Day 1: Sneinton Hermitage to The Hemlockstone - 7 miles.
Day 1 Photo Album
are there, right by the side of the road, and so,
after viewing the
we proceeded via Fisher Gate and Pennyfoot
Street to cross to Malin Hill directly opposite. From here there was a dilemma
because we were previously aware that there had been three routes. Either,
turn right and ascend to St Mary's church, and High Pavement via Hollowstone,
turn left and ascend via the Long Stairs (currently closed) or proceed a short
way up Malin Hill and then turn right up the Short Stairs. In the event, all
were probably wrong because, straight ahead, a fourth route, Malin Hill, turns
into an old cobblestone path, hanging on to the side of the rock, and emerges
in Commerce Square, right by St Mary's church. This is the way I would take a
packhorse train - without doubt.
Heading west via High Pavement, Low Pavement and Castle Gate, followed by a
brief right and left turn round the castle, took us to Lenton Road - ie 'the
road to Lenton', quite literally - through the fine private Park Estate. On the
left there is Hermitage Walk - which once lead to the second hermitage on the
route but is now occupied by modern housing. However, many old cave remnants
can still be seen at the rear of premises on Canal Street - which runs parallel
to, but below, Lenton Road. A short jitty then leads out of the estate into
the, ironically named, Park Road and public roads again lead us downwards
towards the former Grove pub - currently closed. In turn, Grove Road leads to a
low railway footpath underbridge and onto Lenton where we turn right onto
After a brief sortie to check out the
remains by the traffic
lights, we retreated slightly to take the alternative route to see the other
priory remains before turning right again past the Boat Inn and then across the
main road and walking up the east side of the River Leen. Crossing the Leen by
the back of QMC we continued up the west bank path to Derby Road. From here it
is far quieter to walk along the service roads on the north side of the main
A52 Derby Road, cross the ring road, and then only exit onto the main road at
the top of the rise.
Up to this point, the route had been a surprisingly pleasant way to cross the
city but the next mile, alongside the heavy traffic, was much less so but
was punctuated by a brief detour, into
to visit Arbour Hill where there is probably
the largest and most magnificent oak tree I have ever seen.
Finally, leaving the A52 and housing behind, there is a steep rise to regain
the high ground
along the ridge. From here to Bramcote all is quite peaceful and there are a
variety of paths which meander through the trees. Probably it was always so!
Evenually reaching Coventry Lane (adjacent to the somewhat sinister looking,
and heavily protected 'Plymouth Brethren Meeting House'?), we turned south for
the short roadside walk to Bramcote Hills Park car park and the Walled Garden -
opposite the Hemlockstone itself.
Day 2: The Hemlockstone to Morley - 8 miles.
Day 2 Photo Album
is of unknown origin. As a child I was told it was a volcanic
plug but other theories abound - including a left over 'stack' from quarrying.
The most amazing thing is that no one seems to know for sure! From here it is
an easy walk along Hickings Lane in Stapleford and then across the county
boundary at the River Erewash. Shortly after, the longest railway footbridge I
have ever known, crosses what used to be the northern part of
but which is now a silver birch forest. Across the Erewash Canal, and Ilkeston
road, a good path leads up to Sandiacre Church. This has a very gradual
gradient and stone walling at the sides - suggesting it was once of much
greater significance than it is now.
Another road section finally leads out of the urban area and up to the heights
of No Man's Lane where excellent views are seen to north and south. A bit of a
zig-zag and field paths continue along the ridge until the descent in Hermitage
Wood - where the stone
itself can be found - a scheduled ancient
monument. Dale Church is almost unique in being 'semi-detached' to the
adjacent large (and growing) house. Leaving Dale, a footpath detour avoids the
road around a second Arbour Hill on the route, before crossing the main
Ilkeston to Derby Road and onto Hagg Lane.
Easy walking from here on, Hagg Lane turns into a farm track before reappearing
as Dale Road in Stanley village, just after the site of the former Kilbourne
Colliery. Following the Stanley Brook, the path continues westwards and
crosses the route of the former Great Norther Railway and continues until
meeting Church Road on the outskirts of Morley. Despite only being the access
to a handful of dwellings, this road too has considerable engineering features
(walled sides, drainage and a raised pavement) which seem out of all proportion
to its current usage.
The Morley Butter Cross may now be found inside
yard - which in
itself is one of the best kept churchyards I have ever seen. It also has a
separate chapel for the former Morley family.
Day 3: Morley to Blackbrook - 8 miles.
Day 3 Photo Album
Some nice field walking to start with on this stretch; good paths interspersed
with stiles and the notable
which is of ancient but indeterminate origin! There are a lot of path options
around here but we chose to view the fine almshouses in Morleymoor before
heading north towards Morleymoor Farm via some old clay pits - now overgrown
with trees. Shortly after leaving the farm, and its fine garden, we crossed
the route of Roman Ryknild Street - without noticing - and skirted round, and
through, the back gardens of Brackley Gate to emerge at a fine view towards
Kilburn in the north.
Not far beyond, after passing an equestrian establishment(?) featuring
something rather smaller than the Lothian Kelpies, we reached
Horsley Park and Castle
. This area is an absolute gem where silver birch trees, and oaks, have
grown over the former castle site and associated stone quarries.
Descending towards Coxbench (previously 'Tanton Cross'), and the A38, we passed
some rather fine kennels,
with viewing portals in their fence for both humans and canines. The access to
the former quarry leads down to the re-sited
St Anthony's Well
at Coxbench and our
route under the A38 and thence crossing the routes of the former
Little Eaton Gangway
and the standard gauge line to Ripley. Here we took a look at the
'repurposed' Coxbench/Holbrook Station before taking the road to Holbrook
itself. This road is actually called 'Portway'!
Reaching the top of the ridge at Holbrook there are some fine views, east and
west, before descending to Makeney (and the Holly Bush Inn!) and thence to
Milford - although the footbridge is no longer publically accessible since the
garden centre and Millhouse pub have both closed.
The climb up Sunny Hill out of Milford is remarkably steep but the views are
rewarding - notable for the quickness with which it overtakes the height of the
former mill chimney! At the top there is not only a railway tunnel air vent by
a golfing green but also the bizarre
which was apparently
built as an aid to railway alignment during that construction.
The ridgeway from here along North Lane gives outstanding views to either side
initially but then, after passing the former WWI rifle range wall, of Belper to
north. This road is laid with large stone cobbles, many of which have sadly
moved and allowed considerable erosion. This is sad - but at least means that
passing wheeled vehicles cannot spoil a good walk!
After a slow descent to Farnah Green, the path again took us round the back of
a few gardens before spitting us out at a junction of paths and then heading
towards the woods above Lumb Grange. Heading north, it was only a short way
along Lumb Lane to cross the Lumb Brook before meeting the A517 at Blackbrook.
A brilliant day's walk.
Day 4: Blackbrook to Middleton Top - 8 miles.
Day 4 Photo Album
Climbing the rough Longwalls Lane from Blackbrook, we travelled along a very
similar road to North Road on the previous day - ie a rough, eroded cobbled way
between two stone walls about 30 feet apart. In this case though, the way was
rather more heavily overgrown - but readily passable and with excellent views
to either side. The last part of the lane is tarmaced and meets with other
routes at the former site of Knave's Cross. After another couple
of hundred yards we were off into the fields, en route passing near Crowtrees
The views were continually outstanding, with Crich
Stand visible to the east and Ratcliffe Power Station to the south. Good field
paths, but some indifferent stiles, lead to a junction with three lanes on the
approach to Alport Height. Back Lane leads round to the entrance to the Height,
from which 360 degree views extend as far as the
Long Mynd in Shropshire,
miles away! Fantastic!
At this point in our walk, we could see incoming rain clouds which
unfortunately blotted out the sun for the rest of the day. They also spoiled
some of the views, and photos, but I will endeavour to get some improved images
at some point for today's album. Some pleasant quiet lane walking led us past
the huge Hardhurst Farm and to Breamfield Lane - from which the view of
Wirksworth and its quarries is unparalled - at least in good weather!.
Near the staggered crossroads at Wirksworth Moor there is a
of arguable provenance, in
the field. The route next takes us down through pretty Little Bolehill and
thence via a footpath to Bolehill itself on the north-eastern corner of
Wirksworth. At this point, we need to turn left onto the former
Cromford & High Peak Railway (CHPR)
but to do so means going through the arched bridge,
right onto a bridleway and thence onto the trackbed. There is a another
potentially useful car park here at
- the last place in England to
have had wolves - allegedly. I say allegedly because there has been talk of
reintroduction and, if a blood curdling howl I heard in the 1970s on a foggy
evening a little to the east was anything to go by, then they never went away!
From here it is only a short walk along the trackbed to the
and another good car park, visitor centre and facilities. There is much of
interest along here - bits of old railwayana and the, still functioning,
Steeple Grange narrow gauge railway
built along the trackbed of a former CHPR
quarry branch. There is also some inexplicable, and inexcusably confusing
pseudo-railway sculpture, whose sole purpose seems to have been to have used
money that would have been better spent on the infrastructure upkeep or
Day 5: Middleton Top to Grangemill - 8.75 miles (with deviations).
Day 5 Photo Album
This was our most energetic day so far. Having skirted
on our previous day via the northern route, this (later) route goes via the
town itself. The descent from Alport Height was quiet and easy along narrow
roads with only a hedge-cutting tractor to pass by. On Taylor's Lane there is
supposedly Folly Well in an adjacent field but we could not access it -
name features in several local places. This whole area is very attractive -
especially around Holehouse and Doveswood Farms, the ford across the brook and
along Pratthall Lane.
Gorsey Bank is an attractive suburb of Wirksworth, with the stone-built
Providence Mill and other buildings of note. Our route crosses what is now the
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
- a restored line with much of interest in Wirksworth itself.
From Wirksworth itself (aka 'Stone Town'), rather than follow the road up
towards Middleton Top, we followed a more direct, traffic-free route, along a
series of footpaths through the disused
quarries and then fields to reach the Cromford & High Peak Railway (CHPR) just
west of where we finished the previous walk. To close the gap we followed a
farm track eastwards and then looped back along the old railway to the same
point before proceeding north-westerly past Moor Farm.
From here we descended yet again towards Arm Lees Farm, and under the former
CHPR Hopton Quarries Branch, before ascending again to go arund he north side
of a still active quarry and its huge wind turbines. Leaving the quarry
behind, the way should have got simpler but the footpath directions are in a
bit of a
mess and we struggled to find the correct paths to get us to Harborough Rocks.
Some stiles are definitely missing (!) but we found our way to
eventually and enjoyed the magnificent views all around from the High Peak in
the north, to Ratcliffe Power Station in the south, beyond Carsington water in
the middle distance. Here also, amongst other industrial remains, may be found
a former cave dwelling, a chambered cairn and some more recent memorials. The
rocks appear to be well used by climbers.
Back on more obvious footpaths, we descended past New Harboro Farm and onto a
decent track for most of the route to Grangemill. The last part of this
demarked bridleway was somewhat muddy but gave interesting views of the
quarries here and the
below. Somehow we missed a path towards Ible which, on consideration, then
leads onto other paths following a route which may have been a more serious
contender for being the Portway?
Day 6: Grangemill to Conksbury (Medieval Village) - 7.52 miles (with
Day 6 Photo Album
This was a good day with relatively easy walking, several ancient sites -
varying from mines to hermits caves and a stone circle - and some gorgeous
the narrow Grange and Tophill lanes ascend rapidly - but
not quite so rapidly as the alternative footpath straight across the fields -
eventually reaching a common point above
Ible where four lanes meet. Turning northwards at this point, Whitelow Lane
continues northwards and then splits. For the next couple of miles there is
ample evidence of mine working. This is the western edge of the former great
lead mining district of Bonsall
- in which some of my ancestors once toiled.
Taking the western track branch, a straight line of stiles at field boundaries
leads eventually to Bonsall Lane which is crossed to reach a high point above
It is only a short descent, along Occupation Lane, now part of the
LimestoneWay, to the
main B5056 at the
Winster lead ore store
- an ancient version of a 'night safe'. Continuing along Islington Lane (aka.
the Limestone Way), with Winster to the east, the path descends gently, past
the former Portaway Mine (one of two near here), towards the lower land before
Robin Hoods Stride.
Here another ascent,
alongside what appeas to be an old hollow way, leads to open access land where
the rocks are worthy of exploration, not least because there is yet another
hermit's cave! (Although I haven't found the 'proper' one yet...)
Also here is what is left of the former
Nine Stones Close
stone circle (now just 4 stones) on private land. This whole area is worth
some exploration. There is a separate standing stone, removed from the circle
and now in use as a gate post, along with a possible barrow. On reaching Cliff
Lane, there is another good view of the stones before a descent through the
woods on the way to
Ths is another very quiet lane with good
views around - notably towards Stanton-in-the-Peak where there is the
stone circle and other ancient monuments.
Alport is a bit of a dream village, scenery wise, although I suspect it can be
rather bleak in winter in the depths of its narrow valley. From here, another
Dark Lane leads northwards past the signs of other former mining - most notably
Raper fluorspar mine.
The Portway continues along the centre of this broad
ridge between Over Haddon and Haddon Hall but we bore slightly left to visit
the sight of the former
medieval village of Conksbury.
In the intervening
fields there appears to be some terracing - which too may be medieval in origin.