Exploring the delights of Belper, Duffield and Mickleover
- Credit: Ashley Franklin
When it comes to mixing heritage with modern living, few do it better than Belper
In 1820, Belper became the first place in the UK to get gas lighting – apt, given the town’s strong industrial heritage. The lights came on for the first time at a works owned by the famous Strutt family. By 1835, George Benson Strutt had spent £32.19s. 8½d for 23 street lamps and demand was such that by 1850, the Belper Gas and Coke Company had been formed.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Belper offers an abundance of places to eat and drink both in the town itself and along the popular A6 route that passes through on the way to Duffield and Derby.
The town benefits from a perfect blend of traditional pubs, cafes and family-friendly eateries as well as a host of continental offerings and high-end restaurants.
The Lion Hotel on Bridge Street is ever-popular and you’ll find a comprehensive menu catering for all tastes, complimented with an array of tipples to satisfy the tastebuds. For those looking to eat on the go, George’s Tradition, also on Bridge Street, has a reputation for being a first-class fish and chip shop and attracts visitors from far and wide.
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Belper is also fast developing a reputation for delivering exceptional vegetarian and vegan food and Vegan Revelation, on Chapel Street, is well worth a visit.
In keeping with the times, you’re also never far away from an independent micro pub or quirky cocktail bar. In short, from a food and drink perspective, Belper has it all.
THINGS TO DO
Belper River Gardens
The perfect day out with the family, Belper River Gardens is as idyllic as it sounds. Set against a backdrop of the famous North Mill, the gardens offers a children’s playground, beautiful scenery, open spaces and easy access.
Just a five minute drive from the town centre, Heage Windmill is an 18th Century windmill and the only surviving six-sailed stone-built windmill in the country. It offers something different, is educational and includes tours and an on-site shop.
Lying nine miles north of Derby with exceptional transport routes, it’s a credit to Belper that, far from relying on its industrial roots and heritage, it has evolved into a popular, go-to market town with an eclectic and diverse mix of things to see and do.
In 2014 it won the inaugural Best Market Town award, while just last year it was a winner at the national Great British High Street Awards – impressive accolades indeed.
Yet it would be remiss not to give a nod to the town’s significant and celebrated past. Belper is understood to be a corruption of ‘Beaurepaire’ (beautiful retreat) – the name given to a hunting lodge. The first record of this appears in the charter of 1231; the residence of Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster. The chapel built at that time still exists.
However, it’s Belper’s more recent past that it is best known for. Birthplace of the ground-breaking skyscraper technology which changed the world forever, this welcoming Derbyshire location has a rich industrial history and is the beating heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Specifically, the famous industrialist Jedediah Strutt built one of the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mills here in 1776 and Strutt’s North Mill - now the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre - was rebuilt in the early 1800s, using the world’s first fireproof iron frame which would become the successful template for modern high-rise engineering.
Belper is rightly proud of its past but has fully embraced the present, as its awards demonstrate.
Whether you have a penchant for history or simply want to sample a town with plenty to see and do – such as the Ritz Cinema or Denby Pottery a few miles down the road - Belper is a great choice for a day out, while it is also increasingly popular as a hub for small businesses.
A STONE’S THROW AWAY
Duffield and Mickleover
Distance from Belper:
3.3 mile (Duffield), 10.4 miles (Mickleover)
Background: The picturesque and colourful Amber Valley village of Duffield sits just five miles north of Derby and has a multitude of offerings in keeping with its charming aesthetics; including churches, a post office, library, independent shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants and more. It is also home to the remains of a castle - the site of one of England’s largest Medieval keeps. With tennis and squash courts, a golf course and a cricket ground there’s also plenty for those of a sporting persuasion.
Mickleover lies two miles west of Derby and is one of the largest suburbs of the city – finding a perfect balance between the urban and the rural. With a full range of amenities and plenty of food and drink offerings – as well as its own football club – the village still retains characterful buildings and properties, the oldest of which is probably the aptly named Old Hall.
Must visit place: Duffield Millennium Meadow is a great stop off point, boasting a wide variety of wildlife to enjoy. Located next to the river, it’s also the perfect place for a quiet and relaxing stroll against a backdrop of lovely scenery.
Famous for: St. Alkmund’s Church, one of only six in England dedicated to Alkmund, the 8th-Century Northumbrian prince and Mercian martyr (Duffield); The timber-framed Old Hall is believed to have once hosted Oliver Cromwell, who is said to have stayed there during the Civil War (Mickleover)