After our abortive attempt to do this walk a few weeks earlier we were pretty pleased that another opportunity came along pretty quickly at the end of the Easter school holidays. This would be a rather different section of the Derwnt than we had been used to thus far as the hills were now long behind us and the terrain was pretty flat for the whole route. We parked in the village of Shardlow about as close as we could get to the end of the hike and got the bus to Derby Station to resume the walk.
|Former Railway Building|
It was a bright sunny day to begin with although being a spring day it always looked like it might change later in the day. For now though we enjoyed the warmth as we retraced our steps along the road that we had had to run along a few short weeks earlier. The station at Derby still gives a hint of the mighty railway centre that it once was. It is perhaps the only city in Britain that still builds trains and a few underground ones destined for London were lined up just near the station. Most of the other buildings are now mostly used for something else but there is no doubting their original heritage. The houses opposite are also clearly railway cottages and what a fine sight they make now they have been gentrified. I don't suppose they ever looked as smart!
We reunited with the river and headed eastwards under the concrete bridges of the ring roads; a far cry from the beautiful Peak District section. In fact the next mile or so of the walk were fairly charmless as we wandered along a stretch of river now seeing some massive changes on either side as the former railway yards and depots are now transforming into a more 21st Century landscape of retail parks, business parks and rather uninspiring looking housing. Perhaps the latter will look better when they have blended in a bit but I always think that new houses are a bit stark.
The river wound around the biggest edifice of all - the large expanse of Pride Park, home of Derby County FC. They were at home today against one of the other 12 founding members of the Football League, Bolton Wanderers. Fans were starting to gravitate towards the ground although it was pretty early for kick off, which wouldn't be for a couple more hours. We wandered by and soon we lost the rather temporary looking landscape of regenerated Derby and entered a rather pleasing park after passing underneath yet another railway line.
The mood of the walk changed almost instantly. We were now in Alvaston Park and this was a well tended landscape full of daffodils and a few hopeful fishermen sitting around the pond at the heart of it. As we headed further east the Saturday football matches were in full swing and the intensity of one of them suggested that it was one of some importance. At the far end of the park we passed by a BMX track but sadly this seemed to be out of use for the day. I would have quite enjoyed watching the youngsters performing their tricks as we went by.
The river was a constant companion and it was getting ever wider and man-managed with weirs and other devices designed to tame it and stop it being such a flooding threat to the settlements around. Almost imperceptibly we were leaving the city behind although looking at the map that didn't seem obvious as there seemed to be plenty of settlement around. Strangely the built up area seemed to diverge away from the river - perhaps the flooding just got out of hand when the nearby areas of Alvaston and Borrowash were developed?
The last of the big weirs was just before Borrowash Bridge and was quite fascinating to watch. An enormous amount of energy accompanied the river as it tumbled over the man made weir. It was around here that we really felt that the countryside properly started. Just beyond was Borrowash Bridge, a single lane affair that had to be signal controlled. This made life rather easier for us in terms of crossing the road, which was welcome as it had the hallmarks of being quite busy.
The field opposite was enormous and I am guessing was normally full of sheep. I base this not on any evidence of sheep but bizarrely because of a large number of swedes that lined the path alongside the river. It was a very strange sight and in fact we didn't think that the swedes looked very appetising for any creature, including sheep. The farmer had dumped hundreds around the field and I suspect that they will end up acting as compost rather than fodder.
About a mile from Borrowash Bridge and shortly after passing some new duck families (broods that were quite big!) we left the river as sadly there is no path along the bank from here to the mouth. It was also about here that we lost the sun as the cloud that had threatened for much of the day finally closed off the blue sky. In fact the showers away in the distance looked pretty meaty and we were hopeful of avoiding one as a severe wetting looked to be a distinct possibility. Our most immediate problem though was negotiating some pretty muddy fields (although nothing compared to last week in Burwash). We were pleased to find ourselves in the lonely feeling Ambaston Village for no other reason than having some solid ground under our feet. The village itself was rather strange - I couldn't quite work out who had decided to start it as there was no church, pub, shop or any other focal point. It is remote enough that you couldn't even call it a suburb. It was mostly silent as we walked through apart from a couple of bods washing their cars. Not a place to linger long that is for sure...
The onward walk to Shardlow can be described as nothing short of completely uninspiring as we trudged along a road for a mile and a half with increasingly grey skies. It wasn't very pleasant and seemed a rather sad end to what has otherwise been such a lovely walk. When we got to Shardlow the children had had enough and we saw a huge shower coming our way and this prompted us to call time on the day here.
There was still the small matter of walking to the end of the trail and so we decided to go back early next day when the weather was an awful lot better. It turned out to be a good call. Sunday morning was everything that Saturday afternoon had not been. The showers had gone and the clouds blown away to reveal a beautiful crisp start to the day. The walk along the Trent and Mersey Canal to meet the mouth of the Derwent was nothing but a pleasure. It was a little strange walking along a towpath again with the river nowhere in sight but it did remind us how much we like canal walking. Thoughts turned to the next walking project now that this one has been completed. We all agreed that it would probably be somewhere closer to home so that we didn't need to find free weekends but just the odd day.
The end when it came was something of an anti-climax. Our guide book suggested that there was a largish concrete footbridge across the canal where it met the Derwent and the River Trent. When we got there though the footbridge was gone, replaced we were guessing by a new metal one some distance further along the river. Apparently the concrete one was demolished in 2003 - just showed how old our guide book was! Anyhow - we felt a sense of achievement finishing this walk and were thankful of such great weather at the end vindicating our decision to save this bit from the previous day.
The Derwent Valley Heritage Way was certainly a fascinating journey. Even the last day although probably the least scenic section still had its moments and the last mile in particular was quite charming. Now onward to a new walking project with the girls!