The Ashby Round, or the alternative Ivanhoe Way.


A 27 mile circular walk through the new forests, ancient woodlands and stunningly beautiful pastoral countryside surrounding the old market town of Ashby de la Zouch in
North West Leicestershire.

The countryside that this walk takes you through is not the dramatic hard scenery of the Peak District that lies only a few miles to the north, but one of a much
gentler persuasion.  This land is old land, hard-worked, well worn and used, as evidenced by the marks left behind after a thousand years and more by the hands of man.  Their stigmata can still be found imprinted in the meadows; the medieval ridge and furrows plain to see.  In other places, the remnants of the ancient forest mound and ditch boundaries on the edge of some of the woodlands. 
The village names too give the lie to its ancient pedigree; many of them Saxon, some Norse while others are Norman and very often a combination
of all three.

The more recent extraction of coal clay, lead and limestone has also left great scars on the landscape; though thankfully with the exception of the dolomite limestone quarry’s of Breedon On The Hill and Cloud Hill, most of this has been worked out.  The wounds from the great opencast coal mines now beginning to callus over with the new National Forest plantations. Though I’m sorry to say that the lesions inflicted by the evil of the Thatcher years on family’s and descendants of the old coal mining community may take a little longer to heal !

Ashby lies at the heart of the new National Forest which means that many of the woodlands you pass through are relatively young, most being established since 1995 when the forest was first inaugurated.  Some are extensions of the existing forest, and some are entirely new plantations.  Since planting started in the 1990s over eight million trees have been established and the woodlands surrounding Ashby have more than doubled in size; something that I never dreamt I would still be around to see in my lifetime.
I’m just a little sad that I won’t be here to see them in their full arboreal glory.

The circuit is not an A to Z yomp; if that’s the sort of thing you want then it’s probably best you do the Ivanhoe Way.  This tour weaves and zigzags around, sometimes taking a detour before cutting back on itself to take in some of the more esoteric and obscure little nooks and crannies to be found in this lovely area.

It starts and finishes from Willesley Wood Lane to the southwest of Ashby and circumnavigates the town in an anti-clockwise direction for twenty seven miles.  All of the walk is on footpaths, bridleways, farm tracks and woodland rides, with the exception of about one and a half miles on road.

The total distance of the combined jaunt is about 27 miles.  Should you wish to do it in short sections I’ve broken it up into six parts of between three to five miles long.

All of the walks can be found on one map, the OS Explorer Map 245 The National Forest, {east sheet}.

Below is a numbered list with a six-figure grid reference for the individual parking spots at the start of each section; as mentioned within the text.
Spot 1.  SK 338 145. Willesley Woodside Road.  Plenty of spots adjacent to the Golf Course.
Spot 2.  SK 377 127. Normanton le Heath.  Park on Main Street near to the church of All Saints.
Spot 3.  SK 396 169.  Church Town near Coleorton.  Park near to St James’s church.
Spot 4.  SK 378 220.  Staunton Harrold Reservoir.  Park at the southern end of the free car parking area.

 Spot 5.  SK 347 209.  Pistern Hill.  Park on the wide layby by the side of the B5006 Derby Road, at the start of a green lane called Mere Oak Lane, {not signed}.  This runs northwest from the top of the Ticknal Pistern Hill.  Limited parking, so try not to block the gateways.

Spot 6. SK 332 178.  Blackfordby.  Park on either Ashby Lane or Sandtop Lane.

Abbreviations used within the text include the following.



{Y’F’P’} = Yellow Finger Post.

{R’F’M’} = Round Footpath Marker.

{T’F’S’} = Tall Footpath Sign.

{N’F’W’M’} = National Forest Way Marker.

Section 1.

Willersley Lane to Normanton le Heath.
Walking from parking area 1 to parking area 2.
Three Miles.


Leaving your car walk south along the shady tree-lined Willesley Lane and before too long over fences to your left you’ll see sweeping away to the east the emerald green fairways and fine greens of Willesley Golf Course.  Keep on slightly uphill until on the left standing behind four large granite boulders you see a wide walk-through stile set in a post and rail fence, grid ref {SK 339 143}.  Pass easily through the stile and enter the golf course skirting to the right around the large green shed standing just in from the road, {R’F’M’}.


Follow the track curving rightwards under the trees up to a {Y’F’P’}.  Carry on past this for a few meters to a second finger-post, turn left here, and looking out for low flying golf balls cross over a narrow fairway to a small clump of trees; these thin and open up as the track rises towards a young semi-mature
oak woodland.

On the edge of the woodland, you’ll find a short {Y’F’P’}.  Follow the path behind it to weave and work your way up through the oaks to a second fairway; this one much wider.
Again keeping an eye open for flying golf balls, walk in a slightly diagonal direction leftwards over the highly manicured fairway towards a {Y’F’P’} sitting on the edge of the wood;
not that easy to spot.
 A delightful little section that allows some lovely views, both up and down the fairways.


Enter the wood and walking under the canopy of young oaks weave and wind your way through the woodland, by-passing a broken {Y’F’P’} attached to one of the oaks.  From here, as you approach the edge of the wood you begin to hear the rumble of traffic drifting over from the A42.  Leave the woodland to enter a small rough triangular grass meadow, {Y’F’P’}.


Follow the path around the left-hand side of the meadow sticking close to the edge of the wood.  Keep going, all the while enjoying the roar of the motorway !  Until in the left-hand corner of the meadow, the footpath disappears under the rough overgrown hedgerow to find a {Y’F’P’} standing close to a broken down wooden stile set in a post and rail fence.


Either clamber over the stile or squeeze by, to continue down a muddy alley in the shadowed gloom between post and rail fences, until eventually, you come out onto the exit slipway of the A42 as it leads down from its northern carriage-way to join the island on Measham Road.


The next few hundred meters are probably the most unpleasant part of the walk, though thankfully short, and once you’ve turned your back on the A42 to leave the fumes and hum of the motorway behind, the lovely tranquil meadows, quiet woodlands and sleepy little villages to the south of Ashby beckon.

Taking great care and all the while looking to the right for speeding traffic exiting the A42, cross over the slipway onto a narrow metaled footpath.  Bear right and follow it under the bridge carrying the A42 over Measham Road until you come to a second island on the carriageways south side.


Again taking great care, turn left and cross the road passing through a small triangular central reservation to the east side of the carriageway and up to a {T’F’S’} announcing Packington 3/4 of a mile. Take this footpath and walk down the steps leading to a tall wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.
Phew ! Not the most fun part of the walk.


Climb over the stile to enter a sugar beet field.  Turn left to walk by the side of the noisy wooded embankment of the motorway for about 100 meters.  To the right, you should see a well-worn path passing through the middle of the crop towards the hedge at the far side of the field.  {Bridge and Y’F’P’ in the hedge line}.


Take the bridge passing over a ditch and through the hedge to a stile; climb over this into a large arable field.  {Unplanted when I walked this section at the beginning of June}. Walk straight over the plough heading for a {Y’F’P’} and metal kissing gate sitting in the low hedge line on its far side.  Pass through the gate or the gap to its right into a rough grass field.  Continue straight up the meadow on to the crest of the hill, {east}.  From where below you, standing out beneath two tall conifers, you can see the squat square tower of Holyrood Church in the village of Packington. 


When I walked this part of the round in the spring, I had the privilege of being serenaded by a beautiful exultation of skylarks as they took to the wing.  Hovering high in the sky, becoming no more than mere black specks against the vivid blue of the heavens.  Rising and falling with lungs bursting and wings outstretched they deliberately and slowly descend before parachuting vertically down, melting once more into the green sanctuary of the meadow.
The distilled essence of an English summer day and
a total counterbalance to the noise and madness of the A42!


Stroll down through the field aiming for the church tower to pass through a wooden wicket gate at the bottom of the meadow and out onto a farm drive.  Walk straight over passing under a line of young lime trees to a metal wicket gate on the edge of the village sports field and playground, {Y’F’P’}.  Enter the sports field and follow the hedge on the left towards the children’s swings etc.  Walk around the left-hand side of these to a short metaled path leading you down onto church lane, {T’F’S’}.


Pass through a wrought iron gate into Holy Rood churchyard and follow the metaled footpath between its ancient gravestones towards the church tower and its leper steps.  Sticking to the path follow it under the left-hand side of the church before exiting the yard at its far left-hand corner.  Wander on down a broad shady drive between high walls and hedges until you come out onto Mill Lane. 


Turn right here and walk on down the Lane, by-passing on your right the village school, before too long you come to the lane’s junction with Bridge Street.  After admiring the fine old thatched cottage on the left, cross over the road, {can be a little busy}.   Turn left {east} and follow the footpath alongside the lane to pass over a wooden bridge above a small stream called the River Gilwiskaw.  Follow the pavement for a further 100 meters until opposite the junction of High Street and the Bull and Lion pub
you find a {T’F’S’}.


Obeying the footpath sign, and ignoring the {Private Drive} notice, turn right to walk down the drive of No 1 Maplecroft for 5 DSC01625meters, before bearing left to follow a narrow public footpath between high close-clipped hedges up to a post and rail walk-through stile.  Plod on along the short-cropped grass ride between fences to a narrow wooden bridge with metal piping hand-rails leading over a small brook, {N’F’W’M’}. Wander on to pass over a second small bridge; this takes you out into a new forestry plantation called  Plumer’s Wood.  {N’F’W’M’} on the post and rail fence.


On entering the wood take the left-hand of the three rides that lie before you. Bypassing a ride coming diagonally down from the left continue straight on following the slightly overgrown track up through a well thought out mixture of young native deciduous trees, until eventually, you come to a National Forest information board and {Y’F’P’}.  To the left of these and just to the right of a metal farm gate sits a wooden stile, {T’F’S’}.


Climb over the stile and out on to Redburrow Road, walk straight over  the road to a metal farm gate with a two-step wooden stile to its right, {T’F’S’, Y’F’P’, and N’F’W’M’} 

On the stile, you’ll see an old broken warning sign announcing Bull in Field !
I’ve walked this section of the walk several times and up to now have never met up with a bull.  Though as you pass through the next five fields you can expect to encounter beasts of some variety or other; either cows or young bullocks.  So it’s probably wise to keep your eyes and ears open just in case.


Step over into the meadow and walk across to the far hedgerow, {south eastwards} all the while aiming for the distant spire of Holy Trinity Church in the village of Normanton le Heath.  Just right of centre in the hedge-line you’ll come to a {Y’F’P’}, and just beyond this a metal farm gate with a wooden stile to its left.

Scramble over and enter into the next meadow heading for a wooden stile and {Y’F’P’} ten meters left of a set of wide galvanised metal farm gates.  This stile leads onto a narrow bridge with metal piping handrails above a small slow-flowing brook running under the tall overgrown hedge.  Cross and enter a long meadow to follow the right-hand hedge-line.


Stick to the hedge until you come to a metal farm gate with a wooden stile to its right, {Y’F’P’}.  Clamber over and head directly across the pasture to the next hedgerow; wooden stile with {Y’F’P’}.  Scramble into yet another hay meadow and wade directly through the middle of it, all the while heading towards Normanton and the church spire of Holy Trinity before arriving at a railed in metal wicket gate set just left of a clump tall of blackthorns.   


Pass through the gate to cross over a railway sleeper bridge and out into a potato field, {Y’F’P’}.  Stumble straight on through the ridges heading for a distant {Y’F’P’} standing just short of the fields far right corner.   Sitting behind the post, hidden beneath a small crack willow you will find a metal wicket gate.  Pass through into a barley field and ignoring the stile and {Y’F’P’} on the left, follow the tall hedge southwards alongside the crop for about 50 meters until in the hedge you see a metal wicket gate.


From here looking to the southwest over the beautifully mixed patchwork quilt of fields, woodlands and meadows sitting between you and the village of Packington, you realise just how much height you’ve slowly gained since leaving Willesley.
Maybe the village should have been named
Normanton on the Hill.

Climb a small flight of brick steps to pass through the metal wicket’ into a long narrow meadow.  Walk up this {east} in a diagonal direction heading just to the left of a new-build red brick house, {Normanton House}; pass through a metal wicket’ left of the wide farm gate set in the post and rail fence at the right-hand corner of the field {T’F’S’}.
This will take you out onto Main Street, Normanton le Heath near parking area 2.


Section 2.

Normanton le Heath to Church Town. Coleorton.
Walking from parking area 2 to parking area 3.
Five Miles.

Cross straight over Main Street to walk through a pair of rusty old wrought iron gates in the left-hand corner of All Saints churchyard.  Following the boundary hedge, walk beside the gravestones up to a wooden stile in the yards far left corner, {Y’F’P’}.


   Before you continue the walk you may fancy having a look around the exterior of this lovely little church.
The church itself dates from the 13th century and was built sometime during the reign of King Henry the third, AD 1216-1272, though its thought on the site of an earlier wooden church.
Interestingly, the first part of the village’s name of Normanton doesn’t as you might think come from the time of the Norman conquest; it was recorded in an ancient episcopal register from an earlier period as being a settlement of the North-men i.e.
The Danes.

I’m sorry that I can’t describe the interior as unfortunately whenever I’ve paid it a visit I’ve always found it locked


Scramble over the stile to walk down a small sloping sheep meadow, following the overgrown hedge under trees down into a shallow valley.  Cross over a railway sleeper bridge above the small ditch that feeds a pond on your right.  Plod steadily up to a wooden stile set between post and rail fencing in the left-hand corner of the meadow, {Y’F’P’}. 


Take the stile and walk along under overgrown brambles and trees for a few meters to enter an old orchard.  Walk on through the surviving remnants of its ancient apple trees to find a wooden stile in its far left-hand corner, {Y’F’P}.
Clamber over into small horse paddock, trot over this in a diagonal direction to its far right-hand corner where just to the right of a pair wooden electricity poles you will find a second wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}. 


Climb over the stile out onto the junction of Heather Lane and Hollow Lane, as it leads up diagonally from the right, {T’F’S}.  Cross carefully rightwards in a slight diagonal direction over Heather Lane heading towards a metal farm gate sitting in the hedge at the back of the wide grass verge/parking area opposite.  A few meters to the right of this, set under a {T’F’S’}  you’ll find a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’ and R’F’Ms}.


  Pass over, or squeeze around the stile into the rough overgrown corner of a potato field.  Push on through the weeds, stumbling diagonally rightwards through the middle of the ridges aiming for a metal kissing gate on the edge of a new forest plantation {Y’F’P}.
This is the western edge of the

Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood.


The Jubilee Wood.

Tree planting started in the Jubilee Wood in collaboration with the Woodland Trust the National Forest Company and local authorities in year 2012, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
The forest itself covers an area of some 460 acres and up to present over 300,000 trees have been planted, with species including oak, birch, alder, ash, willows and hazel.  This makes it at the moment the largest single expanse of woodland within the National Forest.
A significant part of the woodland is planted on reclaimed opencast mining areas, while other areas are the remnants of old farmland, their old hedge lines incorporated within it.  As you walk on through the forest you’ll find that its not just one continuous blanket of trees, in places there’s open areas of grassland/meadows; including a large lake with bird watching facilities; all making for a very pleasant walking experience.

Archaeological finds on the site are many, these dating from as far back as the NeolithicDSC09649 period right up to the present time.  One of the finest discoveries occurred in the 1970s when a Bronze Age Palstave Axe in mint condition was discovered by a farm labourer.  Other finds of interest are of Roman and Medieval pottery, along with Iron Age tools.

The fact that Roman 
artefacts have been found should come as no surprise at all, as the ride/roadway that you are about to walk along to reach the Forest Information Barn was once part of the old Roman road between Colchester and Chester.


After studying the colourful Woodland Trust information board standing just right of the track, pass through the kissing gate and continue marching down the old Roman road.
At first, the road passes through a broad grassy area between young saplings, until after crossing over an old farm track
{large old ash on the right}, it starts to follow an ancient hedge-line; just one of the old hedgerows left behind from when the forest was farmland.
Keep tramping on until after passing over a cross ride, on the right a tall wooden sign points out the direction to the Visitor Barn.
Follow the sign and head for the barn.  


Shortly after this the ride curves slightly to the left.  By-passing a {Y’F’P’} standing on the right continue until you come to a wide gravel cross track.  Turn left here to find sited under a tall clump of ash trees the Visitor Barn.


 After spending a while looking around the barn and taking in all the information it has to offer turn left {north}.  Scrunch on down the stone ride as it curves gently leftwards through young trees and by-passing a wooden viewing bench sitting next to the entrance of the broad wildflower meadow on the left.  


Keep following the old hedge-line, all the while heading towards a tall distant wind turbine as soon the hedge gives way and the plantation starts to open up on both sides, the views widening over the tops of the young trees and shrubs towards a lake.  At a cross-track turn left, by/passing a bird hide over to the right and while ignoring a ride coming in from the left follow the main stone ride around the side of the lake. 


Wander on alongside the lake enjoying the pleasant view over the water towards the wind turbine, until after by/passing a large grassy/meadow area sweeping down from the left you reach the lake’s northern shore.  Here the ride curves to the right before gently curving back leftwards to meet a cross-track.  On the right, just above the water line sits a wooden viewing bench; a grand spot to sit, linger and eat your lunch while watching and
listening to the waterfowl.
Return to the track and follow it bearing right towards an information board, this gives information about the young plantation of trees growing behind it named Sainsbury’s Wood.  An area of woodland planted with a donation of money from the supermarket chain of that name.
Continue north along the wide hard track to a wide galvanised metal gate across the track with a mountain bike squeeze stile and wicket gate on its right.


Squeeze through to continue wandering on northwards.  With the wind turbine now over to your right pass through newly planted willows and alders towards a grand piece of mature deciduous woodland dominating the left-hand side of the track. 


Trundle on following the hard ride as the woodland closes in slightly on both sides and the trail gently weaves back and forth under the forest canopy, until you arrive at a wide metal wicket gate set in a post and rail fence.  Go through to find on your left a Jubilee Wood information board,{Y’F’P’ opposite}.

Turn to the left and ignoring the small path arriving immediately from the left, bear right under the shade of the trees for a few meters until you meet a broad muddy green lane.  Turn left to follow this charming ancient roadway along the edge of the dark and atmospheric woodland, all the while through the tall overgrown hedge and trees to your right getting the odd glimpse of the arable fields and meadows surrounding the forest.


In places, this bridleway can be very rutted and waterlogged.  The low lying woodland on the left now comprised mainly of superbly tall straight stemmed water loving black alders, here and there dotted with the odd large sycamore.  Stick to the mud and puddle dodging, until soon after by/passing a ride coming in from the left the track becomes hard and dry underfoot, the way pleasantly overhung with oaks and hazel.


Soon the wood gives way to fields on either side, the track still lightly overhung with hazel and thorns.  Before long you’ll see a farm gate on the right leading into a barley field, soon followed by one on the left with a kissing gate to its right.  Ignore these gates and keep to the ride for a further 180/200 meters, until on the right hidden behind dense blackthorn and elm coppice, standing on the edge of a cornfield you will find a {Y’F’P’}.

This post is very difficult to spot ! The path through the undergrowth being both vague and narrow, so you’ll have to keep your eyes well open not to walk on past it.


Push on through the undergrowth to the post.  From here plough straight up through the centre of a corn field towards the chimney stack that you can see sticking up above the crest of the hill, {north}.  According to the OS map, this cottage is known as
The Altons.


On cresting the hill, walk straight down to a {Y’F’P’} standing at the right-hand corner of the cottage garden.  Turn right here, following the tall hedgerow up towards woodland and the corner of the cornfield; bear left through a wide gap on the end of the hedge into a large field of barley.


Turn right {east}, sticking hard to the woodland up into the right-hand corner of the barley and onto a wide grassy farm track/headland.  Follow the track leftwards {north} between the crop and the hedge.
Here, as you slowly wander along your eyes will be drawn to t
he wonderful rural scene over to the west and the north, way out over the fields and woodlands of the north midland plain.


Follow the headland as it gently curves down to the right, until after passing a small thicket standing on the right of the track, you arrive at a pair of wide metal farm gates, {wooden stile on the left with Y’F’P’}. Clamber over and follow the track, by-passing a small picturesque duck-pond just to the right of the trail and just before passing through a pair of rusty old farm gates, {R’F’M’}.


Approaching Alton Grange, you come to an unusual little sawn in half cottage standing just inside the remnants of an old decaying yellow sandstone wall.  The hovel sits just to the left of large ugly breeze block and asbestos barn !  You can only assume that they chopped the cottage in half to make way for the concrete eyesore. Odd!


Just beyond the cottage you come to a pair of metal farm gates, {R’F’M’} on the rear of an old wooden post at the right-hand side of the gates; wrestle with the gates and pass through onto the main farm drive.  Turn left, and leaving the farmhouse behind plod on down the road towards a piece of mixed mature woodland.  Continue on under the dense shade of splendid old beech and oaks, until shortly the wood on the left gives way to a small meadow.  Its worth lingering here for a while, leaning on the rusty old farm gate and taking in the grand views out to the west over to the
National Forest.


Too soon the woodland on the right gives way to a large cornfield {Y’F’P’ on the edge of the wood to the right}. Ignore this and keep plodding along the drive following the long thin strip of mixed woodland on the left with the arable field to your right, until you come to the Altons Hill road, opposite the dry-stone entrance pillars of Little Alton Farm.


Turn right and walk up Alton Hills road for about 80/100 meters until just after by-passing a wooden electricity pole, on the opposite side of the road, hidden under a large clump of sycamore coppice you’ll find a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’, quite difficult to spot}. 
Awkwardly climb over into an extremely over manicured grass meadow; just one of the fields belonging to the privately developed Alton’s Hill Farm standing over to your left.  Continue along the side of the hedge. 


When I last did this section in late June, the hedgerow was a colourful flutter of peacocks red admirals and painted lady butterflies, all franticly taking full advantage of the trailing wild rose, bramble flowers and thistles growing under the hedge.

Plod on, until shortly after passing under a Mushroom topped oak in the corner of the meadow; sitting under a tall old ash tree lies a wooden stile.  Climb over, or better squeeze to the right into a second over-cropped field, {Y’F’P’}.  Continue following the hedge towards a wooden stile five meters left of the meadows right-hand corner, {Y’F’P’}.

Climb over onto the top of the wooded embankment of the A511, follow a flight of steps down to the road, {wooden footpath pointer at the bottom of the steps}. 


Cross the road, take great care this is a very busy road}; turn left and walk 15 meters along the grass verge to a second {wooden footpath pointer}.  Following the pointer, turn right to climb steep a set of steps up the embankment through young trees to a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.  Scramble over and walk straight over a narrow grass break to the next wooden stile, {R’F’D’}. Clamber over onto the wooded top of a railway embankment.  Traverse diagonally leftwards, descending a narrow path/steps steeply down through the trees onto the railway track.


This Single track railway line is the old Burton on Trent to Leicester line that passes through the centre of Ashby’.  Sadly the line is now only used for transporting goods.

When I was young the line still had passenger trains running, and we often used them to get to and from the shops in Burton or Leicester.  At that time the train was usually pulled by a steam loco, this making the trip for a small boy a real adventure.  From Ashby, you could travel by rail to anywhere in the country on what was a slow, though not always on time reliable form of transport.  On bank holidays day trips from Burton’ were common, you could take a special into the peak district, or from Leicester a trip to London, these amongst many others.  They were a regular feature and very popular.  Ok, the trains were dirty, smelly and rattled; but they were there, and they did run !  This carried on into the 60s until all passenger services on the line stopped and were sadly missed.
  Recently there have been efforts to reopen it as a commuter line and it to be appropriately named The Ivanhoe Line.


Obeying the warning sign to stop look and listen !  Chug over the single-track line to a set of steps leading steeply up the embankment.  Grind up the steps through a leafy sun-dappled tunnel, zigzagging towards the top to arrive at a substantial two-step wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.


Scramble easily over to enter the gorgeous tangle of ancient oak woodland called the West Farmhouse Wood.  Continue under the wood, following alongside the old pleaches of a long-neglected and overgrown hedge.  In places, whole sections of the hedge have been taken over by giant stools of hazel coppice forming a splendid natural arch above the ride, these remnants of the old forest boundary.


Too soon this part of the wood ends and you enter into a younger section of woodland; roughly sticking to the hedge keep following the track.  When I last walked this section in mid-June the ride was quite overgrown though passable, in some parts more open, deep with nettles, brambles and the scent of waist-high cow parsley.


Brush on through the undergrowth for quite a way, shaded by a nicely thought out young plantation of ash, oak, birches and hazel , until veering slightly to the right the path brings you up to a {Y’F’P’} and wooden stile.  Squeeze to the right of this and out on to West Farm Road, {T’F’S}. 
Turn right and walk along the road for approximately 100 meters, until on the left you arrive at a gateway/lay-by.  Take the gateway and by-passing a heavy iron barrier walk through a narrow strip of woodland out onto the edge of a wide barley field


Head straight through the barley heading for a {Y’F’P’}, standing just to the left of a wooden electricity pole on the hedgerow opposite.  Turn left and walk along the wide bare headland, until you arrive at a point where the headland and hedge jig off to the left; to the right is a wide break in the hedgerow.
Pass through the break then turn immediately left into the corner of the following barley field, bear right and follow the headland down to a wide gap.  Ignoring the break, bear right to plod along the rutted grassy headland on the side of the barley crop. 


Stumble along for quite some way until you arrive at a small copse in the left-hand corner of the field.  Here just before the thicket, a track leads off leftwards down through the cow parsley and into the scrub.  Follow this ride down under big old thorns and elder bushes to a galvanised iron farm gate with a wooden stile to its right, {Y,F,P,}.


By-passing the duck pond to your left and a large grassy mound on your right immediately pass over a second stile/gate into a wide hilly sheep meadow 


I think the mound looks quite interesting, to me it resembles a Norman Motte, though not indicated as such on the
OS map ?


Climb the up steep sheep meadow heading towards the chimney stacks of the hamlet of Farm Town that you see peeping up above the crest of the hill, {Y’F’P’ at the apex of the field}.  Ignoring the post, turn sharp right here to wander down the side of the hedge, by-passing a cattle trough and farm gate into the bottom left-hand corner of the pasture.

In the corner on the left, under the tall ash trees and bushes that line the side of a small brook, you will find a {Y’F’P’} marking the entrance to a concrete bridge crossing the stream.
{Galvanised metal piping handrails and a stile at both ends}.


It’s possible to reach the bridge by cutting straight across from the pond and so avoid walking up the steep hill to Farm Town, though this is not marked as a right of way on the current
OS map.

Cross the bridge and clamber up the steep bank to walk straight across a narrow sheep meadow up to a young thick hawthorn hedge, pass over a new two-step wooden stile into a large wide field of barley.


From the stile, find a suitable line of tractor tracks heading dead east straight through the middle of the crop.  Keep about 150 meters left of a wood and sticking to the tracks continue to wade on down through the barley towards Coleorton Moor Woodlands; when you reach the edge of the forest turn left.


Follow the broad bare headland, curving first left then back right to a {Y’F’P’} standing on the edge of the wood.  Ignore this and bearing left keep following around the edge of the semi-natural woodland, to where the headland curves to the left and the wild wood gives way to a hedge.  About ten meters along the hedge you’ll find a wooden stile, {R’F’M} on the fence post.


Take the stile to enter a delightfully unimproved pasture, that thankfully has never felt the iron of a plough for generations.  Turn to the right and meander on northwards, picking your way through scattered thorn bushes and treading the lovely green humps and hollows on short springy rabbit cropped turf, all the while heading towards the tiny Victorian chapel of St John’s, in the hamlet of Church Town, {Coleorton}.


Sited on the right-hand end of a post and rail fence stands a metal wicket gate, {Y’F’P’}.  Pass through and leaving the meadow walk along a narrow grass footpath between the wooden fence at the edge of the village school playground and a tall hedge on the right.  Until after about 60 meters, on the right you arrive at a  pair of black wrought iron gates leading into the graveyard of
St Johns church.


If you have the time, you may fancy walking between the superb avenue of Irish Yews that line the side of the path to look around the exterior of this delightful little building. 
The chapel was built in 1867 in the Victorian Gothic style of the time by the Beaumont family of nearby Coleorton hall, as the graveyard of the parish church of St Mary the Virgin was becoming full.  Unfortunately as with All Saints in Normanton, because of the Coved crisis at the moment its usually kept locked, so up to now I’ve never managed to get in to see the 16th centaury alter piece.   It’s said that the panel was transferred from St Marys at the time of building and was donated by the Beaumont family.

Return to the path, turn right, and following the church wall walk out onto Ashby’ Road to parking area 3.

Section 3.

Walking from parking area 3 to parking area 4.
Church Town Coleorton to Staunton Harold.
Five Miles.

More or less dead opposite the chapel, hiding in the hedgerow is a tall footpath sign pointing down through the undergrowth towards a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.  Not that easy to find. 


Step down a couple of steps and climb over the stile into the corner of a large wide meadow.  Head down the hedge-line by-passing a rather ostentatious house seen to your right, to squelch down into the bottom of a boggy shallow valley. 


 Splodge through the mire in to climb up its far side and ignoring the first {Y’F’P’} on the right carry on for a few more meters to a second.  Scramble over the stile into a small wildflower clearing; where If your visit is in mid-June, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful froth of Ladies Bedstraw set with bright jewels of Meadow Cranesbill, Dog Daisies, Knapweeds and all shrouded in a myriad haze of butterflies. 


Push your way through the tall Canary Grass and Juncus rush around the perimeter into its far left-hand corner, to where under a large goat willow you’ll find a {Y’F’P’} Pass beneath the willow following an indistinct track down to a well built wooden stile, {R’F’M}.


Climb easily over and up the bank to come out onto the A511 Ashby, Road, {T’F’S’} on the roadside.  Cross the road in a slight diagonal direction to the right, aiming for a {T’F’S’} on the far side of the road.  Drop down the bank to a wooden two-step stile,
{R’F’M’s and Y’F’P’}.


Climb easily over the stile and walk diagonally left through a small rough clearing to a {Y’F’P}.  From here, bearing left walk straight on through a gap between a couple of goat willow bushes.  Squelch on through the bog, pushing through the greater hairy willow herb and tall marsh thistles up to a second {Y’F’P’}.


Ignoring the {R’F’Ms} attached to the post, turn right following an indistinct path through short rabbit cropped turf until after weaving between scattered thorn bushes you arrive at a {Y’F’P’}.  Curve down to the left to pass between two tall goat willows and by-passing a {Y’F’P’} walk out into a wide-open area.   Plod on passing yet another {Y’F’P’}, ignore the post diagonally way over to the left to carry on under a large dead horse chestnut tree to a {Y’F’P’}.

After passing under a couple of large sycamore trees take the path down to the right.  Continue weaving down through thorn bushes and small trees to enter a long narrow meadow that has almost been completely taken over by wavy hair grass and the tall spindly stems of marsh thistles; two {Y’F’P’s} turn left at the second post to walk on through the grasses.


Brush on the through a deep dense sward, that in late June could be named butterfly alley.  Meadow browns, ringlets and blues all taking advantage of the mid-summer sunshine.  Green woodpeckers like this spot too; Yaffling, they come to feed off the bare mounded castles of the red ants poking up out of the rough herbage.  Towards the end of the meadow, heady scented honeysuckle spills over scattered thorn bushes, as the course grasses give way to much shorter turf allowing knapweeds and lady’s bedstraw to grow.  From here the path bears to the left passing between tall alders and thorns, {two Y’F’P’s}.


Step out into a massive field; this too has almost been completely taken over by wavy hair and other grasses.  Turn right and walk towards the right-hand corner of the grassland {Y’F’P’}, by-pass this to find a short wooden bridge and stile under a large overgrown hedgerow, {Y’F’P’}.


Pass over the bridge and out into a long narrow field.  Turn right and head towards the cottage that you see sticking up above the hedgerow.  In the corner of the meadow find a wooden stile, this will take you out onto Lower Moor Road.


Turn to the left and walk ten meters up the road by-passing the cottage to find a {T’F’S’} on the right.  Follow the sign and step over a wooden stile sitting just to the right of a rusty farm gate.  Walk over a small meadow to a wooden stile in the hedgerow opposite, {Y’F’P’}.


Mount the stile and scramble over the rails onto a long sloping close-cropped lawn, sticking to its left-hand edge walk under a couple of ornamental maples up to a large white cottage.  In the left-hand corner of the lawn locate a set of rails/stile leading out onto the cottage’s blue brick drive, {R’F’M’}.  Cross the drive diagonally to the break and set of wooden rails in the hedge opposite, {R’F’M}.


After negotiating the fence,  sticking to the hedge line walk across the end of a small garden towards a wooden five-bar gate, squeeze past the right-hand gate post to enter a second more
extensive garden.


Continue straight through the plot, walking over a wide strip of short-cropped grass/lawn between soft fruit cages and vegetable plots towards a white house at the end of the garden.  Bear left just before reaching the house, to find a two-step stile set just to the right of a new wooden five-bar gate.  Step over the stile and out onto Aqueduct Lane, {T’F’S’}.


  Turn to the right and saunter down the lane, by/passing an unusual and quaint little dwelling called Francise’s Cottage.  Continue passing more scattered houses and cottages for about 300/400 meters until you arrive at the surviving yellow sandstone pillars of the early 19th-century bridge known locally as the Aqueduct Bridge.


The Pillars are the surviving remnants of Stephenson’s Bridge, built-in 1832 and opened in 1833.  It was built to carry the Coleorton Railway Line.  DSC00120A single trackway on iron rails four foot wide and horse-drawn, was constructed to transport lime and coal south from the lime kilns and pits away to the north of the Rempstone Road down to the Leicester and Swannington Railway. 
One probable explanation as to why it got the name of Aqueduct bridge is that although a railway bridge, at one time it also carried a drain from one of the local pits.

{The word Aqueduct is, or at least was when I was young pronounced in the local North West Leicestershire dialect as Acadoc.

Taken in the mid-1950s just prior to its demolition. 

Pass through the remains of its handsome classical portals and keep plodding for further 100 meters or so to the lane’s junction with Gelsmoor Road.  Turn to the left and walk for 50 meters to find a {T’F’S’} standing on the right-hand side of the road directing you down to a posh two-step wooden stile in the bottom of the hedgerow, {R’F’M’} on a post to its left.  Scramble easily over into a large well kept hay meadow belonging to the big white house over to the left.  Take the wide mown path straight through its centre to the far hedge-line.


Climb over a wooden stile set in a metal pipework frame, {R’F’D’}.   Walk straight through the centre of a small rough meadow heading towards a large ash tree standing behind the hedge opposite, to find a rickety old wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.  


Totter over the stile, to head in a diagonal direction leftwards and keeping just left of an electricity pole while aiming for the apex of the left-hand hedge-line.  Bear left around this and follow the hedge up to a metal farm gate standing to the right of a white cottage; {Shelton Cottage},{T’F’S’}.


  Wrestle with the gate and turn right, to tramp on down the busy Rempstone Road for about 40/50 meters until on the left you see a {T’G’S’} pointing towards the village of Thringstone and the Ivanhoe Way {1.3 miles}. Drop down the roadside bank to a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.


Step over into a lovely little hay meadow to wander on past the chicken and goose pens belonging to the small farm over to the right, while aiming for the pair of oaks that you can see in a distant cornfield.  Keeping to the mown path head for a gap and wooden stile in the next hedge line, {Y’F’P’}.  Cross over into the tiny flowery right-hand corner of a cornfield. {On my visit in July, here I found a few common spotted orchids dotted about amongst the more usual arable weeds}.


Cut across the corner to a wide break in the hedgerow on the right, {Y’F’P’}; this post stands directly above a deep drain leading off to the right.  By-pass the post to tramp straight through the corn on a flailed out track, {north} aiming for the oak and ash trees standing up above the hedgerow on the skyline, {Y’F’P’} under the right-hand ash.


From the post bear right to disappear into the hedge, climb easily over a two-step stile into a maize field.  Turn left and continue walking northwards between the maize crop and the hedge for about 60 meters to the fields left-hand corner where you will find a {Y’F’P’} and wooden stile, {both quite well hidden}.


 Push on over the stile into a second maize field and continue following the hedge to the north.  As you walk along, in the distance standing high on the hill above the red limestone face of Breedon quarry, you begin to catch sight of the square tower of Breedon church, while over to the northeast views open up towards the pink dolomite cliffs of Cloud Hill Quarries standing above the village of Thringstone.  By-pass an open area leading into yet another maize field and sticking to the hedge walk on into the corner of the maize crop {north}, to find a wooden two-step stile leading into a grass meadow, {Y’F’P’}. 


Walk straight over the meadow heading for a break in the opposite hedge-line, just to the right of a small holly tree and metal cattle trough.  Stepping on to a limestone block, pass through the gap before climbing over a wooden rail, this immediately followed by a wooden stile. Scramble through onto the grassy headland of a cornfield, {Y’F’P’.


Sticking to the hedge,  follow the headland alongside the corn for about 100 meters, heading towards the farm buildings and barns of Worthington Fields Farm until on the left you see a {Y’F’P’ + Round Ivanhoe Way marker}.  Pass through the narrow gap in the hedgerow into the cornfield on its far side.


The tall chimney that you see sticking up on the far side of the field was part of the former Newbold Brick Company; currently the site of an extensive distribution and transport depot.  Continue following the headland {north}, while sticking to the hedge towards a distant pylon and a gap in the right-hand corner of the field


Pass through the break and walk straight through the crop on a flailed out track, aiming for a narrow gap in the hedge opposite.  Push through the ivy to climb over a wooden stile and out onto a road called Main Street, {Y’F’M’ on the stile and a T’F’S’ on the roadside}.  Turn to the left and walk up Main Street to its junction with Worthington lane.


At the junction with Worthington Road turn left and stroll towards Newbold for about a third of a mile until on the right-hand side of the road you see a {T’F’S’} pointing the way down a Permissive By-way.  Squeeze between the large ash on the left and a wide metal farm gate crossing the entrance to this delightful green lane.

Wander on down the track getting more glimpses of the brickwork’s chimney over the hedgerow on the left, until after about 100 meters on the right standing under a large ash you see a metal farm gate with a small two-step wooden stile set in the post and rail fence to its left.


Climb over the stile and enter a small butterfly clearing surrounded by a tangle of rough woodland. Head straight over the clearing to a tall straggly spreading oak tree.  Pass this on its left and follow the path to a fork.  Take the narrow left-hand option down under the leafy canopy of birches and oak trees, until just before a sizeable tall birch, the track forks again.  Follow the left-hand track down onto the bed of a disused railway line.  


Turn sharp left here, following a good path along what was the railroad’s just about discernible course. Chug on under a shadowed tunnel of thorns birches and ash until you come to the arch of a red brick bridge spanning the track.  A most delightful section. 


Steam on under the bridge through the entanglement of scrub thorns, elder and goat willows, until after about 170/180 meters the track veers abruptly to the right, {west}.  Follow the path down through the thorns until just after passing under a large forked ash tree, drop steeply down to a small clear flowing stream.


Using stepping stones, ford the brook to scramble up the steep rocky bank on its far side.  On reaching the crest of the embankment turn right, {north}, and with the stream now down to your right follow the ridge.  Soon below you through the trees to the left a lake begins to come into sight.  Wander on following the well worn-path under a mix of ash, oaks and tall birches overshadowing a dense under-story of thorns and hazel coppice.
The pond is called Standing Dale, in the dialect of North West Leicestershire pronounced Stanagal.  


Continue until the footpath drop sharply down to the left, bringing you to an open area by the side of the pond.  From here you are treated to some grand views down the whole length of the lake.  Carry on following the path just above the waterline to walk over a short railway sleeper bridge across a small wet rill leaking out from the lake.


Once you’ve turned the end of the pond and had one last look over the reeds and the giant dinner plate-sized leaves of the lily pads lining its margins, on the right leading steeply up through the thorns growing on the bank you’ll find a set steps.  These will take you up and back out onto the permissive way/track; quite close to the top of the railway bridge that you walked under earlier. 
Once again, another fine part of the jaunt. 


Turn left and follow the broad stony gravel track uphill, by/passing a {Y’F’P’} standing to the left of the track.  Continue {west}, climbing steeply alongside a large field of maize and with the hum of the A42 starting to get ever more insistent, walk on past a second {Y’F’P’} standing between a couple of ash clumps
on the side of the track.


Keep plodding on until you get to the end of the hedgerow at the corner of the maize crop.  Turn left here, {south} through a wide gap onto the right-hand end of the neighbouring narrow maize field. Follow the headland down into the corner of the crop to find partly hidden an overgrown wooden stile standing on the edge of Smoile Farm Spinney, {Y’F’P’}. 


Cross over into the copse and follow a vague nettled path under birches while sticking close to the hedge.  Keep on the path to the far side of the spinney to where a small flight of steps take you down to a wooden stile.  Exit the copse and continue down the left-hand side of a maize field {west}.  Keep to the hedge until just after passing a wooden farm gate bear right on the headland around the edge of the crop.  In the corner, where the field rises to the right find an overgrown two-step wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.

Take the stile to follow a narrow gloomy path between rails beneath the dense shade of a small conifer plantation and the overgrown tangle of scrub on the A42’s noisy carriage-way embankment.  Eventually, after passing under several birch trees you leave the shadows to come out onto the Melbourne Road at a 50 mph sign.  Turn right and walk under the A42 flyover bridge up to the junction of the road with the A587 Ashby’ to Breedon road.


Walk to the right a few meters and cross the busy A587 via a small central reservation to join the continuation of Melbourne Road as it leads off to the north; just to the right of the
Old Lount School House


Continue along Melbourne road until on a right-hand bend, to your left you see the impressive heavy wrought iron gate posts and stone pillars of the entrance to Staunton Harold Hall. 


Walk through the grand iron portals by/passing the white cottage of the Ashby Lodge standing guard over the southern entrance to the hall.  This drive, known locally as the Coach Road is one way and can become very busy with cars visiting the garden-centre in the hall’s old walled garden; especially on weekend days.


Stroll on keeping your ears and eyes open for cars driving up from behind, to walk on past a lovely little thatched cottage with the name of Coach Road Cottage.  Keep sauntering on down the shady parkway as views gradually open up on either side to the rich and fertile estate farmlands that surround the hall.


Press on for half a mile or so under the avenue of magnificent old hedgerow oaks lining the side of the coach road, until just after passing a young oak planting with the name of Avrelias Spinney, on a sharp left-hand bend you’ll see facing you a wide wooden
five-bar gate. 


Pass the gate on its right, before either picking your way over a cattle-grid or taking the wooden wicket gate out into the
open parkland. 


Continue along the broad gravel drive as the parkland rises steeply away to the right.  Soon, the woodland on the left gives way and you start to see Church Lake lying serenely below Staunton Hall and the church of The Holy Trinity.


Staunton’ church, or to give it its proper name The Chapel Of the Holy Trinity was built in 1653 by Sir Robert Shirley, Fourth Baronet.  A brave thing to do during the commonwealth period when few places of worship were built and at a time when the desecration and destruction of churches, rather than building them was more in vogue.
If the church does happen to be open, it’s worth taking the time to examine the interior, in particular the beautiful panelling and internal woodwork.


Draw yourself away from this tranquil and peaceful scene to wander on up to a wooden five-bar gate; wicket’ to its right.  Step through onto what was once the main drive to the hall, where opposite and a little to the left in the black iron parkland fence stands a wrought iron wicket gate, {Y’F’P’}.


Before leaving the drive, take a little time to admire the magnificent ornate baroque stone portico known locally as the golden gateway, its barley sugar columns supporting the Shirly emblem of Stag and Hound.  If you walk through the gateway onto the bridge dividing the upper and lower lakes, you’ll be treated to a grand pastoral scene that has changed very little since the 18th century. 
A picture of English rural tranquillity that would be hard to beat.


 Return to the {Y’F’P’} and pass through the wrought iron gate to grind straight up the hillside on short parkland turf towards a large scots pine standing just to the left of an oak, {Y’F’P left of the pine}.  I always stop here for a while to take in the fantastic view back down over the lakes to the hall.  Bear right by/passing a wooden viewing bench while heading towards the end of a handsome yellow sandstone wall.  {Y’F’P’} set just to the right of a small oak.


Pass under the oak to squeeze through an elaborate hand-carved wooden squeeze stile.  Brush along the path between tall bracken and the stone wall up to a notice board.  This announces that you are about to enter a piece of woodland named Keith’s Clump and the start of a delightful section of woodland walking.


Following the track under tall sycamores, ascend a set of steep blue-brick steps.  Keep rising, gradually picking your way over the exposed crisscross of tree roots lacing the foot-worn path and enter a recently re-planted clearing.   Weave on through young oak saplings to once more enter the mature section of woodland.  Here the ride widens, taking you under a magnificent stand of beautiful clean stemmed veteran oaks, before leading on to a {Y’F’P’}.


Walkout onto a hard stony ride, turn left to once more meet with the yellow sandstone wall at a gateway into a private drive, {Y’F’P’}.  Turn right and following the park wall plod on for a few more meters before passing through a wide opening/gateway, wooden squeeze to its right.

Sticking to the wall and track, follow them alongside the maize crop DSC00576{north}, for about three hundred meters until the wall veers abruptly to the left.  Here, if you look in the angle of the wall just before its end, you’ll find an interesting curious keyhole feature allowing you to peep through into the park.
From this point the wall ends, giving way to sheep fencing.


Stride on, all the while getting an occasional glimpse through the trees on the left down into the Staunton’ Valley.  Until shortly after passing through a wide break in a hedgerow coming down from the right, standing in a short stretch of post and rail fencing you’ll find another cleverly carved solid oak squeeze stile, {Y’F’P’}.


Squeeze through this into a scrum of thorn bushes and trees, to where after three or four meters you come to a {Y’F’P}. Bear left here and descend a steep set of steps zigzagging down through the mixed woodland, until towards the bottom, after a final jig to the right you arrive at car parking area four close to the southern end of Staunton Harold Reservoir.


Section 4.

Staunton Harold to Mere Oak Lane, Pistern Hills.
Walking from parking area 4 to parking area 5.
4.5 miles.


Leave the left-hand corner of the car park following a narrow metalled path between rails down to a wooden squeeze stile.  Pass through and out on to the Calke/Melbourne road; turn left and walk down the road.  On rounding a slow right-hand bend you start to get the odd glimpse over to your right of the narrow southern end of Staunton Reservoir.  Wander on to eventually pass over a road bridge, this allows you some grand widening views northwards along the entire length of the reservoir towards the dam at its Melbourne end.


 Continue walking towards Calke, {west} for about 80 meters, {better on the left-hand side of the road}; until on your left, you find a path leading between rails up to a wooden squeeze stile. To its right is an information board telling you that you are about to enter the Leicestershire and Rutland Trusts Dimmingsdale Nature Reserve, a small atmospheric area of old overgrown limestone quarries and long-abandoned lead mines that lies partly in Derbyshire and part in Leicestershire.  


Enter the reserve, following a hard gravel path as it weaves its way through a wild tangle of thorns and elder bushes until after clumping your way over a board-walk section, you drop down two sets of steps into the reserve proper, {Y’F’P’}.  Turn left here to pass between rails over a substantially built wooden bridge spanning a small clear stream; after four or five meters walk over
a second bridge.


Follow the trail under a handsome stand of tall straight stemmed black alders leading you through into a small sunlit clearing, from where on your right you will see the dark ethereal tree-lined mere called the laundry pond.  A place to linger and take in the atmosphere while contemplating the dark submerged secrets hidden beneath its black and murky depths.


In the late 1950s as a youth, my pals I would come to fish the Lead Mines as we then called them, and on hot summer days after we tired of catching nothing but weeds, would strip off and dive into the Laundry Pond to cool off, and great fun it was too; though a spooky place to swim.  For, as you floated around you would find yourself drifting into a freezing cold spot immediately followed by a warmer one.  At other times we would allow ourselves to sink in the hope of finding the bottom; this we never accomplished.  
Of course, our Mams and Dads knew nothing of these pranks!


Continue following the trail, trampling over exposed tree roots as it gradually rises through the woodland, by-passing on the edge of a clearing a wooden finger-post displaying a number 4.  This is the site where a dwelling called the Laundry Cottage once stood. 
As the trail slowly curves to the right you come to the southern boundary fence of the reserve allowing some excellent views over to the left into a remnant of the old Staunton Hall Park. 


Plod on to find in the fence-line on the left a small locked wooden gate and just to the right of this a wooden finger-post displaying a number 5.  Here, facing you sitting under a large old sycamore tree are a short steep set of steps.  Climb the steps and continue following the trail through the wild entanglement on the edge of the wood, while still getting the odd glimpse down through the trees to the right of the Laundry Pool


Continue on past a post and rail fence above the steep wooded drop to where the track starts to curve back up leftwards towards a wooden fingerpost, {number 6}.  From here looking up through the birches on your right, standing guard above a deep wooded gully falling steeply down to the pond stands a small crumbling
gritstone crag.


I always think of Dimminsdale as being a microcosm of the Peak District that lies just south of the River Trent.  Within this tiny area, all the principal rock types of the peak can be found and all have been exploited for more than two hundred years.  Gritstone, lead and even coal have all been mined or quarried.


Climb on up the path following a network of exposed birch roots to a post and rail fence set above the outcrop.  Follow the rails as the trail leads you on through the beautiful ivory white stems of silver birches to a steep descending board-walk.


Clatter down between the rails by-passing a second deeply overgrown gully leading steeply down to the pond, until after walking under a large oak and birch, you pass through into a small clearing.  This is an area of woodland that has become known as the Staunton Snowdrop Walk.


From early January the forest floor becomes buried in a blinding white carpet of wild snowdrops.  These stretch thickly like a deep quilt of snow throughout the woodland for several hundred meters or more and are a well known local attraction in springtime. 
Its thought that they originated as garden escapes from
the quarry workers cottages.


Wander on through the clearing to climb up a small flight of steps.  After a  few meters drop down a second set of steps to continue walking through the snowdrop walk beneath tall ash trees, until after by-passing a wooden finger-post displaying a number 7 the trail curves to the right, taking you steeply down to a wooden squeeze stile set in the post and rail fence on your left. 
{Y’F’P’ and N’F’W’M’}.


Squeeze through and following the post and rail fence, scrunch along a limestone gravel track between scattered thorns and overlooking the superbly wild riot of semi-natural woodland down to the right.  Continue to find a wooden wicket gate stood just left of a metal farm gate, {Y’F’P’}.


Take the gate out into a long narrow meadow.  Push on along the track walking past a sizeable windblown oak limb lying beside the trail, before by-passing a clump of thorn bushes standing just right of the track.  As the meadow opens up, bear slightly right heading over the pasture towards a large old park oak. 


Follow an indistinct path to the left of the tree over short sheep shorn turf towards a {Y’F’P’} standing just to the left of a small fenced-in oak sapling.  Turn right here to join the main tree-lined northern approach to the hall. 


Follow this broad metaled drive for a hundred meters, to either risk teetering over a cattle grid or safer take the wicket’ to its left.  Leaving the park walk out onto Heath Lane.  Turn hard left and walk for a further few meters to by-pass on the left the drive into Callan Brook House, where to its right you’ll find a wooden wicket gate, {T’F’S’}.  Pass through to walk over the narrow end of the well-manicured lawns and gardens belonging to the house.  Cross over a wooden bridge to pass through a second gate and out into a small triangular wildflower meadow.


Keeping to the left-hand
hedge line follow a mown path up to the wooden wicket gate standing in the corner of the meadow.  Pass through to walk out onto Callan’s Lane.  Ignore the footpath on the opposite side of the lane and turn left to walk up the road
Lee Farm.


Keep on until just beyond the iron railings of Heath End Farm, on your right you’ll find a {T’F’S’}, once more pointing out the Ivanhoe Way Walk.  Take this wide ride walking beneath the shade of tall trees until after passing a small log store you come to a metal farm gate with a wooden stile, {Y’F’P’} to its right.


Clamber over into a large wide sheep pasture.  Wander over it in a south-westerly direction between the fine old scattered park oaks, and keeping an electricity pole to your right head for the outside corner of the tall deciduous woodland on your left, {Y’F’P’ and several R’F’D’s attached to the corner post of the wood}.


From here head straight across the sheep walk in a diagonal direction towards its far left-hand corner, to where hidden under the overgrown hedge you’ll find a wooden two-step stile leading into the magnificent ancient oak woodland of South Wood.


Enter the wood bearing right under hazel coppice, until after walking beneath a large ash veer to the left through the nave of a divine cathedral of great oaks.  Still and soundless, but for the ticking of a wren and the harsh scalding of a blackbird keep wandering on, lit only by the thin dappled sunlight filtering through golden windows of light in the forests
high green vaulted canopy.


 Keep progressing down through the majestic aisle of trees, until weaving slightly to the right and after passing under a great beech you come to a crossroad, {Y’F’P’}  Turn left here and start to follow the forests south transept along the old
Ashby Ticknal Tramline. 


The Ticknal to Ashby Tramway.

Was a horse-drawn railway that was commissioned in 1798 to Benjamin Outram a civil engineer and industrialist, and was after a few early setbacks and disagreements with the backers eventually opened in 1802.

  It was built to transport slaked lime, lead and stone from the Lime Yards in Ticknal on to the Willesley branch of the Ashby Canal, before returning with coal and other goods back to Ticknal.  It did well and was used for well over a hundred years until its closure in 1915.  The course of the line along with a few of the protruding limestone blocks/sleepers that supported the track, the only remaining traces within the wood. 


Wander on, along the tramline, accompanied by lonely cries from a pair mewing of buzzards circling high above the forest canopy; the resonant echoing rattles of greater spotted woodpeckers the only sound to break the deep still silence within the wood.


Creep silently on through the woodland as the track gradually curves to the right, occasionally stepping over the exposed limestone sleepers that once supported the iron rails of the tramway.  Ignore the occasional ride approaching from the side and keeping your eyes open for deer, wander along through this stunningly beautiful forest until on the right you see piled up a stack of redundant overgrown wire deer fencing.  Here rides/paths come in from both sides.  Take the right-hand one alongside the netting and walk down to a wooden squeeze stile in the sheep fencing on the edge of the wood.


Squeeze through to walk out into the flowery overgrown corner of a large grass field.  From here climb sharply up through a knee-deep froth of creamy flowered meadow sweet onto the edge of the pasture.  Head in a slightly diagonal direction to the right while climbing steeply up through the centre of the meadow and aiming for the chimney stack of a small cottage that you see standing out just to the right of the fields far right-hand corner, {Wicket Nook Cottage}.  Breaching the fence line to the left of the cottage stands a wooden squeeze stile.  Pass through this to follow a path down the left side of the quaint little red brick dwelling, before descending a shallow set of steps and out onto the narrow lane leading down to the hamlet of Wicket Nook itself. 


Bearing slightly to the right cross over the lane to a wooden squeeze/stile sitting to the left of an apple tree {R’F’M’}.  Pass through, and stooping creep your way through a tunnel of elder and blackthorns to come out onto a steep-sided meadow that leads up leftwards to the top of Calke Pistern Hills.  Walk steadily along the side of the hedgerow  passing under a tall half dead ash tree, until a few meters beyond it in the hedge on your right you’ll find a wooden squeeze stile. 


Push through and plod over a small narrow meadow, from where on bright clear days, especially in the winter months looking to the north you get some terrific views through the trees and hedgerows all the way up to the hills of the southern Peak District.  Walk straight down the pasture heading for a wooden squeeze stile sited close to a small hedgerow oak; 25/30 meters left of a dead
stag-horned oak.


Pass through the squeeze’ and out into a long narrow sheep pasture.  Plod on down it through the buttercups and knapweeds, with a myriad cloud of meadow browns gatekeepers and ringlet butterflies to accompany you, all the while aiming for a squeeze’ in the meadows far left-hand corner on the edge of the forest.


Follow a narrow path under nut bushes for about 30 meters until you come to a wide ride.  Turn left following the track under tall oak trees and larch before passing through an open recently re-planted area to eventually re-join the Ticknal Tramline.


 Turn left {north}, on the broad hard tramway and follow it under trees along an embankment above a small dry valley/brook before finally wending your way out of the forest.  Keep following the limestone gravel track up to a pair of locked wide wooden gates, squeeze past the left-hand gatepost out on to Heath Lane.


Cross directly over the lane to walk around the left-hand side of a metal farm gate.  Pick up the tramline again at a point where it bends sharply to the right, {Green National Trust finger-post on the bend}. This next section of the walk has been upgraded and resurfaced by the trust to make a cycle/walking track leading northwards up towards Calke Abbey. 
 At this point
 a branch line turned off rightwards from the main Ticknal route to head northeast towards Dimminsdale.


Following the left-hand branch {north east}, steam on up the line towards a handsome sandstone bridge standing above a shallow cutting.  Walk between the embankments and on under the bridge to keep shunting along the well-made limestone trail.  The grasslands on the left opening up towards the hedgerows and rich verdant pastures hanging hard under Pistern Hills.


    Keep ambling on between dense wildflower-covered banks as gradually the trail rises above the surrounding meadows.


By-passing all footpaths coming in from both the left and right, just after passing through a small spinney you’ll see hidden in the undergrowth set on either side of the trail, two short stretches of post and rail fence.  Here, hidden in the undergrowth on the left under a large crack willow, you’ll find a vague slightly difficult to spot overgrown path leading into the copse.  Take this, wading through nettles and low brambles up to a wooden squeeze stile on the western edge of the thicket, {R’F’M’}.


Enter the field and following the fence/hedge walk up to its far right-hand corner to awkwardly climb over a set of rails set just right of a metal farm gate, {R’F’M’}.  Follow the hedge down through a rough unkempt meadow that’s rapidly becoming thickly overgrown with clumps of juncus rush; the home to myriads of small copper butterflies.  In the sedge at the bottom of the meadow stands a metal farm gate and to its right spanning the small alder lined Red Brook you’ll find a small overgrown bridge with a wooden squeeze/stile at both ends.


Cross over the bridge and continue following the oak-lined hedgerow, by-passing a metal farm gate to your right up into the meadows far right-hand corner.   Here take the wooden squeeze stile set to the right of a metal farm gate sitting under the
large old oak, R’F’M’}. 


Follow the hedge-line around the edge of a hay meadow towards Heath Farm.  In the hedge just before you get to the farm, stands a metal farm gate with a wooden stile to its left.  Take the stile and turn immediately left, after a few yards pass through a gateway into the farmyard.  Walk straight on by/passing the farm buildings to cross over the farm drive and up to a wooden squeeze stile, {R’F’M’}.


Scramble over and following the hedge-line trudge on to where it veers off to the right.  From here slog steeply up to the edge of Pistern Hill Plantation {dead south}, to find hidden under the brambles and bracken spilling over its boundary fence, a wooden squeeze/stile, {R’F’M’}.


Sitting on the step of the stile, while getting your breath back from the short steep thrutch up to the edge of the wood, looking to the north the wind turbines above Carsington Water can be
clearly seen. 


Whilst over to the east, beyond South Wood the square tower of Breedon on the Hill church leads your eye over the Trent valley and well on into Nottinghamshire.


Clamber steeply up over the stile and claw your way directly up through the chest-deep bracken, {still heading dead south} to come out under the boughs of an ancient beech {old dead tree stump to its right with an R’F’M’ nailed to it}. 


Continue up under a mixture of old beeches and oaks, while bearing slightly to the left to by-pass a small wooden fencing post with an {R’F’M’ attached; not that obvious}.  As you approach the edge of the wood the walking starts to ease off, and where under a second ancient beech tree, sitting in the fence line you’ll find a wooden squeeze stile.
Take the stile, and leaving the forest enter a large barley field.


Turn left following the headland around the edge of the wood, in the corner of the field you’ll find a narrow gap in the hedge.  Pass through and cut across the short corner of the following barley field to a gap in the hedge-line opposite.


  Enter the field and follow the path straight through the barley, heading for a dead tree standing just left of a large hedgerow oak.  Step over a broken down stile and through the hedge to the left of the dead tree to enter into the corner of the next barley field.


  Keeping the hedge to the right, continue walking along the headland until you come to a wide break.
{More or less opposite Pistern Hill Farm}.
Pass through the gap and with the hedge to your left follow the headland, {west} into the left-hand corner of the field.
Enter the following barley field to follow a path cutting straight through the centre of the crop, heading for a pair of green metal farm gates standing just left of a wooden electricity pole.
  Squeeze between the right-hand gate post and the hedge out onto Derby Road,
 {tall wooden footpath post on the roadside}.


Turn right and keeping your ears open for speeding traffic walk along the road for about 100 meters, until on the left-hand side of the road at the end of a wood you see a pair of wooden farm gates.  Taking care, cross over to the gates and continue walking northwards on a wide mown grass verge. 
Plod on by the posh red brick pillars and silver wrought iron gates at the entrance to Elms Farm.


The name  Elms Farm comes from a time prior to the devastation caused to the elm trees of Britain in the 1970s, by the invasion of Dutch Elm Disease.  Derby Road at that time was lined on either side with magnificent giant arching English Elms and driving between them was like passing through a darkly lit, green shadowed arboreal tunnel. 


Wander on beneath a high conifer hedge, until shortly after by-passing the cleft-oak fencing around the entrance to Daniel Hays Farm you come to a large gravel layby, {the parking area for section 5}.  On its left is a wooden five-bar gate and directly in front of you a strong metal barrier with a wooden wicket gate to its right. 
This is the entrance to the magical green lane known as
Mere Oak Lane.


Section 5.

Mere Oak Lane Pistern Hills, to Blackfordby.
Starting from parking area 5 to parking area 6.
Five  Miles.


Leaving the parking area, duck down under the barrier or pass through the wicket’ to dawdle your way down this lovely tree-lined by-way between high tangled hedges and scattered trees.  Meander on under dappled shade and with the new plantation of Daniel Hays Wood on the left for about a third of a mile, until on the right standing under a large holly you see a rusty old farm gate. 


From here if you have the time, lean on the gate and look out to the east where once again you get a fabulous panoramic vista of the patchwork quilt of woods and meadows that cover this beautiful part of South Derbyshire.  Breedon on the Hill church and Ratliff Power Station are plain to see, and way beyond these on the far horizon the hills and woods of Charnwood Forest stand out.


Continue following the lane until you arrive at a second metal barrier.  Walk around it and turn left to where hidden in the hedgerow you will find a post marking the start of a footpath, {R’F’M’} fastened to the small five bar gate on its right.


Take the footpath between hedges. 
{This path can become very overgrown with nettles, etc.  You may want to wait until the end of July before walking it by which time the track has usually been flailed}.
Follow the path for about a third of a mile as it curves first to the left and then back right to descend steeply downhill before arriving at a large gate in the deer fence; signed with a dogs on lead notice.
Here down by your feet you’ll find an old metal badger gate set in the rabbit proof fencing, if you look closely you’ll see that brock has chosen to ignore it and pushed his own way through the netting by the side of it.


Enter the large open meadow that lies under the flank of Daniel Hays Hill and walk straight ahead.  Keep close to the hedge on the right and head towards a group of large sycamore and oak trees with some smaller oak saplings planted alongside.  Walk to the right of these still sticking close to the hedge line.  


Its here that you join an ancient 13th century road skirting the foot of Daniel Hays Hill.  Follow the track for 100 metres or so until you see a tall metal cage-gate in the deer fence to your right, here on your left set in the bank you’ll find a brass information plaque. 

This is a place to linger a while, contemplating the history and uses that Daniel Hayes Hill has been put to over the last
8000 years. 


Ignoring the cage gate, keep plodding along the ancient roadway under the steep sided gorse covered hillside for 80 meters or so to awkwardly pass through a metal farm gate crossing the ride, {overgrown stile to its left}.  Continue plodding for a quarter of a mile following this delightful half forgotten time worn by-way until you arrive at a wooden five-bar gate, pass through this to immediately pass through a second.


Wander on for another eighth of a mile, ignoring gates on both sides until you see a wooden stile in the hedge on the right, {yellow warning sign asking you to keep dogs on lead}.  Leave the track here to cross over the stile and enter a sheep meadow.


Wander on down the sheep-walk towards Sharps Bottom and keeping the hedge-line  to your left, bypass a gateway to arrive at the meadows far left-hand corner.  Here you will find a five/bar gate with a stile to its left, {R’F’M’ and a small round disk informing that you are on a section of the Derbyshire Circular Route}.

The next part of the jaunt is one of the most charming sections, leading you along umbrous sun dappled rides under the old woodland canopy of Sharps Bottom, before dropping down into Several Woods and its beautiful little trout filled pond.


Clamber over the stile and walk down the track into the forest and by-passing a small black overgrown pond on the left follow the ride as it curves to the right.  Shortly after passing under the drooping branches of a couple of larch trees, opposite a wooden five/bar gate the track turns sharply to the left, {Y’F’P’} part hidden on the end of a rail fence to the left.  From here drop down through shadowy gloom into the wild deciduous woodland, to pass over the mire of Sharps Bottom by walking between the rails of raised walkway/bridge set above a wide ditch.


Saunter on up the ride as it gradually rises through the forest passing beneath more fine old oaks, before leading you on through a stately grove of tall sweet chestnut trees.  Just after passing under three unusually large specimens, standing on the right-hand side of the ride under a thick under-story of holly, set in the deer fence is a large metal cage-gate.
Take the gate out of Sharps Bottom into a young plantation.


Walk on through the plantation between the saplings heading for a large wooden two step stile, {R’F’M’s}, climb over into a large meadow.  Continue straight ahead passing just to the left of a large solitary oak while heading towards the fields far left-hand corner.  Here you will find a large two-step wooden stile set to the left of a metal farm gate, {R’F’M’s}, scramble over onto a broad grass ride.


Alternatively, instead of entering the pasture turn right to follow the fence and permissive footpath around the edge of the field.  By-pass a small pond with a convenient viewing bench set by the side of the track, and curving to the left follow the narrow trail under a line of regrown willow coppice.  Stick to the fence until the coppice opens up onto the broad ride and you arrive close to the metal farm gate and stile in the corner of the meadow.


Follow the ride rightwards, {west}.  To where after a few metres you come to the serenely peaceful, crystal clear trout filled mere of Several Woods Pond.  Dawdle your way along the side of the pond with the trout rising and the dragonflies skimming the fronds of the water horsetails, until just beyond its concrete outflow turn to the right and follow a path through a break on the right-hand end of a post and rail fence, {N’F’W’M’}.
Continue along a foot-worn track by the side of rough overgrown grasses and weed flowers onto the narrow end of a large arable field; pass under a large crack willow and out onto ploughland.


Trample straight on through the furrows, following a well trodden path {north west} while gaining excellent views of Daniel Hays hill standing high above the woodlands to the right.  Squeeze through a narrow break in the low hedgerow on the far side of the field, {Y’F’P’} hidden under a small elder bush to the left of the gap.


Carry on over the next arable field under the bare uncultivated grassy top of Horn Hill as it gently rises up to the left, while aiming for the distant church tower of St Peters in the village of Hartshorn.  On reaching a {Y’F’P’} follow the track alongside the left-hand side of a tall hedge up to a metal farm gate.  Brush around the right-hand side of this and out onto the end of a green lane.


Wander on along the hard grassy lane between hedges and under tall holly’s with the track bearing slightly to the left before passing under the high red brick walls and wrought iron gates of Horn Hill Lodge.  Continue steeply down to Manchester Lane to turn right and follow the pavement down to Hartshorn and St Peters Village Hall car park.


On the roadside edge of the car park stands a large National Forest information board, and on the opposite side of the road from this set back are a row of small red-brick stable buildings with a tiny paddock to their left.  Cross over the road to find in the hedge at the left hand end of the paddocks post and rail fence, a two step wooden stile leading into a barley field,  {R’F’M’s}
attached to the fence.


Enter the field and walk diagonally through the barley {south}, heading for the far hedgerow towards a two step wooden stile sixty meters to the left of a clump of small ash trees.  Clamber over the stile onto a short wooden bridge to immediately climb over, or alternatively walk round the left-hand side of a second stile, {R’F’M’s}. 


Keep heading south through the barley, aiming to the right of an electricity pole to find a two step wooden stile in the hedge on the edge of Gosley Wood, {R’F’M’}.  Scramble over into the wood, walking almost immediately through a gap on the end of a post and rail fence, two {R’F’M’S} on the left-hand post.


Follow the track under tall crack willows and young ash saplings to enter into a small grassy butterfly clearing.  Walk around its left-hand side hugging the young ash plantation until the ride veers sharply to the right.  Turn left here between a field maple and thorn bush, to follow a vague ride/path through the young trees searching for a two-step wooden stile set in the overgrown hedge at the left-hand corner of the wood.  Leave the wood to enter a solar farm and following the hedge walk straight around  its left-hand side.  After a few meters bear left following a broad grass track down between the centre of the panels towards the sandstone building of Short Hazel Farm.


Where the right hand solar farm fence turns sharp right, stick to it, and following the ride down pass over a broad stone track that leads through a large steel gate into the solar panels.  To the left of the gate a flailed path leads down through a thick swathe of greater hairy willow herb towards a wild willowy hedge-line.  Bear left to keep following the flailed path down to a wonky two step wooden stile {R’F’M’}.  With care wobble over the stile to walk  through a narrow belt of small trees and willows leading into an open marshy area.  Squelch through the rushes and reeds to a stile/rails sited on the edge of a paddock, {R’F’M’}.


Climb over into the paddock and keeping Short Hazel to your left cross straight over aiming for a stile in the fence opposite.  Step over this and walk across a second short paddock up to a stile set in the electric stock fence.  Gingerly climb over this into a smaller paddock, walk diagonally left to a stile in its left-hand corner; this will take you out onto a stone farm track.  


Turn to the right {south}, pass through a metal farm gate and with paddocks on either side thrutch up the steep stone ride towards a second farm gate on the edge of a young tree plantation.  At the head of the track,  hidden in deep nettles to the left of the gate sits a wooden stile, take the stile to pick your way through nettles
into the spinney.


  Follow the overgrown ride through the plantation until you meet up with a ride leading down from the left.  Turn left and walk steeply up the sunken track-way between young saplings on the right and a line of mature oaks on your left to come out onto the edge of a large field.  From here head in a slight diagonal direction towards a large oak tree standing close to the left-hand end of end of the hedge line on the far side of the field; climb over a wooden stile set in the fence-line just to its right, {R’F’D’}.


Turn immediately right, thrashing your way through nettles and brambles to meet a broad grass ride, follow this for a short way until you see standing by the side of the track, a conspicuous Caution No Footpath sign!  Sitting in the hedge to its left you’ll find a wooden stile, {R’F’M’}. 


Scramble over to follow the left-hand hedge-line of a densely overgrown covert.  Try to stick to the hedge following the overgrown path and a shallow ditch until you come to a wooden stile on the edge of the thicket.  Pass over onto a short railway sleeper bridge set above a wide dry-ditch leading up to a second wooden stile; this will take you out into the corner of a wide
grass meadow.


Follow the right-hand hedgerow to a wooden stile in its far right hand corner.  Climb over this and walking between a hedge and a wire fence, pass through a walk-through stile out onto the metaled drive of Stonehouse Farm.  Keep heading south along the roadway under an avenue of lovely young lime trees, until you come to the busy A511 Ashby to Burton on Trent highway. 


Turn left and following the pavement by/pass the prominent white water tower at Boundary, before getting to the
Old Toll House at Tollgate.   


Cross straight over Heath Lane where it leads off to the left to continue following the pavement up to the large island on the western end of the A511 Ashby by-pass.  Keep following the pavement around the island alongside the A511 to a set of
metal rails.


From here looking east down and over the by/pass to the far horizon, you get a great view of Bardon Hill standing out above Charnwood Forest.  At dizzyingly high 912 ft’ above sea level Bardon’ is the highest point in Leicestershire.


DSC01264Leaving the rails behind cross carefully over the bypass vie a small central reservation area on the approach roads to and from the island.  Once safely over, turn right and sticking to the pavement bear left around the round-about to where the Ashby road leaves it.  Following the road walk on until on the left you come to Tithe Cottage; from here on the far side of Ashby road you’ll see the entrance to Charnwood Alpaca Farm,
{Scam Hazel Farm}.


DSC01269Following the broad gravel farm drive bear left until on the right you come to a pair of wide metal farm gates.  To the right of these, enclosed between wire stock fencing find a narrow path leading down to the south, Saunter on down the hard grass trail while trying to avoid being spit at by the Alpacas! 


Keep on past a cluster of gates and a lone {Y’F’P’}  to  follow the grassy trail all the way down to a farm track, {Y’F’P’}.  Turn right and plod along the bear earthen drive as it bends to the left, {south}.  Continue walking on down, passing beneath a large ash tree, and ignoring a track leading off to the left and the metal kissing gate on the right, continue straight up the broad ride towards the trees you see standing out on the brow of the hill.


At the top of the track bear right under a large old hedgerow ash to find standing beneath it a {Y’F’P’} and next to this a white information board welcoming you to Scam Hazel Farm.  Plod on past these to where under overhanging trees you’ll find a metal wicket gate.


Take the wicket, {Y’F’P’} and N’F’W’M}.  Follow the wide grass ride beneath some fine old sycamore trees and corsican pines to by-pass a {Y’F’P’} standing just to the right of the track.  Here this atmospheric leafy glade widens, until after passing under a giant ash you gently drop down to a gravel drive.  {The track leading off to the right leads into the remains of Blackfordby Hall}. 


 Keep following the gravel drive and with the surviving remnants of the halls old walled garden to your right, either pass through a wide metal farm gate or climb over the wooden stile to its right. 


Keep following the drive alongside a crumbling sandstone wall overhung with brambles, until you come to its junction with a narrow metaled road called Ashby Lane, {a sign for Blackfordby Hall and a T’F’S’} situated to its left.  Turn left and plod on down Ashby Lane as it curves sharply to the right; metal kissing gate situated on the left, {T’F’S’}. Ignore the gate and carry on down the road passing on your right, first Vicarage Close followed shortly by Hall Close until you come to the roads junction with
Sandtop Lane. 
{This is the parking area for the start of section 6}.

Section 6.

Blackfordby to Willesley Wood Road.
Starting from parking area 6 back to parking area 1.
Four Miles.


Turn left and walk along Sandtop Lane for five metres to find in the hedgerow on the right, hidden under a small leylandii cypress a two step wooden stile, {Y’F’P’}.  Cross this to enter a long narrow meadow.  Follow a vague path southwards to where the field narrows at the angle of the right hand hedge-line.  From here head in a slight diagonal direction leftwards, ploughing straight over the ancient medieval ridge and furrows towards the large dead bowl of a fallen ash tree. 


By-pass the dead ash aiming for the right-hand end of a tall tangled overgrown hedge.  Keep on to cross the damp rutted field, still heading in a diagonal direction towards a {Y’F’P’} and two step wooden stile on the edge of a young tree plantation.  After awkwardly crossing over the stile bear left to pass over a small brook, {the Shell Brook} via a short wooden bridge.  This will lead you into Johns Wood. 
 {National Forest information board on the left}.


Bear left on the ride to take a right-hand fork through a young ash and oak woodland and ignoring rides coming in from the right, keep following the grass track to a {Y’F’P’} and two step stile under the contorted old blackthorn hedge in front of you.   Climb over the stile/rails and out into a lovely wildflower meadow, follow an indistinct path over the narrow end of the pasture towards the wooden stile sited in the low hedge-line in front.


Enter into the next pasture to wander through another excellent wildflower and butterfly meadow while heading directly for a wide gap beneath a large ash tree by-passing a redundant wooden stile to the left of the break, {Y’F’P’}.  Walk through and follow the left-hand hedge-line alongside the narrow field to a second gap/gateway, {Y’F’P’}. 


08-DSC03737-001 Keep following the hedge and footpath and ignoring the wicket gate on the left leading back into Johns Wood, carry on through the meadow to a final gap.  Cross a small buttercup meadow in a slightly diagonal direction towards a metal kissing gate hiding under an oak in the tall ragged blackthorn hedge opposite.  {Y’F’P’} to the left
of the gate.



Pass out from under the blackthorns into a wide grass recreational area, plod straight on between a couple of young mixed tree plantations while heading for the large ash opposite.  To the left of this under a big old hedgerow oak you’ll find a short wooden bridge across a shallow ditch, {Y’F’P’} on the post and rail fence.


  Walk over the bridge to enter a large barley field.  Turn right to walk around a large heap of cow muck before bearing back left following the broad headland under a magnificent giant oak tree; a superb and venerable arboreal veteran that’s just coming into its prime at around 180/200 years of age. 


Wander along the farm track/headland alongside the crop, while getting views diagonally to the southeast out over the barley towards the white cottage of Cheatles Barn.  Eventually the track curves left to meet up with the Ashby/Moira road, {T’F’S’}. Turn right and follow the pavement towards Norris Hill
on the edge of Moira.


After approximately 50/60 meters on the left-hand side of the road you’ll see a road sign informing you that you’re entering the old mining village of Moira, ten meters beyond this stands a {T’F’S’}, indicating that once again you will be joining the a section of the Ivanhoe Way walk.  Pass through the hedge and cross over a short wooden bridge to find a metal kissing gate, {Y’F’P’}.


Enter a young plantation,
{Chestnut Farm Wood}.  Following alongside the hedge under a line electricity poles, {south east}, by-pass two open areas on the right until you come to a thick blackthorn hedge and a ride leading off to the right.  Squeeze through a gap on the end of the blackthorns {Y’F’P’}, turn immediately right.  Follow the grass ride along the side of the hedge until just before reaching a large oak turn left and take the broad open ride between the young trees and shrubs.


Keep following the ride as it bears slightly left, until after passing a couple of lone birches turn right  and follow a wider ride to the south-west.  After by-passing a large open area on the left, eventually the ride brings you up to a rough old overgrown hedge, where just right of a sizeable old hedgerow oak, sitting under the overhanging hedge you’ll find a metal kissing gate,
{Y’F’P’ and F’P’M’s}.


Pass through and follow a narrow path between wire fences and thorns before curving left under young common alder saplings.  Continue for some way until eventually you join a stone ride, {metal farm gate on the left}.  Keep going along the white limestone track following a post and rail fence around the right-hand side of a small meadow to a {Y’F’P’}. Here the trail leads off to the right towards the private Red Fox Wood Conservation Area.


Ignore the trail and bear left following the main track straight ahead to wander on alongside the wire fence of second meadow.  Where the main ride curves abruptly to the left to pass through a metal farmgate, take the narrow limestone path leading straight ahead.  Follow this down a charming wildflower and butterfly infested alley between wire fences and small trees before it finally drops down to a wooden kissing gate.  This will take you out onto Willesley Wood Road, {T’F’S’} on the roadside.


Turn left and walk along the tree lined road passing over a bridge above the old Burton to Leicester railway line.  Keep plodding for another eighth of a mile until on the right you arrive at the entrance to the Hicks Lodge National Forest Cycle Centre. 

Enter Hicks Lodge, and with the wooden buildings of the cafe/information point and cycle hire to your left, walk straight over the roundabout of the entrance to the car park.  By/passing the children’s play area to your left, continue straight ahead to follow the broad limestone cycle track westwards.  


Stroll on between between small birches willows and scrub gorse as the track gradually curves round to the south.  Before long a large rough juncus tufted pasture opens up on the left and shortly after this a track forks off to the right, {T’F’S’}.  Stick to the main track following the stock fence as it continues to curve left and Hicks Lodge Lake comes into sight. 
If by now you feel the need for a break, just to the left of the trail is pleasant a picnic area complete with tables and benches.


Continue around the edge of the lake, while enjoying wide views over it towards a DSC01314distant wind turbine and the lakes small duck and geese populated island.  Drift on with the cries of the water-fowl in your ears to by-pass a bird hide and wrought iron information installation standing close by the side of the trail, until turning your back on the lake the track slowly curves first left then back right before bringing you to a junction. 
Hicks lodge Information Board  in the centre of the triangular grass island
on the intersection


Turn right following the white limestone ride through a gap in a post and rail fence to trudge on up the steep stony track before crunching steeply down its far side.  Keep ambling south for a third of a mile or so through broad grass verges and young plantations, with the occasional wide vista opening up on either side, until you come to a large galvanised metal farm gate with a metal wicket’ to its right.  Pass through and walk out onto Ashby Road.


Cross straight over Ashby Road to walk down a wide metaled drive taking you through a pair of heavy wrought iron gates into the landscaped/reclaimed site of the former Oakthorpe Colliery. 
Known locally as the 
Who’d a Thot it pit.


Trundle on down the old pit road for about fifty metres until through a break in the tall hedge on the right you see a redundant wooden wicket gate.  Go through the gap walking around the side of the gate to follow a narrow gravel track up to a couple of wooden benches.  Wander along the trail as it curves to the left to meander on down under a handsome stand of straight stemmed birches and young ash. 


Keep on wending your way, until after curving to the left you pass under a low green arch of birches and thorn, bringing you up to a wide gravel track.  Pass through a couple of bollards, turn right and enter a car-parking area.


Bear left to walk through the parking area and back out onto the pit road.  Turn right here and walk between rails past a small yellow car barrier sticking up in the centre of the roadway, before by-passing a track on the left leading into a small picnic area with a wrought iron information installation describing the old Oakthorpe Colliery. 


Keep roaming on past the overgrown pit banks,DSC01360 now half hidden under a wild scrum of self set trees until you come to a fork.  Take the right hand branch  following the gravel track around a large open triangle of rough grass and wildflowers to a notice board describing the Who’d a Thot it Pit’s connection with the Ashby Cut.

Standing here in this pleasant leafy glade it seems impossible that mining on any scale could have taken place, and that men women and children have dug and hacked away here in the search for coal for at least four hundred years.


It’s recorded that mining had taken place in one form or another from as early as 1412 and continued on and off until the day Oakthorpe colliery closed in 1990 when all mining finally ceased.  Since then with the help of Leicestershire County Council and the Woodland Trust, the whole area, including Willesley Wood and Thortit lake has been transformed into the enchanting rural idyll that it is today.  The hiss of steam, the whining of the winding cables and the clanking of the pit cage long gone; all replaced by the sound of birdsong wildflowers and woodland. 


The two squat concrete obelisks sitting in the centre of the grass triangle mark the spots where the pit shafts and the pit head stocks once stood.


Follow the ride, passing between a couple of thorn bushes to take the track leading off to the left, {Y’F’D’}.  Continue following the trail under tall thorns and the row of damson trees on the right, to where the track swings back leftwards around the grass triangle.  Turn right here to pass through the right-hand end of an old
chain-link fence.


Enter Willesley Wood and wander on until you come to a well made solid wooden foot-bridge.  Walk over between rails up to a metal kissing gate, pass through onto a hard gravel trail.
 {Y’F’P’ and information board}.


Turn left to follow the track, and with wild deciduous woodland on either side pass over the end of Saltersford Brook.  Here, in the marshy wet willow areas to the right, King Fishers are often seen and if lucky you may be able to catch sight of the lightening blue flash of one angling in the small  pools.    
Ramble on as the ride slowly twists and turns through the riot of goat willows thorns and ash until you arrive at a fork.


Take the right hand branch around the triangle of meadowsweet and grass on the intersection.  Rambling on the sallows on the left start to give way to a wide-open area grassland and through the low goat willows and reedmace to the right, betrayed by the loud cacophony of cries from the wildfowl drifting over it, you start to catch sight of Thortit Lake.


Sticking to the edge of the lake, by-pass a ride leading up through the young plantation on the left until eventually you arrive at its sedge and reedmace choked end eastern end.  Continue on the trail for a few more metres before taking a grass ride leading away to the right. 


Follow the damp ride through thick meadowsweet and reeds as it bends gradually to the left, before passing between a mix of thorns willows and hazel coppice.  And with the woodland on your right developing into a pure stand of tall common alder, continue wending your way along the damp ride as it slowly worms its way under a young mixed ash plantation, until after passing through a natural arch of overhanging hazel and alder you suddenly enter into the round grass clearing. 
The centre of the

Royal British Legion Reflection Grove.
On the left as you enter the sanctuary sits a large Charnwood Forest granite boulder displaying a Royal British Legion plaque to the memory 

DSC01500of all those who have served.  Opposite the boulder, placed on the far side of the grove are a couple of wooden benches and these make a lovely spot to sit relax and reflect while enjoying the peace and calm of the forest far away from noise and bustle of everyday life.


To the right of the benches you’ll find a narrow path leading eastwards out of the sanctuary.  Walk out of the grove between closely planted clean, grey stemmed ash trees and oaks to meet a cross track.  Walk straight over this following the gravel ride to the right of a large triangular island of grass. 


Continue straight on by-passing a wooden bench towards a wooden five/bar gate with a metal kissing gate to its left.  Just before you get to the gate, on the right close to a wooden notice board a broad grass ride leads away to the right.


Take the ride up between an unruly mixture of ash sycamore and alder coppice, by-passing on your right a sinister darkly shadowed alder lined pond to press on up the gently rising grass ride through an assortment of small scattered trees and small clearings.   Until after passing under a mature stand of ash oaks and sycamores the bare shaded ride leads you on to where a wide grass track comes in from the right.  To the left stands a wooden five/bar gate with a walk through stile to its right, ignore these and walk straight on by-passing a Woodland Trust sign.


Push on up the grass ride between scrub alder coppice on the left and the young oak/ash thicket on the right for quite some way until eventually the ride steepens, bringing you sharply up to a right hand bend.  Turn left here towards a wooden five/bar gate with a walk through stile to its right, {Y’F’P’ and wooden footpath sign}. 


Walk through and out onto Willesley Wood Road bringing you back to the start and parking area number one. 
The end of a Grand Jaunt.







Are a stage
For the performance of heaven.

Any audience is incidental.

The Crow Stones.

Millstone Grit . 
A soul grinding sandstone.


Roof-of-the-world-ridge wind
And rain, and rain. 


Rock has not learned
Valleys are not aware
Heather and bog-cotton fit themselves
Into their snugness, vision sealed


Quotes taken from Ted Hughes’s wonderfully evocative collection  of poems,  Elmet.  

The Ashover Jaunt. Discovering a hidden gem of the Peak District.

The walk starts with a rather sweet stroll up a hill with a confectionery connection of sorts.
A huge stone that turns on the full moon, leading you on to a rendezvous for lovers. Before dropping down through ancient woodlands, old industrial relics and stunning wildflower meadows to bypass en route an elegant 17th-century hall with some dubious antipodean connections. All finished off by walking down a road designed for death, before ending in a grand poetical flourish,
On St Crispin’s Day.

This moderately hilly, five-mile walk starts in the charming little south Pennine village of Ashover. The village itself, an outlier of the Peak District sits close to the nearby old coal mining area of Clay Cross and is one that most people drive past on their way to visit the more famous towns and honey pots in the north of the county.
Easy to miss, this sleepy little east Derbyshire village and its elegant old stone buildings nestle unobtrusively low down, in the beautiful verdant pastures and sheep walks that surround the upper reaches of the embryonic and tranquil River Amber. From Asher as the locals call Ashover it proceeds on its long slow journey down through its namesake valley, to pass lazily on through Ogston Reservoir. From where it turns south-west to eventually flow into the River Derwent at Ambergate.

Parking and Map.

O/S Explorer Map, Chesterfield and Alfreton, 269.
{R’F’M’ within the text indicates a round yellow footpath marker}.

Park in the centre of Ashover near to the Crispin Inn on Church Street. SK 349 632. If you can’t find a place there, it’s possible to use the Village Hall car park on Milken Lane. SK 351 633.

Food And Drink
The three pubs that provide food in the centre of Ashover, are the Crispin Inn, the Black Swan and the Old Poets Corner.
All very close to the car parking areas.

The Walk.

Leaving your car, walk eastwards along Church Street towards the Black Swan Inn that stands on the junction of Moor Road and Milken Lane, coming in from the right.  Take Milken Lane, by-pass the Black Swan Inn and carry on eastwards for about 30 metres until on your left, sitting under a pedestrian crossing sign you will see a large green footpath sign standing by the side of a wooden wicket kissing gate.

The Black Swan Inn is over three hundred years old and is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Laughing Cavalier.  It’s also reputed’ that at one time the brutal and barbaric practice of Bear-baiting took place in a bear pit just behind the inn.


Take the footpath to walk under a group of large Sycamore trees and keeping the wire fence to your left, walk north-eastwards up the field towards the woodlands surrounding Beech field House.  In the far corner of the pasture, pass through a wooden wicket gate to walk along a narrow footpath/alley, enclosed between well-built masonry walls, this leads you on through a narrow stone bridge/tunnel.


Keep walking on between the walls, now overhung with tall Laurels, up to second bridge/tunnel; this leads on to a set of stone steps leading you up to a well-sculpted stone squeeze stile.  Pass through and out onto a metaled track.


Turn left and walk uphill for about 30 meters and take the broad track on the right.  Tall wooden way-mark post on the right of the track’s entrance, {Y’F’M’}.  This will take you up on to the west side of Far Hill


Plod straight on, keeping to the wall and the tall overhanging Leyland Cypress on your right.  Soon a rough meadow opens up on the right, as you climb steeply up to pass through/by an old redundant gritstone squeeze stile.  Carry on up, keeping to the wall until you see a second redundant squeeze’, also to your right.


Bear right here and follow the steep path up a set of stone steps to a cross-track.  Go straight over this and continue steeply up the steps; occasionally stopping to turn around and take in the superb views over Ashover and the parish church of All Saints, its golden weather vane glinting and standing proud atop its slender spire.  Until, after passing through small outcropping gritstone crags the track eventually brings you out on to the summit ridge of Far Hill.


Turn right and walk in a south-easterly direction along the ridge towards the large gritstone block called the Fabrick, seen sticking up in the near distance.  When you get to it and if you’re feeling adventurous’ it’s possible to scramble up on to the summit from its lower east side.  Just beyond this stands a brass topped orientation table, and a little further on the white stump of the hills triangulation point.
This is the highest point for some miles around, and here, especially on a bright clear day in the winter, you get some superb views out to the south and west over the Amber Valley.
On the other side of the dale, high on the hillside to the south-west, set in and above the woodlands of Overton Hall you can just make out Turningstone Edge and Cocking Tor.  The halfway point of your walk.



The summit of Far Hill and the rock buttress the Fabrick, or as it’s sometimes called Ashover Rock, {299 metres above sea level}, is a nature reserve and at present under the care of Derbyshire County Council.  It was acquired by them from the Bassett sisters, who in 2006 donated it to the county.  The sisters, one of whom lived in Ashover until she reached the age of 100, were direct descendants of the founder of G E O Basset and Co’ of Sheffield, famous for the creation of

  The name of Fabrick is thought to be derived from the stone that was removed from the small quarries littering the western flank of the hill.  I.E. the material/fabric used to build dry-stone walls and some of the local buildings.


Once you’ve sated your appetite of the beautiful views to be had all round.  Retrace your steps back along the ridge to pass under the Fabrick again.  Keep on above the small gritstone crags below you and before long, the path follows just to the left of a low slightly overgrown dry-stone wall.  Keep following it to pass under a couple of stunted wind-blown Scots Pine, before eventually walking out onto Alton Lane. Turn left and walk down the road, ignore hillside road, this comes up diagonally from the left.  Continue on past Basset Barn lane coming in from the right to keep rambling on down the gently curving Hilltop Road between high mossy overgrown walls.


Occasional grand views over the walls and fences on your left, {south}, above Ashover and onward down the Amber Valley.


Ignoring footpaths coming in from both the left and the right, after about a third of a mile, on a sharp right-hand bend you arrive at the delightfully named cottage of Apple Tree Knoll Farm.


Opposite on the apex of the bend, you will find a wooden wicket gate standing under a wooden footpath post/sign. Push through the gate and walk down the steep stone steps, set close by the side of a low dry-stone wall and overhung with tall gorse bushes.  Enter the small rough meadow that lies below.  Cross this to pass through a grit’ squeeze stile in a broken-down dry-stone wall.


Enter the meadow and plod on down towards the right-hand side of a small mixed copse.  Walk steeply down the side of the wood to the corner of the pasture, {can be very muddy}.  There, standing next to a metal farm gate sits a wooden wicket’, immediately followed by a gritstone’ squeeze stile.  Pass through and walk straight down the field towards the houses below to a galvanized metal farm gate; wooden wicket to its right.  This will take you out onto Hill Road.


Cross over to the road opposite, {called Chapel Hill, not signed}.  Plod on down the lane by/passing a charming house called The Weavers Cottage.   Ignoring lanes coming in from the left and right, keep on down-hill for several hundred metres to the junction of the road with Cripton Lane.  Where opposite, a few metres to the right and slightly overgrown with ivy you will find a wooden footpath sign.


Press on steeply down the narrow snicket, between low moss and ivy-covered walls to a grit’ squeeze’.  Go through and sticking close to the dry-stone wall on the right, pass under a few short scrubby thorns and ash out into a rough boggy meadow.  Negotiate the bog, and sticking close to the wall carry on down through low brambles up to a second grit’ squeeze’.  Step through, and with the wall to your left, wade on down through the buttercups into the left-hand corner of the meadow, {always very muddy}.

Here you will find a wooden squeeze stile, followed immediately by one made of grit-stone.   Pass through these and out onto Marsh Green Lane.  Turn left, and walk ten metres along this lovely shaded tree-lined lane to find a grit’ squeeze’ in the dry-stone wall on the right, {wooden footpath sign}.


Keep to the side of the meadow and as close to the hedge as possible.  In places, this field can be very boggy, so you will have to deviate away from the hedge to find solid footing.  Keep on to pass between a scruffy old alder and an oak tree.  Here, there are some lovely views to be had over the hedge to your left towards Ashover, with the tall spire of All Saints church standing proud above it.  Carry on dodging the mud and work your way down the marshy field to pass through a second pair of trees, this time ash and oak.  All the while heading for the Marsh Wood and the corner of the meadow.


Here, the path bears to the left and you’re forced to cross a small muddy stream issuing from a large concrete pipe in the hedge to your left.  This runs into a broader stream on the right called the Marsh Brook.  Ford the claggy brook and sticking to the overgrown wall as it curves round to the left, leave the Marsh Brook behind to find a wooden wicket’ and a gritstone squeeze stile.


Squeeze through, and following the narrow path, walk up the right-hand side of a small tussocky meadow, after a few metres, the track leads on through a thicket of small scrub blackthorns.  These will bring you hard up to an old converted Victorian chapel.  On the right-hand corner, next to the chapels boundary stands a rusty old metal farm gate with an unusual type of metal squeeze to its left.  Negotiate this and out onto Butts Lane, {wooden footpath sign}. 


When I first walked this section of the route one beautiful spring day in March.  Just as I pushed through the gritstone squeeze stile, standing in the middle of the path plucking and flaying the flesh from a Wood Pigeon.  I came across a male Peregrine Falcon, {a Tiercel}.  It was only about five metres away, as it stood there coldly staring at me, not moving and obviously reluctant to leave its prey.  This was the closest that I’d been to a wild Peregrine and for me a rare privilege.  I could see every detail of its perfect plumage.  From the yellow ring around its huge cold black eyes, its subtle slate grey back and the clearly defined close black bars on its white chest.  All set above a pair of strong yellow feet and talons.
We stood there eyeballing one another for several minutes.  Until seeing me slowly reach down for my camera, prudence got the better of it and reluctantly leaving its prey fled into the sanctuary of a nearby ash tree.

DSC08705Turn right and walk down Butts Lane until you come to a sharp right-hand bend, stone cottage on the right.  Opposite on the left stands a pair of wide metal gates with a bold sign announcing Butts Quarry Riders Welcome.
The quarry is on private land and is used for Moto X events; however, several permissive footpaths cross the estate and give access to the River Amber at this point.

DSC09317 An alternative way of getting to this point is after you have crossed the small muddy stream near the concrete outflow.  Walk for a further thirty meters, until on the right, you will see a narrow stone footbridge made out of two great gritstone slabs laid across the Marsh Brook.  Cross the bridge and pass through into the woodland.  Follow the path, rising steeply in a diagonal direction rightwards under the shade of the delightful mixed deciduous forest canopy.  Keep going, walking over the odd gritstone flag’ before passing through a gap in the stone wall and out on to Butts Road.  Turn left and walk down the road to find the cottage and large metal gates on the sharp bend.


Pass through a squeeze in the wall to the right of the wide gates, {wooden permissive footpath sign}.  Take the lower left of the three gravel tracks in front of you.  Follow the ride down towards the River Amber, bearing right in the valley bottom, all the while enjoying the lovely views down the broad wide sweep of the dale.  Keep on heading west alongside the river until on your left you see the entrance to an old disused limestone quarry, and just beyond that an old chestnut paling fence.  Go straight on through a gap and pass to the right of a post and rail fence, from where the track will lead you up to a wooden footpath post.


Walk under a large clump of Hollys up to a tri-stone grit’ squeeze, pass through these onto a stone bridge leading over the River Amber.  After you’ve absorbed the lovely tranquil scene on either side, carry on through a second squeeze closely followed by a wicket’, taking you out into a beautiful buttercup meadow.


Continue on up the meadow bearing left around the woodland to a metal farm gate.


Pass through, keeping the dry-stone wall and old thorn bushes to your right, follow the wall to a wide gap/gateway in the corner of the meadow.  If you fancy taking the weight of your feet, there’s a convenient viewing bench sitting just to the right of the gateway.
  Go through to a grit squeeze set to the right of a gateway under the line of tall old Larches.


Walk straight on up the meadow with Goss Hall on your right, towards a metal wicket gate standing between a large horse chestnut tree and a sycamore.  Go through and pass under the canopy, between low stone walls up to a squeeze stile, {wooden footpath sign on roadside}.  Step out onto the narrow metaled road. {Green End Lane}.


Turn left and walk down the pleasant sun-dappled lane.  After a couple of hundred metres or so, you leave the woodland and views open up on either side onto wide meadows, that by may are burnished with shimmering drifts of golden buttercups.  Keep on the road for about a quatre of a mile, by-passing Overton Lodge Cottage on the left, until you arrive at Green End Farm on the right with St Martins Farm on the left.  Trundle on for 150 metres or so to pass on your left Green End Cottage.  Shortly after the cottage, the road develops into a broad limestone track.  Carry on for another dusty quatre of a mile, until you come to a junction and the entrance to Overton Hall, signposted private.


Turn right here and step through four stout wooden posts at the entrance to a wide walled in ride, {Y’F’M’ on left-hand post}.


Meander along this delightful little byway, paved in places with gritstone slabs.  These worn smooth and hollow by generations of miners hobnailed boots, as they clattered their weary and worn way to and from the mine on the hillside above the trees.  Eventually, the walls give way and the flagstones lead you on through a shaded tunnel of small deciduous trees and pines.


Before long, the pines give way and the track widens as it gradually gains height.  Steep in parts, and overhung with the dark atmospheric canopy of the ancient mature forest that goes to make up the Cocker Spar Wood.


The ride continues to rise and as it does it widens, bearing to the right.  Until after passing under a stand of tall Corsican pine and larch trees, it brings you out into the blinding light of a broad bare clearing of limestone scree and old mine spoil.  This is the detritus from the old Gregory lead mine workings that sat under Cocking Tor.


Stick to the track, as it gradually gains height in a slightly diagonal direction up through the spoil to its far side.  From here superb views begin to open up northwards over Ashover.
Just as the ride starts to enter the woodland again, on the right just past a large gritstone boulder, you will find a wooden footpath marker.  Y’F’M’.  Take this narrow path steeply up through the woodland, {east}.


The footpath steepens as it gradually gains hight through the mixed oak and rowan of the semi-natural woodland, until near it’s top it gets much steeper.  As it worms and climbs its way through outcropping gritstone boulders until on the crest of the ridge it meets a cross-track traversing the hillside.


Follow this to the left and traverse the hillside, wading through deep bracken, heather and bilberry under a low canopy of oaks, birches and rowans.  Until before long on your left, just below you standing up in the woodland you will come across the tall gritstone block named
The Turning Stone.


There are lots of local myths and legends surrounding the Turning Stone.  The main one, that it’s supposed to turn around on the Cocks crow, though on which days no one seems to know.  Others say it turns on the full moon.  All of these probably stem from the practice of the ancient celts to walk three times around their sacred stones and sites at certain times in the lunar calendar.


Leaving the stone, the woodland starts to thin and gives way to semi heather moorland, allowing more expansive views to the north and east.  Keep worming your way through the heather, slightly south-east, along the rim of the hill until you arrive at the slabby heavily carved and graffiti-covered top of Cocking Tor itself.

Cocking Tor and the love interest.

This is a well-known local beauty spot, and with good reason.  The vista below you over the Amber Valley is fantastic. Especially to the east towards Ogston Reservoir and beyond.  Across the valley to the north sits Ashover and above it Far Hill the start of your trek.
Some of the graffiti on the slab dates back as far as the 1800s and in one way, with a little imagination, it could be regarded as a journal of local love affairs over the last 200 years.


From the Cock Stone, the path heads south, weaving its way through heather and bracken, before gradually descending down through scattered oaks, birches and rowan.  Steep at first, with several steeper sections of scrambling through and over outcropping gritstone boulders.  As the path enters the woodland, it relents in its steepness and shortly curves to the left at a three stemmed birch tree.


Soon the path leads you through a bracken filled clearing before passing under trees again on to a wide bridle track, {wooden footpath post}.  Turn left and walk down it for about 50/60 metres until on the right you come to the entrance of a narrow steep bridleway, {Tall wooden footpath post}.
This heads off in a diagonal direction steeply down through the forest.  Yet another delightful byway leading you down beneath the mixed woodland canopy.  Keep on, with a mossy old gritstone wall to your right to follow it under a beautiful and atmospheric stand of beech trees.


As you come out of the beeches, the woodland begins to open up and you start to pass through scrub birches and rowans, intermingled with the odd rhododendron bush.  Soon, through the trees to your left the scree and spoil heaps of  Gregory mine can be seen again.  While in front of you, standing up amongst the trees the old chimney stack of the mines pumping engine.

The Gregory lead mine.

The main vein was owned by the Gregory family of Ravensnest Farm that sits in the valley below the mine and was worked for 250 years until it was finally closed in 1803.  The main mineral mined was galena, and at one time it was the most productive lead mine in the country, said to produce up to 1511 tons annually.   Employing at its hight up to 300 miners.


If you have the time it’s worth spending a little time exploring the spoil heaps, particularly in Maytime when the screes will be festooned with cushioned drifts of pure white Leadwort.
{Minuartia Verna}.


On warm sunny days in the summer Small Copper Butterflies are fairly common and with a bit of luck, you may even see a brown Lizard sunbathing on the screes. Not that common in Derbyshire, though the spoil heaps are one of the sites where they are often found.  I spotted the one in the photo on the masonry at the base of the chimney.

Return to the path and wander on down through scrub birches oak and goat willow to the chimney.  Skirting around its base, the ride takes you down under the trees to a widening before it curves to the right under an old scots pine.  Again the track narrows as it twists and turns before crossing over a small wet rill issuing from a spring on the right.  Soon after this, you drop down to Ravens Nest farmhouse/cottage, {not signed as such}.


Bear left at this and plod on down the farm track, bypassing on the left a group of sheds, byres and old farm implements, before long you come to a road junction with a sign indicating Ravens Nest and the Beeches to the right.  Ignore this, bear left and keep on walking down the farm lane.


Continue for about 150 meters until you see a limestone gravel track leading off to the left, {north}.  Follow this delightful by-way as it takes you through a couple of lovely buttercup meadows, the bridleway enclosed between low wire fences.  Before getting too far, the track becomes rocky and rough, lined with small ash trees and sunk low as it gradually rises between dry-stone walls.


  Eventually, the track levels out and soon you arrive at the elegant 17th century stone edifice of Overton Hall.


Overton Hall
Joseph Banks and the Aussie Connection.

Joseph Banks 1743/1820, member of the Royal Society and famous 18th-century botanist inherited Overton Hall and its 1200 acre estate from his uncle and banks_largeguardian in the year of 1792, and from there on it was his summer residence.
Banks a very skilled and knowledgable plant finder gained fame in 1768 at the young age of 24, by accompanying Captain James Cook on his expedition to Australia and his subsequent explorations of the south seas.
The odyssey took nearly three years to complete and during that time they suffered from a great many hardships.  Amongst others, the Endeavour was shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and 20 crew members, succumbed fatally to either malaria or fever.  Cook sailed nearly 2000 miles surveying and plotting the coastline of Australia, arriving on its southern tip at Botany Bay on April 9th 1770.  During the journey Banks discovered over 1000 new plant species including 73 Banksias named after him.

Banks involvement in the use of Botany Bay as a  penal colony and the subsequent Q80_18_Pimbloy_MA48416951-1400subjection of the aboriginal population is rather more inglorious, as he fully supported the project.  The arrival of the British fleet in 1790, led to resistance two years later by the indigenous population against the Sidney colonists, led by an aboriginal leader named Pemulwuy.  In 1797 he was seriously wounded, though he evaded capture until 1802 when he was shot dead and his head cut off and presented to Banks for his collection.  Stamp Collectors eh !!!

The engraving is said to be the only known representation of Pemulwuy.

Information gleaned from the National Museum of Australia.


At the corner of the hall’s boundary wall, on the right, you will see a metal farm gate. Behind the gate, squeezed between the wall and a wire fence a narrow footpath leads up towards the woodland.  {Tall wooden footpath sign, R’F’M’ on the gatepost}.  Squeeze past this and peering over the low wall into Josephs garden, while keeping your head down !  Walk along the path towards the forest.


Pass through a metal squeeze’, enter the wood and follow the narrow path through nettles as it rises in a diagonal direction to the right.  Press on through the wood, passing under an ancient purple beech and a couple of venerable old horse chestnut trees.  Continue to skirt through the forest, occasionally passing through the odd clearing and when you get to a wooden fingerpost, {Y’F’M, ignore the path coming in from the left and bear right.


This will lead you on past a shadowed overgrown dry-stone wall, sitting on a band of low crumbling rock.  Eventually, you will arrive at a wide bridle track, {Gin Lane}.  Cross straight over Gin Lane to follow a narrow path enclosed on both sides by a metal post and wire fence, {wooden footpath sign}.


Soon the trees thin out as the trail takes you through a clearing to where over a wooden gate on the right, you can see down into the depths of the old disused Milltown Quarry.  Plod on, still following the metal post and wire fence and still getting the odd glimpse of the quarry workings, until views down and over the wooded depths of the left-hand quarry start to open up.


Eventually, the trees close in again and the track becomes thickly overhung with hazel thorns and ash.   Keep tramping on and before too long you arrive at a stout narrow wooden bridge furnished with handrails, taking you over a deep narrow ravine.  


Keep wandering on through the trees until shortly a second bridge takes you over another deep narrow ravine, from here the path descends steeply to a set of stone steps leading down into the tiny old quarrying village of Milltown itself.  Follow the rough drive down to the road and the bridge over the River Amber.
The end of another delightful section of the walk.


Just before the bridge, turn left and amble up the pot-holed road out of Milltown.  Uphill at first, past cottages and small houses before eventually stepping over three sets of old tram-lines sunk into the tarmac of the road.  These lead up to a well-built stone arch set in the limestone rock face on the left, the remains of an old lime slaking kiln.


Pass on by Demonsdale Farm, {wooden footpath post-R’F’M}, here the road ceases to be metaled and becomes a broad gravel drive that leads you on through a substantial pair of stone parkland gate posts.  Enter the park and continue plodding on up the drive, whilst enjoying the grand views up the Amber Valley to the north-west towards Ashover.


The ride continues to rise as it passes under the occasional parkland sycamore horse chestnut and lime tree before on the right it becomes overshadowed with a stand of great native beeches.


As you leave the beeches, a fantastic view opens up to the right over the river towards Ashover.  A scene that on a beautiful midsummers day can be a perfect vista of rural tranquillity.  The only sounds to be heard, the lazy lowing of cattle drifting up from the verdant water meadows that carpet the side of the Amber, Buzzards mewing and the lark on the wing. The English countryside at its finest.


From here the path gently curves up leftwards towards a second pair of substantial stone gateposts set in the northern boundary wall of the park.  Pass through treading gingerly over the cattle grid, or take the wooden wicket’ on its left onto a cross-track called
the Coffin Road.

 The coffin Road.


The old packhorse trail lined by standing stones and known to locals as the Coffin Road is said to be the route used by mourners and coffin bearers from the outlying villages of Lee and Dethic into Ashover to bury their dead.  The villagers themselves having no sanctified burial ground of their own, it made necessary for them to transport their dead along these byways in order to give them a Christian burial.
Though I think there may be more myth than truth in this.  Most of the tracks are obviously relics of the quarrying and mining industry that has taken place in the valley over the last couple of hundred years or so.  Maybe the coffin-shaped standing stones linning some of the rides gave the lie to this.


 Once you’ve negotiated the cattle grid, turn right then immediately right again to pass through a small wooden wicket’ set in the dry-stone wall to the left of the stone gate post, this will take you back into the park, {green metal footpath sign set above it}.  Follow the worn gritstone pavings that lead down in a diagonal direction {north east}, through yet another beautiful buttercup meadow towards the river Amber.


The nail worn sets take you down to a flight of steep stone steps leading on to a wooden wicket gate on the edge of the wood.  Pass through to continue down more steps into the forest.


Follow the path steeply, ignoring a couple of footpaths coming in from the left to a clearing.  Continue following the track through a short wooded section up to a set of four short wooden posts,  just beyond these a beautiful old packhorse bridge takes you over the River Amber   


Cross the Amber and continue steeply up the rough narrow stony track between moss and ivy-covered stone walls through a shady atmospheric tunnel of small trees and hazel coppice.


Eventually, you come out into daylight onto a metaled drive.  Plod steeply on up the lane into Ashover, on reaching the Poets Corner pub turn left.


Walk along the road for about 30 metres or so before turning right into Church Street.  Continue on between the elegant old townhouses of the village, until just after passing under the imposing parish church of All Saints on the left you come to the Crispin Inn.


The Crispin File.

The house to the left of the inn, now used as its restaurant, is said to date from the time when Thomas Babington of Dethick and a number of local yeomen returned home to Asher from France after the battle of Agincourt, fought on St Crispins Day  25 of October 1416 and thus the pub got its name.  Thomas and his wife’s tomb can be found in All Saints church and is said to be one of the finest in the county.
In 1646 during the Civil War, at the time when King Charles the 1st’s troops were in the area opposing Oliver Cromwell’s army.  Job Wall landlord of the St Crispin’ at that time refused the king’s troops entry.  Standing full-on in the doorway he refused them and told them that, “they should have no more drink in his house as they had drunk too much already”.
“But they turned on him and set watch on the door until all the ale and wine was drunk, or poured into the street”.

Cromwell’s troops were little better !  They destroyed the church windows and used the lead to make round shot. The precious lead font only survived because the priest had the foresight to bury it in his garden.  Nearby Eastwood Hall was also laid waste by the Roundheads, drinking all the wine and ale before slating the hall and rendering it to its present ruined state.

As you are almost back at your car and with a great walk completed, maybe you should walk through the door to join the Royalists and go for a well-earned pie and a pint of ale in the Crispin, or become a Parliamentarian and visit one of the other pubs in this super little
historical gem of an east Derbyshire village. 

A trinity of symbols for Easter. The palm, the crown of thorns and the Judas tree.

The old English name of Palm for the Goat Willow stems back to the middle ages when Goat Willow was gathered at Easter and strewn about in churches
My mother always referred to Goat Willow as Palm.

Palm, Goat Willow.


The Crown of Thorns.



Elder.  The Judas Tree.
The tree that Judas was supposed to have hung himself upon.





A lone journey through a Dark Peak Clough.

A Memoir


An amalgam, a collection of hazy half-remembered recollections from the last sixty years or so, of my lone explorations and adventures in the beautiful cloughs, moorlands and remote wilds in the high southern pennines of the north midlands of England.
 Not of one particular day or of one specific clough, just fading memories from some of the most magical moments that I’ve had, over half a lifetime of tramping and scrambling my way through them.

For me, it’s been a lifetime of joy and pleasure, to be able to escape into them.  And, an even greater privilege to be allowed to share them with the wild plants, animals and birds that somehow manage to scratch out their tenuous living, from what is one of the few genuinely wild and lonely places left in middle England.
 Most of it situated less than ten miles from two of the largest cities in the country.
Though a whole alien world away.

A land sitting on the Edge. 

   Leaving the Redmoss Road at Dale Head, quietly, ignoring a Private Keep Out sign !  I slip over a crumbling drystone wall, set close by the side of an old worn packhorse bridge.  Leaning precariously, hard over the loud urgent surge of the Black Beck, as it pummels and forces its way through the narrow dank fern draped pillars of its ancient arch. The sharp ticking of a wren and clattering scald of a blackbird, loudly announcing my trespass into the gloom of their forest.

A crouching passage, under the low drooping branches of tall spruces and the spring green foliage of larches, made easy by the bare and deep needle covered forest floor, soft underfoot, my steps muffled by the insistent low murmurings of the beck.


Clinging to thin stems of short springy hazel coppice I manage to scramble my way down to the side of the beck, it stained gravy brown from a long journey through the groughs and cloughs of the dark peat moorland above.
Startled by the sudden loud staccato Cack, cack cacking, of a skyrocketing pheasant as it breaks cover from the deep shadows under the lower branches of spruce,
I start to slowly wind my way up the side of the clough.

   Easy at first, walking over the slippery exposed gritstone slabs and moss-covered boulders of a light denuded woodland floor, following a vague path as it weaves its way between broad clean trunks of tall mature Sitka-spruce before tunnelling on through the damp dripping yew like foliage of western hemlocks.
 Male ferns and bucklers spill out of the cracks and crevices in the exposed underlying bedrock, pale toadstools and yellow honey fungus exploiting the woodland gloom, eerily littering the bare forest floor, a clean musky primaeval smell of pine needles and the old decaying bones of long-dead tree stumps invading my nostrils.
All the while the beck continues to urgently crash its way over a bed of hard green grit’, doggedly pummelling between low, narrow buttresses and submerged boulders before cascading over short stone sills in a sparkling rainbow of bright glittering spray.


   Pushing through into a wide-open clearing, the beck ebbs, slackening its pace as I find myself picking a way through crowds of tall yellow-flags and coarse tufts of juncus rush, all thickly lining its banks.  In the middle of the stream standing on a rock,
I spot a pair of dippers.

   Smart birds with black tailcoats, russet brown head and shoulders set above a milk-white breast that they display by bowing and dipping, contrasting with the orange and ochre brown lichens decorating the rocks and boulders that they stand upon.  Unblinking, one of the dippers turns its head to stare at me, the jet black beads of its eyes glinting as it gives me the once over, before slipping into the beck and disappearing under the flat shallow current.  Spreading out its wings, it walks submerged up against the flow while clinging to the stone bedrock of the stream, turning over gravel and small stones to flush out its aquatic prey of insect larvae and small fish.  I’m fascinated as they continue to dive and dip, only to reappear further upstream,  bright, sparkling silver pearls of water rolling down their backs and sides.  Not a shy bird at all and they seemed to willingly accept my intrusion into their small watery world; for me a gift, a privilege.


   Once out of the clearing, the sides of the clough start to steepen and close in, the urgency of the beck increasing as it pounds its way around the enormous green boulders standing in its path, only to hurl itself over high steep steps and thundering falls before resting beneath, in swirling foam-flecked, ink-black eddies of unknown depth.  Making any headway at all is slow, and I’m forced to gingerly slide along narrow, fragile moss-covered ledges, as I cling onto the steep slime oozing stone walls that lean hard over them.  In other places, I risk climbing above them by pulling at the stalks of old leggy half dead heather, or grabbing onto handfuls of bilberry, while kicking steps into the soft fern-covered flanks of the beck.

    Climbing above the falls, I leave the conifers behind, and as the sides of the clough gradually fall back, the stream widens and becomes more sluggish, its banks overhung with a rough mixture of old knurled black-alders, silver birches and ancient wind-blown rowans.  The woodland behind developing into a dense thicket of low scrubby oaks, blackthorns and overgrown hazel coppice.
Overhead, flitting through the open crowns of the alder’s, I hear the thin chittering song from a flock of siskins, as they urgently work at teasing out tiny winged seeds from small hard black cones, that hang in profusion from the alders topmost branches.  Joining in with this frantic workforce, a few brightly marked goldfinches and a solitary red-capped, redpoll, all industrially stripping the alders and birches of their winter bounty.  The siskins were a delight to watch, small yellowy olive green-finches with striking cream wing bars that lit up in the spring sunshine, as they performed their circus acrobatics while swinging from the cones of the alders.


   Sticking close to the beck, I find myself stumbling into a low lying sedge filled carr, the bog sucking hard at my feet,  boots belching and slurping as the mire releases a fetid stink of stagnant rotting vegetation.  Slowly I sink up to my knees until eventually, I managed to haul myself out of the pit by pulling onto the stout stems of goat willow.  Grey sallows that were so thickly grown and so intertwined it was almost like trying to push my way through the woven thongs of a withy sheep hurdle.

   At the edge of the marshland, on either side of the beck stand two tall weathered gritstone pillars,  guardians over a narrow portal into a secret enchanted woodland glade.  The clearing heavily overhung with the gnarled distorted shapes of ancient stunted oaks, trunks bent, their contorted limbs draped with long hanging beards of phosphorescent emerald green Lichens, boles and branches adorned with delicate symmetrical combs of dark green polypody ferns.  On the rocks and woodland floor deep cushions of mosses, that by April are sprinkled with the bright white flowers of wood sorrel and a soft mauve blush of wood-anemones,  its sunny banks cheerfully sporting sweet buttermilk yellow primroses.

DSC05639The dell a complete enchantment;  A Middle Earth.

Once I’d entered the glade, I sank down onto one of the dry soft cushions of moss, took my ringing wet boots off and squeezed the black filthy pungent slime of the mire from my socks.  It’s not too long though before I’m fast away with the fairies, and soon I find myself drifting off to sleep, the thin spring sunshine that seeps through the dappled shade of the oak trees casting its warm magic spell on me.  As I lie there sprawled out, warm comfortable and half asleep on my comfy pallet of moss, slowly a descending flute-like song enters into my consciousness, gradually drawing me back into the land of the living and lifting me out of my dream-like state.  Gazing up into the flickering green canopy above, I spot flitting about on the delicate green foliage of the lower branches of an oak, a small slight bird with an olive back, yellow undersides and a pale-yellow eye stripe.

   The willow warbler seems oblivious of me as I lie there intrigued watching its acrobatic circus act while listening to its sweet sonorous descending carol.  Hanging upside down, the tiny bird worked feverishly hard at examining the underside of each newly emerged oak leaf, in a quest for aphids and insects to feed upon.  This diminutive scrap of a bird a sheer pleasure to sit watch and listen to, as it goes about earning its living and it never fails to amaze me how such a tiny speck of life can have travelled up to five thousand miles from Sub Saharan Africa to visit this place, build a nest rear its young entertain me.  Only to once more in the autumn fly the five thousand miles back to Africa.  An annual miracle that in the scale of life, time and distance makes me feel very small and very insignificant.


   Ruminating on all of this, and lulled by the warblers sweet song, the gentle warm spring sunshine made me drowsy again and I soon found myself nodding off.  Until suddenly, the shrill alarm call from a couple of jaybirds drew me back into the land of the living.  Stiffly, I managed to haul myself up from the comfort of my woodland bower and reluctantly leave the magical enchantment of the fairy dell behind.  Walking on through low open scrub and windblown trees I soon reach the upper edge of the woodland to where I find, raised above a shallow ditch and half-buried in the bracken mush the old bare black bones of a partly collapsed dry-stone wall.  The ancient dyke, bank, and boundary stones that marked a transition from forest to moorland.


  Once over the wall, I gradually begin to gain altitude, the clough becoming more open, the sides shallow, and the trees on either side short and scrubby.  Bracken fills the bottom of the valley and in places grows so lush and so high that it reaches up to my chest and I’m forced to follow the sheep tracks that tunnel beneath.
It’s almost like walking blindfolded, I can hear the beck splashing and gurgling close by, though I can’t see it.  Inevitably the tracks run out, and I resort to slavishly trying to push the ferns apart, or half lying on them in an effort to trample them down, all the while trying not to fall into the hidden course of the stream.  This tiresome performance goes on for several hundred meters so that by the time I finally find my way through the deep maze of ferns, I’m bushed and more than pleased to see the bracken giving way to a patch of short sheep cropped mountain grasses and sedge.  A tiny oasis cheerfully sprinkled with sun yellow tormentil, gentian blue milkwort and the little white pearls of eyebright flowers.

  Close to the side of the beck, on the edge of the pasture stood the lean bare bones of an ancient stone hovel, the ribs of it roof trees bent and broken, propped up by the sad remains of its crumbling walls.  The door pillars still standing and supporting a massive roughly carved stone lintel that I have to stoop under to enter, before crunching my way over broken fragments of gritstone slates and the deep layer of dry sheep shit that littered the bothy floor.  In the far corner of the dwelling sat a flat slate thrawl set by the side of the fallen chimney; its breast stained black by the smoke from generations of smouldering peat fires.


  I decide to hunker down next to the stone thrall and away from the chill wind, set up my tiny stove, brew tea and eat.   As I sat by the hearthstones under the old chimney breast, while ferreting around in my sack trying to dig out my billy cans, and beginning to feel the meagre warmth that slowly radiated from my tiny stove.  I started to sense ghosts.  Ghosts of all the many generations of shepherds and their families, that like me must once have huddled for warmth around the glowing embers of their sad turf fires.  The children cuddling and giving the bottle to their orphaned cade lambs.
A substance living though never hunger, or a wanting one; there would always be a lamb to kill.

  Shooting out from under the thrall, the long copper brown streak of a weasel flashed across the floor of the bothy and as if made of quicksilver, poured itself down into a dark narrow cleft in the shattered remains of the wall opposite.  I settled down to watch and wait and knowing the habits of its kind, that if I waited long enough, curiosity would get the better of it, and eventually, would poke its head out of a nearby cavity to give me the once over.
  Sure enough, just as curiosity killed the cat, this intelligent little assassin stuck its head out.  The two bright black diamonds of its eyes fixing me, as though trying to weigh me up as it held my gaze for the eternity of what was probably only a couple of seconds, before melting back into the crumbling labyrinth of the wall.  I didn’t have to wait too long though before once again it began to worm its snake-like way in and out of the cracks and crannies.  Bolder now, occasionally rolling and tumbling before standing erect onto its hind legs, flashing its creamy white waistcoat and belly towards me.  These mad antics carried on for some time, as though putting on a special performance; and just for me.


 If its plan was to mesmerise and deceive me, as it does to the small rodents birds and young rabbits that it preys upon, just before it goes in for the kill, by latching on to one of poor creatures throat and severing its jugular vein.  Before gorging itself on the animal’s flesh and drinking its warm thick blood;  it had succeeded !  Unfortunately for the weasel most gamekeepers are aware of this habit, and know full well that if they see one dive into a wall, all that they have to do is stand and wait for curiosity to get the better of it and sure as eggs are eggs, the poor gullible creature will pop its head out again, giving the keeper an excellent chance to give it a full barrel from his twelve-bore shotgun !


   Weasels and their larger cousins the stoats, really are a hostage to instinct and habit, keepers know this and take full advantage of their built-in weakness.  Spring-loaded Fen traps sitting in wire tunnels are set on logs lying across the cloughs, while others are sited by the side of the groughs, placed under artificial passages carefully constructed out of pieces of flat gritstone.
Weasels, being weasels are unfortunately and fatally for them unable to resist the urge to investigate a nice dark
warm and inviting tunnel !
The strangest thing is though, quite a few of these traps seem to have been sprung without catching a thing.  Quite odd that !!


   Kicking myself up the arse to brave a biting cold spring wind, I left behind the warm comfort of the byre.
Keeping on a line close to the beck, the moor started to pull in tight on either side, and I soon found myself wading and floundering through knee-deep heather and bilberry, the only respite the few outcropping slabs of bare gritstone that I thankfully managed stand on to get my breath back.  Before I get too far, the banks of the beck become so steep and so overgrown with heather that I’m forced to slide down into its bed to risk boulder hopping, or in places just wading on straight through it.  Only a meter or so in width now, it becomes sluggish, slow running, full of treachery.   Slippery green rocks and deceptively deep dark black sumps lie in wait for me, the soft peat that made up the low sides of its banks deeply undercut, making them steep and challenging,
to climb in or out of.

   Many springs and shallow groughs began to feed into it, all confusingly leading up on to the moor, the beck itself no more than a narrow rill feeding low boggy areas of juncus rush and deep sponges of emerald green sphagnum moss.  In places, the stream noisily disappeared altogether to flow under the peat and I try to follow its passage as it slurps and babbles its way beneath the heather, only to reappear again further on.   I have to keep my eyes open for hidden sinkholes, these heavily camouflaged by the deep heather and bilberry, some thigh deep with the stream running beneath and all with a leg-breaking potential.


  Again, I make the decision to leave the clough, and taking to the heather above head for a distant group of enormous gritstone boulders that I see standing out on the skyline.  Scrambling out of the clough and up on to its heather crest, I’m suddenly startled by the harsh scalding Leck ! leck lecking, from a covey of red grouse, as they explode from beneath my feet, wings rapidly whirring as they skim low over the moss before abruptly wheeling and falling sharply, to once more melt back into the
bleak blackness of the moor.  

  Taking a compass bearing up on to the High Stones, I set off stumbling my way through heather and heath, over the beautiful and sombre wilderness that was laid out before me.  Until eventually, clinging knee-deep heather forced me to slide down on my arse into the bottom of one of the deep high sided peat groughs.  Just one of an endless confusion of water-worn wounds, deeply carved into the course and calloused skin of the moss.
Its arteries and veins slowly bleeding the moor of its own thin watery blood.

Some folk never learn !  From past experience, I should have known better, and that blindly following one of these grikes was not a good plan.  A clough may appear to be heading in the right direction, but they’re devious and can deceive.  Once in and free from the boot clinging knee-deep heather of the moor above, the walking can be reasonably straightforward, especially if the bed of the clough’s frozen or as is often the case in the summer bone dry.  By simply contouring round the dry, bare peat on its sides or walking over the exposed grit’ pavements that the moorland sits upon, can all make for a very easy and seductive delusion to follow !


  They beguile you into taking a false trail, and in the end, you get hopelessly lost confused and disorientated.  Maybe some of the 2000-year old bodies of the peat pickled, red-haired bronze age men, that are occasionally discovered sticking out of the bogs and mires of these northern moors, made the same mistake !
Perhaps blundering over the harsh moss in dire winter weather, they got hopelessly lost and taking their eye off the ball fell foul to the cruel elements, sinking into the quag’, only to be discovered several thousand years later.


Their skin and features plain to see, the veins and hairs on their muscular arms still pronounced, fingernails still intact.  Some seem to have been hanged or ritually garroted before being lowered into the swamp, leather thongs tight around their necks betray this, and it’s hard to see that they could have hung themselves in this treeless barren desert.  Though two to four thousand years ago, the moor was a forest and ancient tree stumps, just like the bog men occasionally rise to the surface.


  Following the line of the clough, as it twists and turns for a further hundred metres or so, on rounding a bend, bursting out from under my feet and still partly clothed in its white winter coat the large piebald shape of a blue hare leapt out from the shelter of its scrape.  The form set away from the wind and warmly tucked away under a thick tufted clump of juncus’.  Taking a tremendous athletic leap the hare left me standing, and with a restrained grace, all the while reserving its energy, it elegantly strode out along the hard peat lining at the side of the grough, before disappearing around the next curve, to once again become part of the vast labyrinth.

   I like to think I have a good sense of direction, but take the sun or the horizon away from me like most folks I’m stuffed, and end up hopelessly lost and disoriented.  So to re-set my bearings, I decided to climb up the near-vertical side of the grough and take to the heather again.  Slipping and sliding, I start to kick steps up the steep ten-foot-high wall of peat, and after several failed attempts, eventually, reach the deeply overhanging cornice at its summit, and by grabbing onto handfuls of heather just manage to do an undignified belly flop over on to its crest.  As I lay, flat out on the lip of the crevasse gasping and trying to regain my breath, in the far distance I could see more wheeling coveys of grouse, their black silhouettes rising and falling on rapid wing beats as they strafe the moor.  The harsh staccato sound of their machine gun like leck lecking, drifting over the moss towards me, until abruptly they fall, curling steeply down to once more fade and disappear into the darkness of the heath.


  Aloof, and frowning the High Stones glower down on me from their lofty stone throne, set high on the dark eyebrow of the moors edge.
And, it didn’t take me too long, before I realised that the line of my clough had led me wildly astray, taking me at least a quarter of a mile off course, so I cast a second bearing.  Only this time decide to stay out of the grikes, and stick religiously to the compass.  Here the
 heather was shorter and the peat dry, making the walking much more straightforward, this in part due to excessively large areas of old burnt Heather from the previous autumns burning.


  On the high grouse moors, the practice of heather burning, or Muir-burn as its called in Scotland, is traditionally carried out by the gamekeepers in the autumn. Large patches of old and leggy ling are fired more or less in a rotational fashion, in what is supposed to be a controlled burn !  The excuse for this act of vandalism is that it promotes the growth of young shoots from the base of the heather, these shoots are the primary food source of the red grouse, and in theory, it increases their survival rate; more young heather shoots equals more chicks, equals more grouse, which in turn equals a bigger bag.  Its simple, boils down to pounds shillings and pence.
Fuck all the fried voles ! Fuck the brown lizards, grass snakes toads and adders along with the thousands of tiny invertebrates, it’s all down to returns, £,s,d, my boy.

They call it moorland conservation ? I call it corporate vandalism !


  In places, wide tracks had been flailed out through this burnt-out war-zone, all leading up to long lines of shooting butts.  The butts neatly and expensively made out of dry-stone’, and sods of peat.  Each of them provided with the thoughtful addition of a built-in seat so that the clients can park their fat corporate arses while in hiding from the grouse, until on the keepers whistle, they valiantly pop up to shoot the living shit out of them.  {On the Whistle boys, shades of the first world war; the officer classes giving a blast before the poor buggers went over the top}.
 They really do think of everything though, in addition to all of this, a conveniently placed shelf has been provided in each trench to stand their hip flasks on, just so that they and their posh mates could make a toast to their brave and heroic acts of slaughtering by grapeshot a few man-eating game birds.  Nice touch that.


  The arseholes that engage in this yearly activity that they call a sport ? Are invariably wealthy corporate businessmen, and in the main mostly townies out in the countryside for a days jolly.  They arrive dressed in their ridicules outdated tweeds and waxed jackets, park their fat arses onto a row of seats on a specially designed trailer, only to get towed up to the line of butts by a 4×4 of some description.  When having spent a few hours filling the carcasses of a few game birds with shot, they get hauled off down again to stuff their own hulks with fine wines and a corporate din-dins.  For the privilege of all this, they can easily pay up to £1,200 per peg, and in addition, a group can expect to fork out around £2,500 for lodge accommodation.
Authentic country folk this lot though !  Take the 4x4s and the keepers, {minders} away from them and the whole lot of them would be stuffed, just the shock of having to use their own legs would give most of them a coronary.
Sorry about that; Rant over !


  Following the line of butts as they trail up towards the squat black shapes of the stones, obscured fleetingly by shadowy skeins of grey mist, swirling and weaving a thin luminescent grey shroud around them, forcing me to keep my eye to the compass’s needle.  I work out a rough line linking up the dark scorched patches of burnt-out heather, and leaving the butts behind start to scrunch my way upwards through the seared charcoal black stalks of dead ling and out onto the watershed of the high moorland plateau.

  I’m nearly 2000 feet up now, and the vegetation changes from moorland heath to a low windblown tundra-like landscape, the heather short and patchy, taken over by thick mats of crowberry and the pale pock-marked leaves of cowberry.  Large areas are overgrown with bog cotton and dotted with hares tail, patches of tiny moorland sedge’s glow deep orange, contrasting with erect golden candles of bog asphodel.   On dry raised areas lying prostrate, just above black bootlace like rhizomes creeping just beneath the surface of the peat, I stumble over the broad green, crimson edged bramble shaped leaves of cloudberry.
This high arctic-alpine member of the rubus family is a shy flowerer and is even shyer at fruiting.  So it was a pleasure and a gift to see sparsely scattered amongst its flat mulberry like leaves, standing upright on thin vertical stalks a few of its pure white blackberry-like flowers, their central cluster of delicate pale, gold-tipped anthers 
glowing brightly in the weak hill sunshine.


  Head down, pushing against the cold wind, I carefully work out a rough line through dense swards of bog cotton and hares foot grasses.  Fluttering white flags leading me on up towards the High Stones.  I soon discover that the plateau is a swamp, soused with an oozing network of shallow reed-filled gutters, all slowly weeping and seeping their way down through a moor that turns out to be more water than a bog.  Many of the dykes feed into a myriad of small still ink-black tarns.  Black mirrors, loosely covered with a floating veil of three-leaved olive green bog beans, their margins adorned with delicate wreaths of tiny, ivy-leaved pond-weed.  Others, entirely blanketed by a treacherous quilt of bright green orange-tinged sphagnum, a rippling multi-coloured shroud draped over malevolent, bottomless boot sucking sumps.  I find myself gently creeping and edging my way around them, all the while prodding with my pole for a solid piece of ground, in places leaping and not always successfully from the sanctuary of one isle of juncus’ to the next, in a mad desperate arm-flailing effort not to be swallowed up by the swamp.
Doing my best to avoid being discovered in two thousand years as the sad peat pickled remains of a twenty-first-century bog man. 

  Finally, I manage to gain a low shoulder of high ground leading me up and out of the morass.  From where in the near distance, fleeing from mean shallow seats scraped out of the dry peat, hanging under the deep sheltered hollows that littered the flanks of the ridge, not yet fully pupated into their grey summer coats, I see more mountain hares start up.  Jigging from one side of the rib to the other, as they swiftly lope away from me, their scruffy piebald blue and white forms disappearing, then reappearing as they course in and out of the peat hags.  Only to once again, melt back into a far distant haze of gold and purple heather.
The odd pair of them breaking off to court and play tag, chasing one another around in ever-decreasing circles, occasionally pausing with their long black-tipped ears erect to stand bolt upright onto their hind legs, before squaring up face on to sport and box.

An ancient vernal love affair, a pairing prescribed in heaven.


  Huddling hard under one of the peat hags, sheltering out of an idle cutting wind while watching the pair of pugilistic lovers slugging it out, gradually, lonely monotonous piping began to worm its way into my consciousness.  And, doing my best to keep a low profile, stooping, I carefully crept my way along the side of the hag, heading in the rough direction that the sound appeared to be coming from.  Confusingly though, as soon as I get to where I think the call comes from, Houdini like it immediately seems to be coming from somewhere else, and it took me some time before I clocked that there were two sources for the bird call and that they were both trying to pipe me away from a nest.

  Golden Plovers.  Liberace birds, that’s the name a good friend of mine decided to christen them, so named on account of their magnificent jewel-encrusted summer raiment, it being, the very height of avian fashion for that particular season. The outfit, comprising of a gilded sequin spangled waistcoat smartly edged with a white border and all set to advantage above a nicely cut midnight black undergarment;  all very sexy.

The thing is, despite this audacious show of bling, until taking to the wing, they really can be quite tricky to spot, merging with and hidden amongst the gold-tipped leaves of bilberry and crowberry of the heath.  All the same, I didn’t have to wait too long before one appeared, it was only about fifty meters away perched on a low grit boulder on the brow of a raised part of the moor, standing stock still while continuing to chant its insistent, haunting lament. 

Close up of an European Golden plover in wetlands in Bressay, Scotland, UK.

  I knew that I must have been getting close to the nest site, as the plover allowed me to get more or less on top of it before feigning an injury, by flapping and hobbling away low to the ground, wings outstretched and tail down in an effort to draw me away from the area.  I played along with this farce for a few more meters or so, until eventually, the bird flew off to find sanctuary on the top of a nearby cairn of stones, all the while continuing to pipe away at its sad mournful air.  Almost as soon as it had left me, its understudy flew in, taking over the star roll in what was part two of the second act, and gave an equally fine and exceptional performance; in fact, a mirror image of the first.  Eventually, tiring of the drama, I decided to draw down the curtain onto their grand production, bring an end to the show and start to search for the nest. 

  Keeping an eye open as to where I placed my feet, I set about quartering the short sheep cropped heather at the top of a small raised hillock that the plovers seemed to be desperately trying to draw me away from.  
It took a while, but when I eventually did stumble across the nest, it was nothing more than a shallow scoop built out of small fragments of heather and lined with a warm, soft cushion of dry moss.  It was almost invisible, blending in with its surroundings, just another part of the moorland.


Finding it had turned out to be a tiresome and tedious task, especially as the eggs had hatched and the nest with its four tiny fledgelings feathered in, almost completely with the short sheep cropped heather and its mossy under-storey.
The chicks themselves a marvel of evolution, enchanting fluffy green, gold and black scraps of life that when disturbed play dead, lying stock still as if frozen, making themselves almost invisible to see set against the heather lining of their nest; as if just four more tiny, withered and ragged fragments of windblown moss.
I didn’t linger over it too long though, as the parent plovers were getting increasingly agitated by the minute, putting ever more effort into their frantic displays and almost throwing themselves under my boots, so I thought it best to quickly move away and leave the young brood to the care and protection of their heroic parents.


  Sticking hard to the compass, I found myself thrutching up into a steep, shallow north-facing cwm, that hung high up below the northern edge of the plateau.  Here the heather gave way to short sheep cropped mountain grasses and sedge.  A wide fan of wet rills, glittering and crystal clear, suckle the infant clough way down in the deep shadows of its bowl.
Forced to follow faint, indistinct sheep tracks as they contour steeply up through a band of bare clattering screes and loose grey shale, out from under a thin scattering of yellow-sedge lining one of the ice rimmed wet flushes, I set up a brace of snipe.  I watch them as they fall, erratically zigzagging steeply down onto the moor; lost.  Only the occasional flash from their swift white-edged scimitar wings and the odd harsh, rusty creak of their alarm, echoing, to break the deep silence of the fell.

The Swans of Blood.

Scrambling along one of the narrow sheep runs, on a steep part of the head-wall, I end up making a slow deliberate traverse across seams of unstable moving scree and large tottering blocks of grit’, all tightly squeezed in-between towering bands of crumbling orange-grey grit’ crags.  Halfway along one of the terraces, sat on an untidy jumble of a nest, roughly made up of twigs, flotsam and gleanings of sheep wool, all crazily perched high on the lip of a narrow white-washed ledge on one of the tors.  I startle a pair of ravens.  Who, with the scarcely disguised indifference of a pallbearer, turn their great black beaks towards me, gazing, casting their cold pitch-black eyes on and through me; undertakers eyes, the scavenging dead eyes of the sweepers up after a death.

Raven - Corvus corax,   portrait and social behavior

One man must ride the gaping gallows,
hang to death, until his soul-hoard,
his bloody bone-coffer becomes broken.
There on the gallows, the Raven takes his eye,
the dark cloaked one tears at the soulless;
nor is he able to ward off that evil,

that loathsome thief of the air.
Old English Poem.  The fortunes of men’.
 From the Exeter Book.

Shuffling and puffing up their plumage to make themselves appear twice the size, lazily they stretch open their broad wide wings, and issuing a loud deep Kronk !  Peel away from their high stone throne.  Folding back their wings like the barbs of an arrow they steeply drop, disappearing into the deep dark depths of the void, tumbling and pirouetting as they fall, their deep cryptic Kronks echoing around the crags.  Only to once more return, as though deciding; giving me a second chance.  Twisting and turning in the air, looping curling and rolling around each other in a mad clinging play fight as they plummet, before again peeling away in a wild wide arc.  The sun flashing and glinting off the backs of their perfect oil black iridescent plumage.  Calling to me, they turn their heads to look, staring, entering my mind; searching deep into my soul  

    Breaching the edge, I found a steep rubble-filled gully that led sharply up towards a deep dark narrow cleft cleaving two of the main tors, that from below looked as though it might just be a passage leading me up and out onto the high plateau.
Guarding the entrance to, and barring my way into the rift, horizontally wedged across its base lay an enormous jagged chock-stone, that by some contorted grovelling and crawling I just manage to squeeze my way under into the dark depths of a dank, damp and ferny cave behind.  Only to find its floor littered with the sweet stinking remains of a dead ewe, that somehow must have slipped and fallen down into the chasm from the moor above.  Smashed and bleeding, it had been unable to escape from its dark stone prison cell and in the end,
slowly and inevitably starved to death.


Holding my breath !   Strenuously, I bridge and thrutch my way up the back of a narrow slimy green passage leading up and out of the cave, to pass through a small round window of daylight in its roof.  Gasping, eventually the chimney spat me out, to thankfully fill my lungs with the cold fresh upland air again.

Standing guard, close by stood the dazzling white pillar of a triangulation point.  Stark and bright against the clean gritstone pavement that made up the flat grey summit of the highest,
High Stone.


 Here, cowering out of an idle cutting east wind and sheltering in the lee of a roughly built stone ring cairn, the wind tears at the swirling wraiths of mist, pulling them apart. Exposing the brooding wild expanse of the moor, a vast multicoloured map of wildness laid out beneath my feet.  Sunlight and shadow race, tagging each other across its wonderfully bleak patchwork of golds, purples and browns.
Scarred only by the charred blackened remains left behind by the
heather burners.


 Cleaving its way through the centre of all of this, my clough.  Its sparkling beck, the main artery of this complicated wild landscape.  Lingering, it slowly worms its torturous way down through the moor, the delicate thin fingers of its capillaries branching off and leaching the lifeblood from its black sodden flesh.  Before, finally crashing and tumbling on its long journey through the distant meadows and ancient oak woodlands that clothe the green and fertile dale that lies far below.


All of this stunning beauty shared, by a miraculously diverse flora and fauna that has amazingly, and despite all of the odds, somehow evolved to take advantage of it and learned to scratch the rudest of livings from the scantiest of all provisions.

Man just an unwanted intruder into their wild world.

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