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Dale Abbey east window ruins

Dale Abbey and The Hermitage

This weeks dog walk takes us to The Hermitage and ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in the old village of Dale Abbey previously known as Depedale, not far from Ilkeston.  A peaceful and quiet area, this old village has lots of charm, old buildings and fairly busy with visitors.  Sir Sniffalot i.e. Nelson the dog, managed to find plenty of trees to wee against, dragging us through extremes of mud that any Iron Man competition would be proud to have on their course.  The mud is mainly from some chap’s property who is fighting the council as the right of way passes through his property, so he’s sectioned off a path in a muddy field for people to walk through.  Pity about the gradient of the hill that he wants people to walk up.  He feels aggrieved that the whole village and council are against him and pesters people passing to countersign his petition.

The Hermitage at Dale Abbey
The Hermitage

The story of the village begins around 1130 AD when a Derby baker had a dream in which he was told by the Virgin Mary to go to Depedale, now Dale Abbey and live life in recluse.  In Hermits Wood, a remnant of Sherwood Forest, he excavated into the sandstone hillside and lived there for 20 years in The Hermitage.  You can get access to The Hermitage via a very muddy footpath and climbing steep steps.  The Hermitage still looks probably as it did many years ago albeit with the windows a little more eroded.  Inside, The Hermitage is in two parts, the western end a chapel and the eastern end living accommodation.  Looks like plenty of people have carved their name in the soft sandstone.  The Hermit eventually moved out around 1150 AD and built a small private chapel on the site of Dale Abbey Church.  The Hermitage is now a scheduled ancient monument.

Dale Abbey east window ruins
Dale Abbey east window ruins

In the village of Dale Abbey lie the ruins of St Marys Abbey.  Augustinians monks moved from their former home at Calke Abbey to Dale Abbey and were later joined by premonstratensian holy men founding the abbey c1200 AD.  The abbey housed the White Canons (so-called because of the colour of their habits) until the Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1537.  Most of the remains of the Abbey lie in private gardens or form part of current dwellings in the village although via a public footpath, you can get close to the main surviving fragment of the 40 foot high great arch of the chancel east window.  Tradition has it that Allan a-Dale, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men was married at the abbey in the Ballad of Allan a Dale.


English Heritage link to Dale Abbey ruins

Nick Cook

Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, doorstep daytripper, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it. Knows more about swords than is probably healthy for a man.

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