*** THIS IS NOT INTENDED AS A WALK GUIDE ***
This turned out to be a super duper walk of almost eight miles. Along the way Nellie and I enjoyed woodland wanders a plenty, and saw a banquet of bluebells lying in swathes like patches of fallen sky beneath the trees.
We parked in the free car park at Rowsley then crossed west over the Derwent before heading down School Lane and continuing straight ahead on the long drive to Stanton Woodhouse. This historic cluster of buildings dates back in part to the 16th century. The manor house, farmhouse, barn and stables are all listed, as is the 19th century tufa grotto in the garden.
Winding our way carefully through fields containing sheep and lambs brought us to Lees Road by the side of the disused Endcliffe Quarry. Until 2009 this had for ten years been the site of the longest running protest camp in the country. Campaigners set up home in more than 50 tree houses, tents and mobile homes, their aim being to act as a human shield against reopening the quarry here and at Lees Cross.
After walking a short distance to the right we crossed over boulder bollards to follow a path leading toward Stanton Moor. We passed a ruin reminder of the areas quarrying past, most of which is now hidden beneath a canopy of trees and dense foliage.
Where a footpath indicator pointed right to pass a fascinating rock face, we instead turned left on a narrow but well-walked path.
In all the years I have hiked these hills, including several when I actually lived in Birchover, I have never trodden along here before. What a delight it turned out to be as the path wound through trees, skirting beneath Stanton Moor up to our right.
It had rained the night before creating a musky smell from dank loam beneath our feet. The path led us above houses at Stanton Lees with tantalising views down the Derwent Valley beyond. All the time we seemed to be surrounded by wild flowers, ferns and fronds of young bracken. The icing on my cake though was to hear a cuckoo close by.
Eventually Nellie and I emerged further along Lees Road, not far from a footpath leading down to the manicured grounds of Barn Farm campsite. A peacock that looked like a bluebell coloured weathervane was calling out from the rooftop.
We ambled down into Birchover to sit on the old stone water tank where I ate my butty whilst reminiscing of teenage years spent in the village.
Our direction now was to walk up Uppertown Lane to the stocks and then turn left to follow the fabulous Clough Lane, once a coach and carriageway, in part still paved with slabs of gritstone. It was idyllic, peaceful and tranquil with the only sounds being that of birdsong.
After a steep descent past Cowley Knowl we emerged onto Oldfield Lane and headed down to the rear of the massive Enthoven’s works that stands on the site of the former Millclose lead mine. At Darley Bridge we crossed over the Derwent then continued along the pavement to Darley Dale cricket ground. In 1975 this was the prestigious venue for the 1975 John Player League match between Derbyshire and Hampshire
A footpath alongside led us through meadows to Churchtown where I had a quick look in the churchyard at its famous yew and impressive marble-tombed grave of Sir Joseph Whitworth.
Our route back to Rowsley was flat but fascinating as we walked on the pathway beside the railway line for Peak Rail following the bottom of the valley. Sadly it was not an operating day as I would have loved to see trains tootling past.
For about a mile the pathway was through open countryside with views toward distant hills rising up from meadows strewn with livestock.
After crossing over Harrison Way, Nellie and I plunged into another woodland wander to end our circular route in cool dappled shade, observing wild flowers and enjoying a totter along the ‘wibbly-wobbly’ barge-board bridge, laid so that we didn’t have to splodge through the muddy swamp beneath.
FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: Something strange is going off and I’m thinking I might be going on holiday. It seems like ages since mum last got her suitcase down off the top of the wardrobe which is a sure sign we are off somewhere exciting. Mum has bought me some new toys for the beach which she will pack with my towel, blanket, bowls, bag of food and treats. I don’t travel light you know because I also need my assortment of leads, harness and collars to suit all occasions as I’ve got to look my best. Then there’s my extra-large crate that has got to somehow fit in the car so that I’ve got my own space and sanctuary in the holiday cottage where we will be staying. When it’s all loaded there’s hardly any room for anything or anyone else!
By the time you read this I will probably be home again. Fingers crossed the weather was nice and we had lots of fun. Look out for my postcard from Wales with love! Ta-ra for now, Nellie x