Sunday, 13 September 2015

Derwent Valley Heritage Way Section 2 Grindleford to Rowsley

Grindleford Station
After our promising start on the Derwent Valley Heritage Way we were eager to do another day.  Being a Sunday it would usually have been a bit of a problem with public transport but here in the Peak District there are perhaps more buses available than any other day due to the demand from hikers and other day trippers.  Thus we managed to find a fairly easy connection from Rowsley to Grindleford but only changing buses at Bakewell and having a layover of about 10 minutes.  The second part of the journey was a particular treat as we got to sit upstairs at the front on a double decker bus.  The journey took about 50 minutes altogether and we were able to get going reasonably early in the day.

Grindleford Church
We wandered past Grindleford station cafe once again and it was already busy.  We weren't tempted though as we had already had a big breakfast at our hotel.  We retraced our steps back down into the valley and were soon alongside the river once again.  It was like saying good morning to a friend!  The first part of our walk resumed its course through the woodland we had entered yesterday and although overcast the breaks in the cloud suggested that we might be in for a better day and the opposite of day 1 when we started good and went grey.

Horse Hay Coppice
After a few minutes we left the wood behind and our onward path crossed several fields before reaching the village of Grindleford, which is about a mile from the station of the same name.  On our way through the fields the children had rather an amusing encounter with the sheep we passed.  A couple of them wanted to make friends and followed us for some distance.  Overhead we heard the call of a pair of buzzards that were whirling around - not sure if this was a mating ritual or they were hunting in tandem?  Anyhow their call pierced the morning sky and was pretty much the only sound we could hear in the very peaceful countryside.

Froggatt Tepees
At Grindleford we crossed the main road and I took a brief look at the church there before we carried on.  Almost immediately the character of the path changed once again.  The path was proudly announced at the beginning by one of the signs that were put out by the Peak District and N C (Northern Counties) Footpaths Association.  This one dated from 1908.  What followed was a delightful woodland walk through Horse Hay Coppice at the foot of Froggat Edge.  I have walked along the top many times but don't really remember walking along the foot of the Gritstone Edges.  Although nothing like as dramatic as the cliff top walk this route was perhaps just as enjoyable and I could see that a circular walk incorporating both elements would be fantastic to do.

Froggatt Bridge
The woodland was quite short lived and we soon came upon the picturesque village of Froggatt after crossing a few fields.  Here we spotted a rather unusual looking tent over in the distance - it looked like it probably belonged to scouts or guides but was a pretty retro design.  Along the short stretch of road we had to walk along the houses all sported extremely well kept gardens and these were being lit nicely by the emergence of the sun.  At Froggatt we changed banks on the Derwent, crossing via a wonderful old arched bridge.  On the far side as I went to look at the bridge more closely I spotted a grey wagtail right in front of me on the bank.  It hung around long enough to tempt me into getting my camera out and ready then promptly flew off – what a tease!

New Bridge
Our path headed alongside the river until the next bridge at Calver.  It was very noticeable how much wider and less full of energy the river was now but this was explained in part by a large weir ahead just in front of the latest bridge.  This powered an old mill, long since retired from service.  The bridge looked as if it had once been a toll bridge and now carries the redirected A625 road.  This was once the ill-fated Mam Tor road but has been rerouted along here to join another trans-Pennine route.  The old workers cottages alongside the bridge were very beautiful – I wonder if the workers realised how sought-after their homes would have been when they lived in them?

Water Board House
Our onward route took us through some very shady woodland and into a field of not just cows but a very large and healthy looking bull.  We gave all of them a very wide berth, especially when initially they looked like they were coming towards us with a certain amount of intent.  Luckily there was no problem with the herd but it did cause a moment of hesitation – you hear stories of other hikers having problems so always best to be wary I think.  We passed a small caravan site in Curbar before passing the very large mill, which was open for approximately 150 years to spin cotton.  The impressive old mill is 7 stories and must make for an impressive place to live in.  Sadly it isn’t possible to get a particularly good view of it as the old place is surrounded by quite a lot of trees.

Calver Mill
We crossed underneath another main road at this point via a rather gloomy subway that seemed a little out of place here in the countryside.  We passed alongside a housing estate and then it was back to the same pattern of crossing fields and passing through small wooded areas alongside the river until we got to Baslow.  Always pleasant walking we were surrounded by the noises of sheep and overhead birds – mostly crows and the odd buzzard rather than singing birds.  The views across to the Gritstone edges were splendid too now that we were a bit further back from them.

Calver Gardens
After a couple of miles we reached Baslow and crossed the river once more when we got to the main part of the village.  On the far side of the little arched bridge was a rather curious little turret – perhaps an ancient sheltering point?  Baslow itself seems a well-heeled village with some good looking shops and houses especially by the church which was just the other side of the bridge.  We dog-legged through the village avoiding the main roads, which do rather spoil the place a bit.  At the green at the far end of the village we stopped at the café for a cup of tea and a bit of a rest.  This was very welcome for all of us for the overcast day that we had started out on was pretty warm now.

Heading Into Baslow
Having refreshed ourselves we checked with the girls that they still had the energy to complete the remaining 3-4 miles to Rowsley.  They were in uncharted territory to a certain extent from here as up to now we had been mostly limiting walks to 8 miles and we were already at that point.  Nevertheless they were keen to carry on and so we proceeded into Chatsworth Park via a most unusual turnstile type gate.  This was designed to keep the deer from have free right of access beyond the park.

Once inside the park we could quickly see that a major event was in the process of being packed away.  There were still large numbers of tents erected and a few refreshment vehicles and stalls being packed away.  I don’t know why but I rather suspected that this may have been a religious gathering as the people were all better dressed than you might have expected from a campsite.  They were tucked down one end of the park quite away from the main house, which we could now see in the distance.  The park was busy as you might expect, not only from the crowd in the tents but also associated with a cricket match taking place a little further on and day trippers eager to take in the magnificent scenery of this iconic place.

Chartwell Tents
Our path crossed the Derwent once again outside the main house, which still belongs to the Duke of Devonshire.  It is probably the main tourist attraction in all of Derbyshire and a mecca for many an overseas tourist.  We went ourselves a few years back and it is definitely an amazing place well worthy of the attention it gets.  By now the big puffy clouds that had been around for much of the day were replaced by wispy ones which seemed to suit the landscape rather better.  The river was rather a different kind of watercourse as it passed through the estate – somehow tamer and definitely factored into the overall look of the park.  Away in the distance we could see a herd of the deer that famously roam about the place.  I can remember being held up by these as I negotiated the road through the estate a few years ago.

Cricket at Chartwell
As we moved south through the park we gradually climbed up and away from the river.  The crowd soon thinned out until we reached a car park at the south end of the park, which was enormously busy.  Luckily most of the people parking there were interested more in the farm shop than walking our route and so we soon left them behind.  We headed through a beautiful little hamlet that I suspect is owned by the Chatsworth Estate.  The gardens were exquisite in the few houses were there and they seemed to be having a competition to see who could grow the tallest sunflower.  With all the flowers in the gardens and a few wildflowers in the fields beyond the houses were attracting a lot of attention from the local insect life.  There were plenty of bees and butterflies servicing the flora in this area.

Chartwell House
Our onward route took us across a very large and rutted field that wasn’t the easiest to walk across.  The miles had now caught up with the girls and they needed a lot of sweet bribery to keep them going for the last mile or so into Rowsley.  The weather had gone full circle by now as the wispy clouds that we had seen earlier had now formed a blanket layer across the sky and we were once again in overcast conditions.  As we entered the village we crossed underneath the former Manchester to Derby railway line.  This is one of the few sections that isn’t in active use as a transport link as this part is not cycle route as further north nor preserved railway as further south.  The viaduct over the Derwent still looks in pretty good condition and I suppose could carry trains again with minimal refurbishment.  To their credit Derbyshire County Council have preserved the route of the railway in case it gets the go ahead to re-open.  It certainly looks like one of the dafter decisions of the Beeching era.

Chartwell Estate
Rowsley seems quite an agreeable place but sadly, as with so many villages in the Peak District, it is rather spoiled by the extremely busy main road passing through it (in this case the A6).  For us it was journey’s end and the prospect of the long drive back to Sussex.  The girls were justifiably proud of their day’s work as we completed 11 miles on this section.  The variety of the route was quite amazing too given that we followed the same river for only a few miles.  I think all of us left wanting more and very soon!

Rowsley Viaduct


  1. Looking forward to reading about this walk. I did a small stretch a few years back, it looks like it is a good route.

    1. Hello Jon - so far so good (and I have a couple more days in the can) but I have a horrible feeling it isn't going to end well...