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Tutbury's Crystal Ball

A short stroll tracing fortunes found and lost in this industrious little village.

Distance 2.7 miles (4.4km)

Minimum time 1hr

Ascent/gradient 88ft (27m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Road and field track, 8 stiles

Landscape Town, farmland and riverside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 245 The National Forest

Start/finish SK 213293

Dog friendliness Keep on lead at all times

Parking Ample parking at Tutbury Mill picnic site

Public toilets At town car park in Tutbury

1 From the picnic site, head right at the roundabout into the town. Stay right at the first fork and, after 200yds (183m), head right up a footpath to St Mary's Church. Pass the church and the castle entrance to the main road. Go right here and, at the top of a short hill, follow the footpath signs to the right.

2 Go down this footpath to the flood plain. Walk through a swing gate, before heading diagonally right to the far right-hand corner of the field. At this corner head right into the next field and then left over a stile into another field. Continue diagonally right to another obvious stile-footbridge-stile. Cut off the left corner of the field, aiming for the middle of the left-hand hedge.

3 Cross the stile here and walk straight across the long meadow, heading for the left of some farmhouses in the distance. After 600yds (549m), at the meeting of two hedges, cross a wobbly stile and continue with a hedge to your left. Cross an awkward double stile at the end of this field and keep following the hedge to your left.

4 Just after Boundary House to your left, go right along the obvious concrete track back towards Fauld Cottage Farm. Head to the right of the farm gate, off the concrete, to a stile. Over the stile, head straight across the middle of the field to an obvious gate on the far side. After the gate, head straight towards the castle, back the way you came.

5 At the left-hand end of the meadow, where the path meets the river, cross the stile and skirt left around the bank beneath a line of trees. Cross Mill Fleam to the weir and then head sharp right keeping a hedge to your right. Follow the faint path along Mill Fleam back to the picnic site and the car park.

The village of Tutbury, just across the border from neighbouring Derbyshire, boasts a long history of making, and finding, money, and nowhere is this more obvious than at the picnic site near the start of the walk. In 1781, a five-storey mill was built here on the Mill Fleam, an artificial braid of the River Dove. Originally it was a cotton mill employing over 300 workers, with two 14ft (4.3m) waterwheels powering an astonishing 7,000 spindles. Mill Farm, across the road, was originally a warehouse.

After over 100 years the cotton mill closed but, in 1890, Henry Newton acquired it for making plaster of Paris from gypsum, mined in the Fauld Hills 2 miles (3.2km) west of Tutbury. In its purest form, gypsum is known as alabaster and because it is relatively soft it is ideal for ornamental carving. Gypsum is also used for brewing pale ale, which accounts for the flourishing beer industry in Burton on Trent, 5 miles (8km) to the south. Production of plaster continued until 1968, when the mill was demolished, but British Gypsum still mines in the Fauld Hills, extracting some 650,000 tons of gypsum annually.

Despite all this hard work and industry over the centuries, there were easier ways to find your fortune in Tutbury. In 1831, men excavating the river to improve the flow of water to the mill found several hundred medieval coins. The river was quarantined to prevent looting and a major dig was conducted. Remarkably, more than 100,000 silver coins were recovered, some of which can still be seen at the Stoke city museum in Hanley. The question was, where had the cash come from?

The answer lay in a battle fought and lost over 500 years before by Thomas, Duke of Lancaster and Lord of Tutbury Castle. Thomas sided with the Scots against his cousin Edward II in the early 1300s, so the King attacked the castle to teach him a lesson. Thomas lay in wait at Burton Bridge, but was outflanked and duly defeated by Edward in 1322. His fortune was smuggled out of the castle, but the horses floundered crossing the river. When it was found again in 1831, it was claimed by the Crown.

These days Tutbury is known more for its fine Georgian crystal than its bloody medieval heritage. The first glassworks were founded at the height of the Industrial Revolution, and today there are two in the village, both with excellent factory shops. At Georgian Crystal, glass is crafted right there in the shop.

Where to eat and drink

Tutbury Crystal Tea Rooms serve a variety of sandwiches, snacks, home-made cakes and drinks. For something a bit more substantial, Ye Olde Dog and Partridge boasts two good restaurants. It is also one of England's oldest coaching inns, dating from the 15th century.

What to look for

The elaborate west door of St Mary's Church in Tutbury, built c1160, is a fine example of Norman craftsmanship and is believed to have been made from local alabaster. It has seven orders, most with intricate beakhead mouldings, alongside beasts and other figures on the capitals.

While you're there

Tutbury Castle is as interesting as the rest of the town and is well worth a look. The vast earthworks date from c1070, but much of the stonework that exists today dates from the 15th century. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here by Elizabeth I before being beheaded for treason, and during the Civil War it was a Royalist stronghold, after which it was demolished by Cromwell's troops.


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