Deuchars' Home Page
The Derbyshire Portway
Walks & Explorations: A rough, illustrated, guide.
By clicking the icon in the top left of the map window, you can select/deselect other options to view or click the icon top right to view full screen.
photos for this map
will also be viewable in album form, section by
section, below, as the walk progresses.
Unusually for my walks, I have created a JustGiving Page in aid of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance. These voluntary emergency services are always in need of donations - particularly at this time. So, as we will be venturing into the wilder parts of the shires, it seemed fitting that we should try and raise a little for them. As the Portway route was primarily for transporting the products of mining, I was also going to do one for the Mines Rescue Service - but they no longer exist as a charity, so send everything to the Air Ambulance using the link please!
The principal route is shown in blue with alternative sections shown in
I was unaware of this ancient pathway until I saw a program on tv, featuring Tony Robinson walking Britain's ancient tracks. The route is unusual because, as he presented it, the south end was a short distance from my home and terminated at the north end at Mam Tor, in the Derbyshire Peak District some 60 miles away.
Further research revealed that, whilst the route is 'speculative' in some areas, there is no doubt that such a pathway existed. In his book, Stephen Bailey (see below) puts forward a good case for the Portway having originally started by the Trent at Nottingham. Similarly, he suggests that it continued at the northern end, from Hope Cross, over the Snake Pass, using a route which subsequently became 'redeveloped' as a Roman road.
The foremost thing to remember here is that the Portway predated not only the Roman roads, but many of the towns and villages we take for granted today and so its avoidance of settlements such as Bakewell, Matlock, and originally Wirksworth, must not be seen as surprising because they simply did not exist at a time when the Portway first developed as a long distance pack horse route between Nottingham and Manchester - and all the mines in between.
Also because of this, it is not surprising that the route changed as time and patterns of trade changed. So, for example, Stephen Bailey suggests an alternative, later, route which takes in Wirksworth (turquoise on my map). The route in blue is primarily Stephen Bailey's suggested 'original' route. This is based largely on a GPX file for the Hemlockstone to Mam Tor section supplied by my friend Ken Brockway (to whom I am indebted) and extended by me to Sneinton Hermitage and Hope Cross at the ends. I have added other alternatives (in green) because either, they involve less road walking or, I perceive them as viable original alternatives - or both! I have also added many other ancient locations, such as standing stones, either because they are again in Stephen Bailey's book or because I found them at www.megalithic.co.uk - or both! The colour scheme again represents those referenced by Stephen Bailey in blue and those from elsewhere, by me, in green.
I have found a number of websites & publications with more information on the
history. The following are just samples.
For a historic map of the area, follow this link and then adjust the
transparency on the slider scale to view the present day appearance (You will
need to zoom and track to find the section of interest):
The best starting point is probably this Wikipedia entry - but this does not acknowledge the whole route.
Stephen Bailey's book may be obtained from numerous sources such as Amazon "The Old Roads of Derbyshire" ISBN-10: 1789018439 ISBN-13: 978-1789018431 and is largely an expansion of an earlier book which dealt exclusively with the Derbyshire Portway. The newer book includes much interesting material on road development and additional Derbyshire walks.
Day 1: Sneinton Hermitage to The Hemlockstone - 7 miles.
Day 1 Photo Album
Day 2: The Hemlockstone to Morley - 8 miles.
Day 2 Photo Album