken to reduce speed often have to drive over man made humps in the road, or sleeping policemen as they are sometimes called. Another form of road calming is in operation in Okeover Park, particularly when the sun is out and the tarmac is warm. This takes the form of sleeping sheep lying on the hot road, who only move with great reluctance to let passing motorists through, but only then after being slowed almost to a standstill and having had to sound the car horn.

 

It is a tradition for those people who do mind the cold to jump from Okeover Bridge into the River Dove to raise money for charity, in the annual New Year Boat Race and Bridge Jump. In 2003, fourteen teams of two rowed down the river before leaving their boats and jumping from the bridge into the freezing waters below and then swimming 60 yards upstream. The contestants then ran to the Okeover Arms, the winner receiving the ‘Brass Monkey’ award!