Manifold’s Underground Lake.
The river Hamps begins its journey on the bleak Staffordshire Moorlands flowing south through the villages of Onecote, Ford and then Waterhouses. At this point the river turns north into limestone country where during dry weather it disappears underground, reappearing over four miles away in the grounds of Ilam Hall.
The river Manifold is also partially subterranean, disappearing near Wetton Mill in the Manifold Valley and also reappearing in the grounds of Ilam Hall. This photograph shows where the Manifold river runs past Wetton Mill, which was once a corn mill which closed in 1857 and is now a popular tea shop which caters for visitors to the valley. To find the spot where the river disappears from view I found the easiest way to locate it is from Wetton Mill cross the bridge over the river, then turn immediately left and follow the tarmac road for a couple of hundred yards, on your left you will come to a wooden gate which I found was open, there is a slightly worn path which leads across this field to the edge of the river and the Swallet hole where the river disappears. Close to where the river disappears down the Swallet hole can be found a steel grate which I initially thought led to what has been described as an underground lake close to Wetton Mill, however I was mistaken in this assumption, and having done further research I have found that the entrance is located in a nearby cave. According to Darfar Potholing Club which is located in the Manifold valley, they state the following: During the 1920’s G.H. Wilson, well known for his activities in the Peak District, wrote that he descended a cave at Wetton Mill approximately 90ft. to a lake. Since then it has been filled with farm refuse and partially cleared again. Much work has gone on since in an effort to try and find an entry into this underground system glimpsed by Wilson and his friends. Around this time, an attempt to prevent the water from sinking down the swallets was made by concreting them over. Needless to say, this was in the main ineffective because when the river was in flood, pressure was built up to such an extent that many of the concrete plugs were blown off. Later, more successful attempts were made incorperating cast iron pipes to release the pressure. In modern times the concrete sometimes makes it easier for cavers to find the swallets. Just walk along the dry river bed and it can be seen why.
I was also able to come across the following information regarding this strange underground lake, and is as follows: Between the wars an article appeared in the Leek newspaper stating that a Leek chemist had descended the swallet at Wetton Mill (presumably the solution cavity filled with domestic rubbish in the 1960s at the end of the field adjacent to Wetton Mill Farm). He had found a lake big enough to launch a boat. It contained blind fish which had evolved, having never seen sunlight. There was also said to be a sandy beach at the edge of this lake devoid of daylight. This sandy beach may be hard to explain until one realises the crushed refuse carried away by the river Manifold.
Whether or not Darfar Potholing Club will one day break through to this strange place once more remains to be seen, it is yet another unique place which can be found here in the Manifold Valley in the Staffordshire Moorlands.