by Sally Mosley
This is not intended as a walk guide
It was the week before the big freeze arrived that Nellie and I headed early one morning up to Ladybower. Luckily, we were in time to find a vacant space to park roadside near the dam wall. Standing proud like giant step-sided chasms, the plugholes looked to be well and truly dry, but in fact the reservoir is filling up nicely thank goodness, with the current capacity at about sixty percent.
We crossed the dam wall, turned right for a while, and then headed up the easier footpath to the top of Parkin Clough and the base of Winhill Plantation so that we could follow a higher path along Thornhill Carrs. The views from up there were stupendous and far reaching so Nellie and I sat for a while on a damp grass perch to admire them, looking across to the craggy skyline of Bamford Edge and down to see dinky toy cars travelling along roads in the valley below.
It was slippery through boot-encrusting mud on the narrow path to Thornhill and so I ventured very slowly until we emerged onto Townhead Lane. From there it was easy going past the former chapel and then Nicholas Hall with its stone dragon sentry looking over the wall.
Around the corner and just a little further downhill to just beyond a cottage and we turned left again onto the most fabulous old path, slightly elevated from its original hollowed away route that lay down to our right. This brought us to the end of the former railway line used over a century ago to transport stone from near Grindleford to construct the dam walls of Derwent and Howden. A short path opposite led us to the former Derwent Valley Water Board offices built in the early 1900’s. For some years now these substantial stone built premises have been home to the Bamford Quaker community. The charitably incorporated organisation offers a programme of reflective and working retreats with a focus on leading a spirit-led life in an ecologically sustainable way. They welcome guests from all faiths and none.
It was easy walking along Water Lane to Bamford where we followed the roadside pavement in the direction of St John the Baptist Church, with its needle like spire, before turning left along Mill Lane to The Hollow.
Following fingerpost signs, Nellie and I made our way along the stepping stone path beside Bamford Mill to cross the River Derwent.
The first mill on this site was built in 1782 for grinding corn, but it was destroyed by fire in 1791. It was replaced by a cotton spinning mill that operated using water power from the river. Reputedly the long weir was built with rocks brought here from Bamford Edge. In the 19th century a beam engine was installed, but this too was replaced by a horizontal steam engine in 1907. Bamford Mill was owned by Courtaulds when it closed in July 1965 with the loss of 120 jobs. In the 1990’s the premises were converted into high class apartments and residential accommodation, the mill chimney was demolished and the boiler plant and turbines were removed.
Nellie and I now walked across a couple of fields before following signs that sent us up a grassy bank to return to the trail. This led us back to Ladybower through Thornhill Carr Nature Reserve which is managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Their website describes it as being a steep sided valley dominated by extensive hawthorn scrub and open glades. In summer it is possible to hear blackcap, chiff chaff and willow warbler as well as to observe many species of bee, butterfly and hoverfly thanks to the area being rich with wild flowers. Along the way we passed various wooden sculptures highlighting the ‘missing animals’ of Derbyshire such as pine marten, wild boar, red squirrel and osprey. This wonderful sculpture trail was the idea of Ross and Sue McKinlay as a memorial to their daughter Emma who died in 2017 after a brave 3-year fight against a rare illness.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: It’s that time of year when our village is full of twinkly lights and houses decorated for Christmas. The other day I gave mum a bit of an early Christmas present surprise. She had bought me a very hard and somewhat smelly chew to entertain me whilst she and dad popped out. I didn’t like the taste of it though and so I buried it right good and proper. That night when mum got in bed she wondered what was under her pillow making all the covers smell horrible. Nellie the Christmas fairy had been at work! Happy New Year to all my lovely friends and anyone who reads my little blog.