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In the Lair of the White Worm

A limestone trail to the film location of Bram Stoker's last nightmare.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30 min

Ascent/gradient 423ft (129m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Forest tracks, grass and mud, hard footpath

Landscape Hillside, valley, meadows and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 085545

Dog friendliness Keep on lead near livestock

Parking At Grindon church

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the car park turn left, then right at the Old Rectory and descend. Go left on to a public footpath, go through a gap stile, cross a field and descend, keeping right. Cross a bridge, go through a gate then a gap stile and follow the waymarkers downhill keeping the stream and the wood on your right.

2 When the wall heads left go through a gap stile on your right continuing downhill into National Trust land at Ladyside. Cross a stile, go through a wood then leave it via another stile. Turn right, still continuing downhill to a stile leading on to the Manifold Way.

3 Cross the Manifold Way, then a bridge and take the path uphill following the signs for Thor's Cave. At the mouth of the cave turn left, continue on a track uphill, curve right at a stile and follow the path to the summit for superb views along the Manifold Valley.

4 Retrace your steps to the Manifold Way and turn left. Continue past a caravan park and cross two bridges. At the beginning of the third bridge cross a stile on the right and follow the path back, parallel to the road and then curving left and uphill.

5 Go across a stile by a dried up pond and follow the path uphill with the wall on your right. Go through a gap stile adjacent to a barn. Keep on, go through the next gap stile and the church spire at Grindon should be visible ahead.

6 Continue on this path across the fields, cross a stile, go through four gap stiles then turn left over a final stile on to a farm road. Follow this road, keeping on when it becomes a lane then turn right on to the road opposite Chestnut Cottage, take the first left back to the car park.

Anyone who has seen Ken Russell's film, The Lair of the White Worm (1988), will recognise at once the entrance to Thor's Cave and may, as a result, feel slightly apprehensive when climbing the path up the hillside. The opening shot in the film features the famous landmark and, as the blood red titles roll, the camera slowly zooms in towards the mouth of the cave.

Based loosely on Bram Stoker's last novel, The Lair of the White Worm starred Amanda Donahoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenburg, Peter Capaldi and Sammi Davis. Stoker's original story was based in the Peak District in Victorian times and tells of strange disappearances, legends of a giant serpent and of the strange and sinister Lady Arabella. Film maker Russell moved the whole story in time to the 20th century and altered the plot considerably. He centres his version of the tale on a Scottish archaeology student, Angus Flint (played by Peter Capaldi), who finds a mysterious, reptilian skull at an excavation near his lodgings. Later he takes the two sisters who run the guest house to the home of Lord James D'Ampton (Hugh Grant) for the annual celebrations to commemorate the slaying of the D'Ampton Worm by his ancestor. Angus leaves early to escort one of the sisters (Mary, played by Sammi Davis) home.

Passing through woods near where her parents mysteriously disappeared they encounter the sensuous and snakelike Lady Sylvia (irresistibly portrayed by Amanda Donahoe). In the dark cellars of her Gothic mansion, Temple Hall, she has been worshipping an evil and ancient snake god. It has an insatiable appetite for virgin flesh and Mary's sister Eve (Catherine Oxenburg) is on the menu. D'Ampton connects the disappearance of Eve with Lady Sylvia and, taking on his ancestor's role, heads for Thor's Cave to search for a tunnel connecting to Temple Hall. The nonsense ends in predictable fashion, with Angus emerging as the reluctant hero (wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes), snatching Eve from the monster's jaws and slaying it with a hand grenade.

Animal Lair

Thor's Cave may have been home to one or two prehistoric beasties but in reality none of them were big white snakes. Formed over thousands of years from the combined effects of wind and rain on the soft limestone it probably sheltered animals like giant red deer, bears or even early humans. Excavations have revealed it to be the site of a Bronze-Age burial, although much of the evidence was lost by over-zealous excavators in Victorian times.

While you're there

Well worth a visit is All Saints Church near the car park at Grindon. Known as 'the Cathedral of the Moorlands' it contains the remains of an earlier Saxon church, an ancient font and stone coffins. There's also a memorial to the airmen and journalists who died in a plane crash on Grindon Moor during the terrible winter of 1947 when attempting to bring relief supplies to the village.

What to look for

Near the church gates is an old stone known as the Rindle Stone. It contains the inscription 'The lord of the manor of Grindon established his right to this Rindle at Staffordshire Assizes on March 17th 1862.' A Rindle is a brook that only flows in wet weather. Why anyone would want to establish legal right to such a thing is not explained on the stone.

Where to eat and drink

The Black Lion in the nearby village of Butterton is the ideal spot to relax after a day's walking. Built in 1782 this atmospheric, country hostelry has low beams and roaring open fires. Children, dogs and walkers are especially welcome and there is a wide range of food available including a selection for vegetarians. Real ales on tap include Morland Old Speckled Hen and Theakston Black Bull Bitter.

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