When renowned 20th century travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor gave one of his books the title Between the Woods and the Water, he must have known, at least instinctively, the title would entice browsing readers.

There is something about walking in the ‘hug’ of a forest combined with the music of flowing water that quietens the mind and soothes the soul.

This route takes the rambler along the River Derwent, up through Callow Wood above Dunge Brook before dropping down to Highlow Wood, where the rambler crosses Highlow Brook, eventually descending to the edge of Hathersage – and a welcome pint at The Plough.

Great British Life: Looking out towards Abney Moor Photo: Helen MoatLooking out towards Abney Moor Photo: Helen Moat

1. There’s a small amount of roadside parking on the B6001 beside Leadmill Bridge. Cross the road and bridge in the direction of Grindleford, taking time to feast on the Derwent – a particularly impressive sight when it’s in full flow over the winter months. At the end of the bridge go through the gap and follow the river (on your right) a short distance.

2. Ahead, you’ll see a grassy path cutting diagonally between two stone posts, it leads to steps that ascend a wooded bank. Climb the steps and turn right to follow the path in the dip edging the field boundary. Enjoy the views as they open out to Hathersage, the edges and the Dark Peak moorlands. The path emerges at Mount Pleasant farmhouse, suitably named as this is indeed a very pleasant walk of rises and dips, country lanes, forest pathways on wooded hillsides and hidden valleys of bubbling streams.

3. Leaving the fields behind for the moment, turn immediately right at the house to follow a rough farm track downhill. At the dip in the lane, you’ll see a fingerpost pointing in the direction of Callow Wood on the hillside.

4. Climb through the meadow and into the woodland, beeches arching over the path, Dunge Brook babbling below. It’s a particularly lovely wood, almost continental in its feel with its sprinkling of conifers. It’s a steep climb up to Callow Farm, but you’ve a good excuse to pause frequently to enjoy the trees and the water. Keeping right, whenever the path appears to divide, you’ll eventually arrive at a wicket gate. Go through and head up the field to the farm. Continue uphill along the farm track. It emerges at a country lane.

5. Turn left here and drop down the road, the canvas of dark green fir trees a glorious sight in front of you. The road curves round, crossing Dunge Brook once more. Take a moment to enjoy the little stream cascading over rocks, the conifers of Dunge Wood soaring on the hillside above the lane. Continue uphill towards Highlow Hall.

Great British Life: Lane leading to Highlow Hall Photo: Helen MoatLane leading to Highlow Hall Photo: Helen Moat

6. As the road veers left, continue straight up a stony track, turning right when you hit Highlow Hall’s yard with its large outbuildings. A short way along, turn left to follow the field boundary, with Highlow Hall now on your left. The impressive Elizabethan manor house was owned by the prestigious Eyre family between 1340 and 1842. It’s said to be haunted by the White Lady, a local woman called Elizabeth Archer. As I peered through the gates, the house framed by two great pillars, there was no sign of the resident ghost.

7. Trend right to follow a grassy track down and into Highlow Wood. Soon you will reach a meeting of streams.

8. Go through a field gate here and cross the first of two footbridges. Turn left before the second footbridge to follow the path through woodland, the tumbling water of Highlow Brook below you now. Leaving the woodland behind, continue straight on through open land, passing Tor Farm, where the route becomes a paved driveway.

9. Where it reaches the road, turn left to drop down a lane to Hoghall. Go past the farm on your right to continue downhill through fields, back to Highlow Brook. Cross the grassy stone bridge and veer right, up through woodland and field, eventually emerging at a country lane. At its end, turn right onto a wider road. It drops down to the B6001, right opposite The Plough with its cosy log fire. It’s the perfect place for a pint and a spot of lunch. From there it’s just a skip and a hop back to Leadmill Bridge – and the end of a soul-restoring walk that takes you ‘between the woods and the water.’

Great British Life: Derwent River at Leadmill Bridge Photo: Helen MoatDerwent River at Leadmill Bridge Photo: Helen Moat


DISTANCE: 3.2 miles


MAP: The walk straddles OS Explorer Maps OL24 White Peak and OL1 Dark Peak (this is where the OS online map comes into its own).

DIFFICULTY: Moderately easy with a few short climbs. Parts of the route are very muddy in winter: wear suitable footwear.

REFRESHMENTS: The Plough, Hathersage. For coffee and cake: The David Mellor Riverside Kitchen (just beyond Leadmill Bridge towards Hathersage).