Walks with Nellie
by Sally Mosley
This is not intended as a walk guide
This was a walk of delight and discovery following mainly field and stile footpaths, quiet lanes and old tracks. Strung out along the way was a fascinating selection of old country residences and some very posh properties providing me with lots of house envy moments. This eastern side of Derbyshire offers far reaching views over an undulating landscape of fields enclosed mainly by hedgerows where livestock graze and some arable crops are grown. Bumbling brooks trip and tumble in the bottom of gentle sheltered valleys with occasional patches of ancient woodland, all separated from the Peak District by a band of high moorland.
Our walk began at Linacre Reservoirs where I parked in the pay and display before setting off with Nellie through Kitchenflat Wood. At the start we passed a lovely nature reserve pond where on the surface was the reflection of branches and autumnal leaves from trees above.
A medley of footpaths hereabouts looked a bit like a cobweb of routes and rights of way on my map, offering a choice of ways toward Cutthorpe Green where I was keen to get a peep through the trees at Cutthorpe Hall. It reputedly dates from 1675 but stands on the site of an earlier building and within are said to be a secret chapel and priests holes in the rafters.
An attractive bridlepath and avenue driveway known as Green Lane took me to the actual village of Cutthorpe where we emerged onto the main road close to the fabulous Old Manor House. its tall 4-storey section was built in 1625 for Alderman Ralph Clarke of Chesterfield whose father had been the town’s first mayor and a lead ore merchant. The 2-storey section to the side is even older and evidently timber framed. It is said to date from the 15th century.
Now Nellie and I had a bit of a pavement potter until we arrived at Cutthorpe Village Hall, originally built as a school. Here we turned left to walk past the recreation ground along Common Lane which soon descended steeply to cross the Sud Brook where we had a choice of either paddling through a ford (which I decided against) or crossing over a wooden footbridge. A field ascent to Wilkin Hill followed and then an amble down to Barlow.
The car park of The Peacock was nearly full and there was a bit of a socially distanced queue for Hackney House café where a tempting sign for home-made pies had me drooling. Unfortunately, having Nellie has curtailed my tearoom fetish as it is so much easier to pack a picnic when you have a dog in tow.
I was intrigued by the nearby and very prominent tree, protected by a circle of railings. Evidently this Coronation Tree was planted on 22nd June 1911 in commemoration of George V.
Prior to the 17th century, Barlow was known as Barley after the family that owned it. In subsequent years it became part of the estate held by the Duke of Rutland, hence the pub name taken from the family emblem.
Only a few strides and we headed up the side of Barlow Church established in Norman times and dedicated to St Lawrence. Within is said to be the tomb of Robert Barley who was the first husband of Bess of Hardwick.
There now followed a fabulous footpath with incredible views, heading in an almost straight line through a succession of meadows and arable fields, passing over stiles or through little gates to Bole Hill, an ancient site where smelting of lead or iron once took place.
We passed close to Bole Hill House which is absolutely gorgeous. It dates mainly to 1677 with later additions and alterations and was formerly an academy or school with a schoolhouse attached.
Emerging from the drive we turned right and followed the quiet lane towards Grange House Farm. In the 12th century an order of Cistercian monks from Louth Park Abbey in Lincolnshire owned land hereabouts, hence references in local property names such as Abbeyhill Farm. Barley Grange, later to become Barlow Grange is an indication of medieval sheep farming.
Just before the farmhouse we turned left down Oaks Lane and I was soon to discover how it gets its name by walking on a mulch of acorns.
After Oxton Rake Farm the terrain became very rough and badly eroded, leading down to a hollow beside an upstream section of the watercourse I had crossed earlier. This very old route is named after the path along which oxen were driven to their summer pastures.
The route soon became a road again taking me to a junction beside the Gate Inn, from where we followed a roadside path to Pratthall which comprises a little cluster of cottages and farmhouses.
It was a lovely walk back to the car park from here along a grassy track flanked by ancient hedgerow and then across a large open field with yet more far reaching views. In the distance I could just make out the twisted and crooked spire of for which Chesterfield is renowned.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: When I first came to live with mum and dad from the farm up the road, my bed for the night was a metal crate in the kitchen which I have to admit was warm, snug and made me feel secure. I’m a big girl now though and the crate has become abandoned. I hardly ever venture into it at all as I’ve got so many nests around the house that are far more comfortable. I’ve pretty much taken over the little sofa in the lounge but I also spend cuddle times on the big one. For a little while now I’ve headed upstairs at night to the bedroom. Mum says I’m spoilt because Alfie, my predecessor, was only ever allowed to sleep on a rug on the floor; however I’ve sneaked my way onto the bed. I’m not permitted under the covers, yet, but I do have my own blanket on top of the duvet. Mum says I’m her little furry hot water bottle. I must send an email to the editor asking for an advert to be placed in the classified section for my dog crate so there is no chance of me heading back downstairs to the dog house!