Sally Mosley leads a walk that combines a town trail and a pleasant winter wander, with plenty of historic structures to appreciate in and around beautiful Ashbourne along the way

DESCRIPTION A dalliance between rural ramble and pavement pottering, this walk starts with a tunnel leading you to the heart of the town. After an appreciation of Ashbourne as a treasure trove of historic buildings, we leave behind the urban sprawl to ascend and descend across lush farmland on an undulating ramble to Mapleton and back.

DISTANCE 5 miles

PARKING Mapleton Lane Car Park, Ashbourne, DE6 2AA (pay & display) Grid Ref: 176469

TERRAIN 10+ stiles & gates. Moderate walk along pavements, paths and through fields and stiles. Some roadway without pavement. Areas prone to mud in wet weather. Livestock grazing. Close proximity to deep water.

Great British Life: The Okeover Arms, MapletonThe Okeover Arms, Mapleton (Image: as supplied - Sally Mosley)

REFRESHMENTS Various shops, tearooms, cafés and pubs along the route. Kiosk café at Mapleton Lane cycle hire

TOILETS Mapleton Lane car park; Shawcroft car park

MAP O.S. Explorer 259 – Derby

WALK HIGHLIGHT The buildings of Ashbourne – an architectural gem of a town!

1 From the car park head through the tunnel which dates from 1899. Following its construction, four passenger trains a day ran each way through here between Ashbourne and Buxton as well as a single direct train from Buxton to London on a stretch of line operated by the London & North Western Railway company. From 1910 when Nestlé opened a creamery in the town, this line was also used for milk trains. Listen for the bygone sounds of trains from hidden speakers.

2 On emerging from the tunnel follow a walkway through the car park beyond, heading past the Leisure Centre. Just before St Oswald’s hospital turn right to cross Henmore Brook and then left on a narrow path by Spalden’s Almshouses, founded in 1723, that leads you to the church. St Oswald’s, with its needle-like spire reaching 212 feet, dates from 1241. Within are monuments of the Cokayne and Boothby families including the renowned Carrara marble monument to Penelope Boothby in the form of a sleeping child, said to be the work of Thomas Banks. See also the unusual gate piers on the main entrance as you leave where the pointed tops are held in place by carved stone skulls.

3 Turn right onto Church Street and follow this as far as the junction with traffic lights. This wide road is lined with fabulous buildings. Immediately on your left is the Old Grammar School which dates from 1585, founded by Queen Elizabeth I. On your right you will pass The Mansion, an important 17th century town house with plaque to commemorate a visit here by Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century writer often referred to as Dr Johnson. Beyond this are Pegge’s Almshouses dating from 1669 and the slightly earlier Owfield’s Almshouses. Cross over Station Road to pass the Methodist Church built of red brick with an Italianate Neoclassical façade and decorative terracotta panels. Beyond this are the Clergy Widows Almshouses of 1770.

4 Turn right at the traffic lights and head down Dig Street passing The Cheddar Gorge shop located in a wonderful and well preserved 17th century building. Cross over to follow the pedestrian walkway past supermarkets and shops to Shawcroft car park where at the far side you will see a brick stand with steps leading up to a platform. This is where the Royal Shrovetide Football match begins. Also known as ‘hugball’, this ancient sport is said to date back to medieval times and can be observed every year in Ashbourne on both Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

5 Cross over Park Road and follow a footpath anti-clockwise around Ashbourne Pond in Fishpond Meadows, home to a wide variety of animal and plant-life. Types of fish found in the pond are said to include roach, perch, bream, tench and crucian carp. Returning to the road end of the pond, go over a wooden footbridge to cross Henmore Brook and then head up past the playground towards the bandstand to discover a bust in memory of Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army with her husband William Booth. Exit the War Memorial Gardens, formerly the grounds of nearby Ashbourne Hall, near the main gates on the corner which act as a memorial to those who fell in the Great War. 4

Carefully cross over the road and head back into the heart of Ashbourne along St John Street which contains yet more examples of wonderful Georgian architecture. See ahead to a 15th century timber framed building with jettied upper floor, one of the oldest properties in the town. This building is home to The Ashbourne Gingerbread Shop where a bakery on site has been making this famous local delicacy for more than 100 years.

6 Turn right and walk up into the market place. Ashbourne was awarded its market charter in 1257. Cross Union Street to the right of the George & Dragon, one of several old coaching inns located in the town centre and head up The Channel, a wonderful old cobbled walkway leading to North Avenue where you cross to a fingerpost sign ‘Public Footpath to Thorpe’ and begin your rural ramble. After passing between houses, the footpath bears slightly right to descend fields to a footbridge over Bentley Brook followed by a short path up to access the Tissington Trail.

7 Turn right to follow a dip and rise in this long distance walking, cycling and horse riding route. At the top of the rise turn left and head down steps on a well-defined path leading through fields, stiles and narrow gates to the village of Mapleton. At one point a section of fenced path passes straight through part of Callow Top caravan and camping site. Beyond this you should experience far-reaching views over a landscape of pasture contained within ancient hedgerows with the impressive Okeover Hall across the valley. This privately owned Grade II listed house is the seat of the Okeover family who have owned this estate since the reign of William Rufus. Notice also the jagged summits of Bunster Hill and Thorpe Cloud away to your right.

8 As you begin to descend notice the sign on the end of a hedgerow offering a choice of routes. Turn right here, following the footpath to Mapleton where a small gate provides access into the graveyard at the rear of St Mary’s Church which was rebuilt in the 18th century. The architect was James Gibbs who was a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren.

Turn right in front of the church and walk to the T-junction and then turn left for a short detour to Okeover Bridge, passing the late 18th century Clergy House. Okeover Bridge crosses the River Dove between Derbyshire into Staffordshire. Since the 1980s there has been a local custom of jumping off this 30ft high bridge on New Year’s Day to raise money for charity. Just before the bridge go through a gate on the left and cross the field, returning you to the main street by the Okeover Arms public house.

9 Turn right and follow Mapleton Road out of the village, passing the playing field on the right. At Callowend Farm on the left follow a fingerpost sign and head through a small field gate then ascend a steep bank going through a wide gap in the hedge at the top. Continue across to the far right side of the next field to where the footpath meets up with a track that winds up from the farmhouse now behind you. Diagonally cross the following field to a band of woodland where you can see the roof of Callow Hall Hotel surrounded by trees below. Turn left and walk along the top of the wood, then steeply downhill bringing you onto the drive leading up to the hotel.

10 On reaching Mapleton Road turn left and walk beside the road which will return you to the car park.