A walk from Duffield through a secret part of pastoral England. An ancient Celtic highway with shadows of Napoleon. Dark Satanic Mills. A World War Two bomb hole ! And a middle class playground leading to a rebel Norman Baron’s castle, all seen in one 6.5/7 mile walk.


The Ecclesbourne valley that leads down from Wirksworth to Duffield is one of the most beautiful vales in Derbyshire.  With its peaceful verdant water meadows, its sheep walks and pastures where a plough has hardly scratched its surface for century’s, all combine to make it a wonderfully pleasant and serene land to wander through.

This walk follows the valleys namesake the river Ecclesbourne, upstream from the town of Duffield near Derby.  It then heads north-west for a couple of miles or so until it leaves the river to cross over the little single-track railway line of the Ecclesbourne Railway.

From there it climbs northwards towards the hamlet of Hazelwood to swing round to the north-east through small woodlands and little hedged in fields, still slowly climbing it picks its way up to the ancient Celtic highway of the Chevin Way.  The old road that heads south along the top of the Chevin ridge from the village of Farna Green, that lies just to the west of the old mill town of Belper.

Here, you are on the highest piece of ground for some miles and get expansive views over the Amber Valley, the River Derwent and the town of Belper itself.  In the foreground stands the giant  East Mill of English Cotton, its red bricks contrasting starkly with the old 18th-century stone-built Jedediah Strutt Mill that stands next to it by the side the river Derwent.

From the southern edge of the ridge, sylvan paths lead down through woods, and on through the greens of Duffield’s Golf Course, eventually bringing you out under the great mound of Duffield’s Norman Motte and the remains of its medieval castle.


Park on the free parking area adjacent to the Duffield Memorial Sports Field at the end of the Donald Hawley Way, Duffield.

OS Explorer Map 259, Derby.  SK 348 434.

To find the Donald Hawley way.

 As you drive north from Derby on entering Duffield turn right, {west} off the A6 onto Makeney Road, {sign posted Little Eaton and Holbrook}.   Take the 2nd turn right just after crossing the railway bridge/line on to Church Drive, drive along it to towards St Alkmunds Church.  Just before the church car park turn right and drive back on yourself under a bridge to join the Donald Hawley Way, {sign}. Drive along the narrow road adjacent to the railway for about 1/4 of a mile to reach a free car park next to to the Millennium Meadow Sports Field and Nature Reserve.

Within the text, Y’FM’ indicates a yellow footpath marker, E’W’M’ the Ecclesbourne Way and M’W’M’ the Midshires Waymarkers.

The Walk.

The Millennium Memorial Nature Reserve and the confluence of the river Ecclesbourne with the river Derwent.

{This first section is optional for those who would like to see the confluence of the rivers Ecclesbourne and Derwent.}  

On the east side of the car park, you will find the entrance into the reserve with an information board describing it.  Walk into the reserve and follow the path southwards by-passing information boards and a couple of wooden benches until you see a small pond on the right, shortly after this you come to the River Ecclesbourne.  Turn left and follow the river {north} to where it flows into the River Derwent, as it makes its way southwards before ploughing on through the city of Derby.  From there it heads east to join the River Trent near Sawley, where it turns to the north on its long slow journey up through the county’s of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire to join forces with the river Ouse before falling into the North Sea near Hull.  The Vikings highway into the midlands.


The main Walk

From the car park walk back along the road that you drove in on {south}, for about 50 meters to a green footpath post/sign on the right, take this path and walk through the underpass beneath the railway line.  Turn right immediately after the underpass and walk along a metalled path between the river and railway until you see the Ecclesbourne Railway Station through the fence to your right.  Just after the station the path joins Chapel Street, turn left and walk down to its junction with the A6 in the centre of Duffield.


Cross the busy A6 highway to the road opposite, {Tamworth Road}, this road starts just to the left of the bridge carrying the A6 over the River Ecclesbourne.  Walk down Tamworth Road as it curves to the left then back right by-Passing the handsome townhouse of De Ferrers Court to cross over a stone bridge leading to a road junction with Crown Street.  Turn left down Crown Street and walk along the road passing the delightfully named Duck Island Lane on the left until you come to Riverside Cottages.  Turn left down a narrow ginnel just before the cottage, to pass between two gritstone posts at the start of a footpath that leads you on down to a raised continuation beside the river.  Amble along the enclosed path under the shade of its Alder and Wych Elm lined banks with the gentle rippling of the stream to accompany you until the path joins a wider metalled drive below a children’s playground


Bear left onto the drive and keep following the river until the road bends to the left to cross over a bridge above a weir.  Take the narrow metalled path on the right just before the bridge, {green footpath post and a C’W’M’ on the end of the post and rail fence}.  Follow the fence and river until you arrive at a lamppost on the edge of an open scruffy meadow.  In front of you is a gravel track, walk three or four metres along this and bear left on to a grass path that follows the river, keep on this until on the far side of the meadow it re-joins the gravel path just to the left of a pair of large wooden electricity poles.  Bear left on the track and follow it between the river and the new houses to your right until eventually, you come out onto a private road called the Ecclesbourne Reach.


Turn left and walk along between the new houses of Ecclesbourne Reach and Meadows Farm, at the end of the road descend down three steps on to a gravel path bearing to the right and bringing you up to a squeeze/gap in a gritstone wall, {E’W’M  C’W’M’}.  Step through and walk directly over the paddock to a stile in the fence opposite.  Walk across the next field to squeeze between two wooden posts in the fence line E’W’M’.  Immediately in front of you is a wooden Wicket gate, close to it is a tall green footpath post/sign indicating that you are at the junction of three footpaths, E’W’M’, C’W’M’.   Enter the meadow and cross over it in a diagonal direction towards a gap at the right-hand end of the hedge line facing you.  Metal five/bar gate with a wooden wicket to its right, E’W’M’

Looking back towards Duffield and the bend in the river

Once through this you come hard up to the River Ecclesbourne again, follow the bend in the river and walk upstream to a solitary wooden post standing at the end of a hedgerow, E’W’M’.  Keeping the hedge to your right as it curves to the left, pull your self away from the river and follow the hedge-line around the right-hand edge of the meadow to pass through a wooden wicket gate.


Keep following the hedge along the edge of the sheep walk until eventually, you arrive back at the river Ecclesbourne at a stout three stepped stile in the corner of the meadow,  E’W’M, C’W’M’.  Scramble over and follow the stream until on the right you see a rusty metal farm gate and wide wooden bridge leading over the river.


Walk over the bridge, enjoying grand views up and down the slow meandering Alder lined river, to follow the hedge/fence on the left for 20/30 metres before reaching a metal farm gate and a rickety stile.
{The area around the gateway can be a cattle poached and muddy horror, particularly so in the winter and can be a bit of a challenge to negotiate}. 


Once you’ve extracted yourself from the mud! Turn right and follow the hedge-line until you reach the Ecclesbourne Railway line connecting Derby with Wirksworth.  Keeping an eye open for trains, pass over a broken rail/stile and cross over the railway to an improved stile on its far side.  Y’F’M’.


Once over the stile walk in a diagonal direction to the far left-hand corner of the meadow, heading for a large Ivy-covered Ash tree with a stile just to its left, Y’F’M’.  Climb over onto a short wooden bridge crossing over a small ditch and enter the next meadow.


Follow the hedge, under Oaks to a metal farm gate with a stile to its left, Y’F’M’ on the rear of the post.  Cross the stile and walk across a second short wooden bridge to a post and rail squeeze, pass through, turn right and walk a few metres to climb over a stile standing under a large old Oak Tree.
Walk on climbing gently uphill sticking close to the hedge line towards Hazelwood Hill and a metal farm gate with a stile to its right, Y’F’M’.  Cross the stile and keep following the hedge as it curves leftward up towards the village.  At the top of the meadow in its right hand-corner set under a scattering of young Ash trees, you come to a Wicket’, standing just to the right of a metal farm gate.


Pass through to scrunch up the limestone drive, passing just to the left of a large old half-dead Oak tree with a solid gritstone bench sitting beneath it.  Walk on through the stone pillared gateway {wooden five-bar gate}, by the side of a rather posh barn conversion until you come out opposite Primrose Cottage on Hazelwood Hill Road.
Turn left and plod on uphill for two or three hundred metres until on the left you come to a small gritstone house called The Homestead.  Take the narrow grassy path on its right-hand side, {wooden footpath post/sign}, to a wooden wicket, Y’F’M’ on the rear of the post.  Pass through into the meadow.


The next few meadows are a pure joy to walk through.  Well maintained hedgerows and verdant little sheep walks of the sort that was so common just after the war.  This combined with the grand views over the Ecclesbourne valley make walking through them a delight.


Head straight over the narrow meadow to a wooden Wicket’ Y’F’M’, go through this and walk directly through the next pasture up to a second Wicket, Y’F’M’.  From here head towards a gateway in the hedgerow set just to the right of a small scrub copse with a large Ash tree sticking up within it.   Squeeze through the gritstone squeeze stile to the right of the gate.  Keep straight on, skirting a Gorsy bank on the left to a Wicket’ and another grit’ squeeze’, set in the hedge-line lying in front of you, Y’F’M’.


Go through into the next field and pick your way through Molehills to walk under two large Oak Trees in the broken hedge in front of you, then carry straight on to a break in the next hedge-line just to the right of a large old Oak.  Pass under the oak and out into the meadow to traverse around the lefthand side of the garden of Hob Hill Cottage, bringing you up to a wooden Wicket gate standing under a large Ash.  Go through onto Hob Lane, {public footpath sign on the road side}.


Turn left and walk down Hob Hill Road to the last two houses on the edge of the village, Garden House on the left Hob House on the right.  Just beyond Hob House is a wooden five-bar gate, stile to its left, wooden finger-post and faded Y’F’M’ on the gate post.  Climb over and enclosed with a hedge on either side, walk down the narrow grass ride until you reach the end of the right-hand hedge-line.


Follow the hedge-line to the right towards a scruffy looking wood, enter the woodland through a gap in the wire fence, {overgrown stile to its right}.  Bear left, bypassing the butt end of a large old wind-blown Ash tree.  Keep following the path through the Bramble bushes, {roughly north}, until you come to a small pond, balance your way round its left-hand side on a narrow path just above the water line to arrive at a post and rail fence.  Stile under the tall hedge on its left-hand end.

  Enter the small paddock and follow the large overgrown Holly/Thorn hedge on the left to a gritstone squeeze stile in the paddocks left-hand corner, {the Y’F’M’ points to the right, ignore this}.  Keep following the old hedge to a metal five/bar gate with a squeeze made out of old railway sleepers on its right, Y’F’M’. Pass through into a narrow meadow and carry on along the hedge-line passing through an old gate-way to walk straight over the field towards a stile in the hedge facing you.  Climb over it and out on to Over Lane, {green metal finger-post on roadside}.


Turn left and walk along Over lane for about thirty metres or so and take a footpath on the right immediately to the left-hand side of Greystones Cottage, {green footpath post}.  Squeeze between the cottage’s wall and a Holly hedge to walk along the side of the property.  Pass through a gap in the hedge and out into a large arable field.


From here head in a diagonal direction straight across the arable’ heading for a large Ash tree in its far left-hand corner, pass through a gap in the hedge onto Lumb Grange Lane.  Turn right and walk down the lane.


Meander down this lovely lane for about half a mile, until you reach Lumb Grange bear to the left to follow the road around the right-hand side of Lumb House; a house with a view.  {Here be football money !}  After about fifty metres or so the metalled road turns into a bridle/farm track.  Plod on down the bridle’ for a few metres to a metal farm gate and pass through a Wicket’ to its left.


The following third of a mile as the track gently drops down towards Lumb Brook is just superb.  Passing as it does through ancient overgrown hedgerows, its banks Hazel lined and full of wildflowers until towards the bottom it enters the Lum Brook wood and becomes even more tree-lined and overhung,  giving it an atmospheric sun-dappled shade.  A fragment of old England to dawdle down and savour.


Far too soon you reach the valley bottom and arrive at metal farm gate with a Wicket’.  Pass through and shortly you will come to a wide wooden bridge crossing the Lumb Brook, cross over and plod on uphill for about thirty metres until you see a five/bar gate on the right, {Amber Valley and Midshires Way markers}.  Go through and  walk the few metres up to a small wooden Wicket gate,
{green footpath marker}.
Walk-in a diagonal direction across the meadow {south-east}, heading for a Wicket gate under a group of larches on the edge of the mixed woodland in front of you, {Y’F’M’ and multiple way markers}.


Enter the forest and saunter along under a line of venerable old Hornbeams leaning hard over the ride and creating a shadowy nave through the wood.  Keep plodding on under the arc as the path gently rises high above the Lumb Brook all the while taking in the lovely sylvan scene below you.  Eventually, the ride gradually rises up to the east edge of the wood, bringing you to a solid gritstone wall and a three-stepped stone stile, {wooden footpath sign with multiple footpath markers}.


Clamber over the wall and out of the woodland into the corner of a field.  Turn left and keeping the wall to your left follow the track between the wall and the field to a metal farm gate, wooden stile to its left, Y’F’M’.  Cross over this and walk straight over a stone drive to the stile opposite, {rusty metal farm gate to its right}. Climb the stile and wander along the drive by the side of a grit’ wall until you reach the village of Farnah Green.


Turn right on Farnah Green Road and walk uphill until on the edge of the village, just past the last house on the right, {Chevin Lodge} you see a restricted by-way sign.
Take this metalled by-way uphill {east} until after about forty metres the track becomes a green lane.  Keep following this charming dusty ride between gritstone walls shaded by tall trees until the track curves to the right.
This is the start of the ancient bridle track called the North Lane


North Lane is a very old roadway that was used by the ancient Celts the Romans and the Anglo Saxons.  Its name the Chevin is thought to be derived from the Celtic word Cefn, meaning a ridge.

From the bend, a fine view opens up both to the north and to the east along the course of the Derwent and the Amber Valley, with sobering views of the large grim red-brick edifice of Belper’s East Mill towering over and domineering the old mill town.


The Cotton Mills of Belper.

The first Cotton mill raised in Belper was built around 1776 by a man with the wonderfully Dickensian sounding name of Jedediah Strutt !  The Josia Bounderby of Belper.  However, Belper could hardly be compared with Coketown, though I’m sure the conditions inside the mills did and that its seen more than its fair share of Hard Times.  

Jedediah Strutt and Richard Arkwright.

Jedediah was a contemporary of Richard Arkwright who in the nearby town of Cromford in the year of 1771 built the first successful mechanical cotton mill in England.  Jedediah raised the North Mill around 1784/86.  This burnt down in 1803 and was rebuilt by his son William in 1804.  The Strutts went on to build three other mills in the 1800s, Junction Mill, Reeling Mill and the unusual Round Mill.  The bleak red brick fortress of the East Mill was the only mill not built by the Strutt family and was raised by the English Sewing Cotton Company in 1912.

Child labour in the Mills.

Child labour was common in the mills and children as young as six or seven years of age would be employed, usually as scavengers or scutters cleaning up the dust and wast cotton by crawling under the machines as they ran.


In 1801 Joseph Farington the Victorian artist commented on the child mill hands leaving their work from the Cromford mills. “These children had been at work from 6 or 7 o’clock and it was now near 7 in the evening.  The time for them resting them is 12 o’clock, 40 minutes.  I was glad to see them very healthy and many with fine rosy complexions” !
So Stuff Childhood !!

In the following year Robert Southey the romantic poet wrote.  That in most parts of England poor children are a burthen to their parents and to the parish; here the parish, which would have to support them, is rid of the expense, they get their bread almost as soon as they can run about !   Though to be fair to Southey; well you have to be don’t you ?  He probably wrote it while off his head with nitrous oxide, something that he and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge experimented with, or maybe, it was Sams old drug of choice, opium !
The Victorians eh;  You have to give it to them !

Strut 2

The House of Commons Committee enquiry into mill workers conditions.

David Rowlands a mill worker who started work in a cotton mill as a scavenger at the age of six was interviewed by the committee in 1832.
“The scavenger has to take the brush and sweep under the wheels and be under the direction of the spinners and piecers generally.  I frequently had to be under the wheels and in consequence of the perpetual motion of the machinery I was frequently obliged to lie flat to avoid being run over or caught.”  {Children of his age were preferred due to their small stature enabling them to crawl under the frames}.  When he got to the age of fifteen, he graduated to be a piecer, working fifteen/sixteen hours a day ! {a piecer had to lean over the spinning machine while it was running to repair broken threads}.  When asked how he was kept up to it he answered.  “During the latter part of the day, I was severely beaten” !  


To continue the walk.
Walk on past a large green footpath sign indicating that you are on the Midshires Way path.  Stick to the wide ride and wander along the North lane between gritstone walls and under scattered trees until gradually it rises up towards a fork in the ride.

The lovely Celandine banks of North lane in the  spring

If you fancy a short detour to have a look at what the locals call the Bomb Hole, an overgrown crater left by one of the few German bombs dropped near Belper in the Second World War.  Take the right-hand branch and walk steeply up under the Beech trees and over the brow of the ridge to descend a short way down the narrow path to find the overgrown Bomb Hole on the left of the track.


To continue the walk retrace your steps to the fork in the ride and take the left-hand branch.  Wander on up the steep ride stepping over outcropping gritstone boulders, overshadowed by tall Sweet Chestnuts and Beeches for a third of a mile or so until on the left you see an imposing tall free-standing gritstone wall.


The Strutt family’s defence of its empire under the shadow of Napoleon.


The wall, twenty-five metres long by five’ high, is the target wall of a firing range.  It was raised by the Strutt family circa 1800 for the local militia, The Belper Volunteer Force commanded by Lt Cl Joseph Strutt and the wall came into its own during the Napoleonic Wars.  Later, it also saw some action in both the Boer’ and the First World Wars.
Around 1890 the Strutt family went on to build a second Target Wall and firing range on Belper’s Wyver Lane.


Keep rambling along until all too soon the ride leads you out of the trees and the view opens up to the right over the links of the Chevin Golf Club, until just after a conifer wood on the left you come to a stone cross-track linking the two halves of the course {warning sign for machinery crossing}.  Cross the track and carry on down the steep ride over outcropping gritstone boulders for about fifty metres, until on the right you see a gritstone squeeze stile, Y’F’M’ indicating the Derwent Valley Walk.  Squeeze past this and follow a narrow enclosed path between the links to a cross ride.  In front of you is a path heading down into Courthouse Farm Wood.  {Wooden Footpath Marker}. 


Plough on down the steep bank under the small contorted Oaks to pass over a second metalled ride, {two footpath posts, Y’F’M’}.  Keep delving on down into the woodland and keeping to a steep dusty narrow path by the side of a gritstone wall soon you will arrive at a narrow cross track.

Looking back towards the gap in the Gritstone wall.

Turn right on the track and almost immediately take a path on the left through a gap in the gritstone wall, {D’V’W’ and M’W’M’}.  This will take you down into a rough meadow offering you some lovely views south over Duffield, the golf course and the Amber Valley.  Walk diagonally down the meadow under the buildings of Courthouse Farm in a leftward direction, by-passing a golf green and commemorative bench.  Follow the obvious path and aim for a gap in a tall hedgerow at the bottom of the hill.

Go through the break in the hedge onto a ride, turn right just before a green metal gate and meander down this lovely green lane under Oak trees, with the ride widening and gradually curving to the left.  Follow the post and rail fence until shortly the ride opens up and bears right to cross over a pipe bridge taking you over a small stream.


Turn to the left and follow the path alongside a low  Hawthorn hedge to a fork.  Take the narrow right-hand path towards a wooden squeeze stile, {Y’F’M’, M’W’M’}.  Squeeze through and follow the path close by the side of the tall mixed hedgerow that stands at the bottom of the meadow.  Carry on to the meadows left-hand corner and a second squeeze’ set in a post and rail fence, {Y’F’M’ and green footpath sign}.

Every spring, to the delight of the bees and butterflies this pasture, transforms itself and turns into a beautiful golden Dandelion meadow.

Looking towards the squeeze from the metalled drive.

Pass through the squeeze and turn right onto a metalled drive.  From here if you look to the north there’s a great view to be had up and over the golf course and its greens towards the woodlands that skirt the foot of the Chevin.  Follow the stone wall and the drive south, curving first left then back right towards the golf club buildings.


Keep walking on between an old gritstone barn that’s been incorporated into the club amenities {clock} and the club car parking on the right.  Here the track bears to the left and the road widens to take you past a smart white low building on your left, {the golf club shop} with some lovely and very well-kept herbaceous flower borders around its edge.   More grand views up and over the links.


Plod on past the houses on the right until you see a wooden footpath post/marker pointing up a path on the left.  Take this narrow track under tall trees for a short distance to come out onto the junction with Avenue Road and the main A6 road on the northern edge of Duffield.  In front of you, behind the sign for Duffield is a steep wooded bank, the remains of the towns Norman Motte and medieval Castle.


The Normans and the Rebel Baron.

The Castle mound was possibly first occupied by the Romano British, followed by the Saxons as evidenced by a few archaeological finds.

William the Conqueror granted the estate of Duffield Frith, Tutbury Castle and 114 manors in Derbyshire to Henry de Ferrars for services rendered after the Norman Conquest and the first Motte and Bailey was built around 1080. The Earthwork Castle was destroyed in 1173 and subsequently, William de Ferrars built a large stone keep on top of the Motte, he also sank a deep well. The keep, about one hundred foot square and with walls fifteen-foot thick must have been an impressive sight when viewed from the Derwent valley and would have made a formidable statement to the native Saxon population.  It was the third-largest keep in the country, only slightly smaller than the White Tower in London.


In 1266 the de Ferrars family fortunes were on the wane and when the Montfortian rebel, Baron Robert de Ferrars was captured near Chesterfield by the forces of Prince Henry, a nephew of King Henry the third, the keep was destroyed and the lands given to King Henrys second son Edmund Crouchback, the 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster.
Crouchback ! Another great name and straight out of Black Adder !


Carry on walking southward under the castle mound alongside the busy A6 until you arrive at a bus shelter.  Just past this on the right you will see a National trust sign and a black metal spiked gate with a  set of steep stone steps behind it, these lead up to the castle.  If you have the time and some energy left and would like to see the surviving remnants of the Keep, climb the steps and they’ll lead you up to a large information board and the few remaining stones of the footprint of the castle.    


To continue the walk, plod on along the busy A6 for about half a mile crossing over a bridge carrying the road over the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway-line, until after by-passing the Kings Head pub you arrive back at the junctions of Tamworth Road on the right and Chapel Street on the left. The two roads that you walked  along near the start of the walk
Walk on past these and keeping to the A6 carry on south through the town for 150 metres or so until you see Wirksworth Road coming in from the right, just past this is a brown sign pointing over the road towards the Millennium Meadow Nature Reserve and a green footpath sign pointing out the start of a public path/drive.  Carefully cross the road and take the metalled drive between houses, to where in about 200 metres you cross a bridge over the Ecclesbourne river, before arriving back at the underpass leading through to the car park and the start of your walk. 


2 thoughts on “A walk from Duffield through a secret part of pastoral England. An ancient Celtic highway with shadows of Napoleon. Dark Satanic Mills. A World War Two bomb hole ! And a middle class playground leading to a rebel Norman Baron’s castle, all seen in one 6.5/7 mile walk.

  1. John

    This walk is lovely but be warned this walk is 10 miles long not 4.5 as stated, great views along the way but we’ve just finished this 16km later!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John, thanks very much for your comments.
      I’ve put the wheel on the map and rechecked the route and found that you’re correct, it is longer than I stated. I make it 6,5/7 miles and have updated my post accordingly.
      I’m pleased that you enjoyed the walk and thanks again for your welcome comments. If you do any of my other walks I’d be interested to hear how you find them.
      All the best with your walking, Johnie.


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