Risley with Hopwell Parish Council

Serving the people of Risley with Hopwell

Clerk RFO: Sue Dunkley
34 Sparrow Close, Ilkeston
Derbyshire DE7 4PW

Tel: 07854591073

Chapter 13
THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND

Lying some 4 miles north-east of Derby, Morley is a small scattered village situated among the green uplands which divide the industrial tracts of the Middle Trent Valley from those of the great coalfield to the north. What it lacks in 'size however, it compensates for in its interesting diversity of geological formation and associated topography, for within its boundaries lies the junction of the carboniferous rocks of the Pennines with the Triassic rocks of the Midland Plain. Many vague lines have been, drawn in an attempt to delimit the boundary of the Midlands and North, but this geological boundary is probably the truest, so that in reality Morley stands as it were, with one foot in each region.

This section attempts to describe Morley's geographical character, so that if it is to be fully understood it should be used in-conjunc¬tion with a good Ordnance Survey map, and herein lies a problem since Morley lies at the line of intersection of several sheets. However, as re¬gards the 1/50,000 map, "Derby and Burton-on¬-Trent", sheet 128 covers most of Morley and neighbourhood and has the advantage of showing the village in its regional setting, but a small eastern part lies on sheet 129 "Nottingham and Loughborough". For anyone with more than a pas¬sing interest, the most satisfactory map is the 1/25,000 sheet which possesses the double advan¬tage of compactness and detail - the bulk of the village will he found on sheet S.K. 34 "Belper", but sheets SK 44, 43 and 33 are needed to show considerable tracts on the eastern and southern margins of the Parish.

We have dealt so far with the history of the village, and here we look at its past geo¬graphy, or rather its distant prehistory as manifested in its rocks and soils, and this is no less fascinating than their diversity. For instance, the Triassic plateau in the central area, with its rusty red soils and rocks (the colour being caused by iron oxide due to deposition in a dry climate) show that ions of time ago the Morley area must have been a red and arid desert. The coal measures on the other hand indicate formation in a subtropical climate, whilst the coming of the glaciers, as evidenced by the deposits of glacial drift, must have plunged the district into arctic conditions. With this in mind we can now take a more detailed look at Morley's varied topography.

It will be seen from the accompanying sketch map that the area takes the form of a plateau averaging some 400 - 500 feet above sea level, dropping steeply away to the west and north and more gradually to the south and east. Much of this plateau is composed of marls, sandstones and pebble beds, but the higher and more broken sections in the north-west lie over grits and shale's, whilst the eastern slopes are developed over the Lower Coal Measures.

The Coal Measures form part of the great coalfield which extends north and eastwards into Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, but within the Parish boundary is found the extreme south-western limit of these rocks, a boundary marked approximately by a line drawn from the summit of Cloves Hill in the north and extending via Littlewood and Morley Rectory to the top of Stanley Hill. East of this line lie the rocks of the Lower Coal Measures made up of a varying mixture of shales, coal seams and Sandstones. These give rise to undulating country between 250 - 400 feet above sea level which slopes gradually down to the valley of the Stanley Brook, which has some fairly large tracts of Al-luvium and some marsh - a fact indicated by its many attendant willows and alders. Several minor streams flow eastwards to join the brook, and these have low rounded interfluves rising some 50 - 100 feet above the valley floors. These north-south indentations combined with the gen¬eral west-east slope of the country give rise to pleasant rolling, rounded hills. A well marked feature of the area is found in the sandstone outcrop, coincident with the prominence which extends from Morley Lane Stanley to the 400 feet contour north-west of Hayes Park Farm. This forms small, but quite steep bluffs where it approaches the Stanley Brook, especially on the eastern side.

In the north-eastern part of the Parish the country is markedly more open, having the ap¬pearance of a large amphitheatre centred on the valley of a small brook to the south-west of Hayes Wood. The appearance of this area however has been modified by opencast workings (there have been five sites in the Parish) since in this district there outcrops a seam of high quality Kilburn coal, which prior to these workings could actually be traced for one quarter of a mile northwards in the vicinity of Hayes Farm. Despite the effect of these opencast workings, the countryside here is not unpleasant since it backs on to the green slopes of Hayes Wood, and has the appearance of open park-like country. In Morley we are only concerned with the Lower Coal Measures, but it is interesting to note that in the extreme north-east of the Parish is found an outcrop of Silkstone or Clod Coal which marks the western limit of the much worked Middle Coal Measures.

Still forming part of the carboniferous series but giving rise to somewhat more rugged country are the grits and shale's over which the north-western part of the Parish is developed. These in fact give rise to the most prominent feature of the district, in the heath-clad sum¬mit of Drum Hill which rises to a height of 514 feet above sea level. This hill and much of Breadsall Moor lies on Kinderscout Grit, an extremely rough gritstone which is evident in the stone walls which divide the fields in the area. In general the grits and shale's give rise to flat topped prominence falling steeply away some 350 – 400 feet to the valleys of the Derwent and Bottle Brook in the west and northwards into the firs and birches of the combe-like Carr Brook Valley. Southwards the geology underlying the landscape is rather more complex, there being various shale's which have been indented with the valleys of several small brooks and on the whole the slopes are less abrupt owing to a partial cover-ing of Boulder Clay. The landscape here presents a picture of rounded hills, to which in parts the parklands of Breadsall Priory have contribu¬ted to give a very pleasant effect. Turning eastward an abrupt change of scenery occurs with the break of slope corresponding with the wood¬land fence to the east of Drum Hill (which is also the Parish boundary). This is in fact the junction of the massive Kinderscout grits with a more complex series of finer grits and shale's, whose varying resistances to erosion have left their mark on the ups and downs of Moor Road. It was the finer grit of this group which was used to make the scythe and grindstones produced by Morley Quarry. Turning back to the Moor Road area, an interesting feature is to be found in the deposit of boulder clay which lies at the junction with Brick Kiln Lane in the vicinity of the old Brickyard. This clay was of course de-posited by glaciers during the Ice Age and con¬tains stone fragments, thought to have been carried by the ice from as far away as Yorkshire. In the north of the gritstone district, that is in the Brackley Gate area, is found a deposit of extremely rough grit, which gives rise to steep slopes falling rapidly northwards some 200 feet to the Lower Coal Measures and which affords some excellent views extending as far as Minninglow and Stanton Moor in the Peak District. The view from here, especially in clear weather after rain, is one never to be forgotten.

So far, the marginal tracts of the Parish only have, been dealt with, so we must now turn to the heartland of Morley. That is the plateau on which the nucleus of the village is found, as has been noted this plateau is composed of red marls, sandstone and pebble beds which give rise to an almost flat plateau surface of some 425 -450 feet above sea level. In the west, this plateau merges almost imperceptibly with the gritstone area, but the junction with the Coal Measures is quite well marked especially in the south eastern part of the Parish near the church where the sandstone, pebble beds and red keuper marls give rise to a small but bold front rising some 80 - 100 feet and overlooking the broad valley of the Stanley Brook. These formations have been deeply incised by two small streams, and the most northerly of these produces a rather wild brackeny little ravine known locally as the Gripps, in which the nature of the underlying rock is well evidenced. The more southerly stream has produced the sheltered hollow in which the village lies, and this, together with the fact that here the porous pebble beds abut on to the impermeable keuper to produce a spring line, was probably the dominant factor in the sighting of the village. West and south of the church extend the red marl of the plateau which has lent a red tint to the soil so much in evidence along the line of the main A608 road.

In various locations among the marls of the plateau, may be found further pebble beds such as those found to the east of Almshouses Lane in the vicinity of Broomfield Hall and south of the railway at the head of the Ferriby Brook. Generally these have little effect on the landscape except to produce gradual slopes southwards and save where old gravel pits have left minor humps and declivities. Turning southwards along the line of Lime Lane the plateau narrows to a neck between the valleys of the Stanley and Ferriby Brooks before broadening into Chaddesden Common. Here in the south-east of the Parish, there is a much more continuous cover of boulder clay than elsewhere so that steep slopes are generally absent and the soils lack the red colouring of those further west, tending towards a dull buff.

Thus we have attempted to describe Morley's physical character, and though in 1500 years of human occupancy the sequence of clearance, enclosing, embarking and extraction has substantially altered the superficial appearance of the landscape, the hills and the valleys remain much as they were. This then is the background to which Morley's history has' been played - events not earth shattering, but nevertheless, events which form the fascinating story of a typical English village.

Conclusion

And so we come to the end of this short history of Morley, typical of many English villages.

It has been said that a proper understanding of the past is the only sound basis on which to shape the future. Our studies have made us more aware of the community around us, shown what a wealth of treasures we have inherited from the past, and made us realise that it is for us to preserve these and create in our own time a worthy addition, so that this portion of England's green and pleasant land will be as lovely for future generations as it is for us today.