Enjoy three winter rambles along the lower Derwent Valley and in Birchover and discover tantalising in-house breweries and a tucked-away distillery along the way.

Great British Life: White Peak Distillery White Peak Distillery (Image: Helen Moat)

Cromford Canal and Shining Cliff via White Peak Distillery

This walk of almost six miles is one of lovely diversity. If you can time it to join a whisky tour and tasting session, I can’t think of a better way to warm up on a winter’s day than with fiery whiskies, cocktails and gins.

The ramble takes in canal, woodland and parkland with delightful views over the Lower Derwent Valley including Crich Stand, Holloway and Whatstandwell.

Starting from the canal-side car park above The Family Tree at Whatstandwell (the Transpeak bus or train are good options if planning whisky tasting), cross the road to follow the canal path southeast as far as Chase Road.

This is a quiet section of canal. Drop down Chase Road, turning left onto Matlock Road on the A6. Turn right onto Holly Lane, passing a delightful miniature railway and lock in a private garden, and cross the bridge over the River Derwent. Turn right at its end and follow the track through the woods.

When the track diverges keep right, following the ‘Betty Kenny’ Trail. Betty Kenny gave rise to the nursery rhyme ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’. High up in the woodland, a tree (largely destroyed now) is where she built a shelter. When one of her children was restless, she would place the infant in the hollow of a branch, the swaying motion sending it to sleep.

Soon you’ll reach the White Peak Distillery. The old Wire Works with its dilapidated buildings doesn’t look inviting but drop into the distillery and you’ll enter another world.

Part of the old Wire Works has been converted into a shop, the tasting room behind welcoming with leather seating, wood burner and a long tasting table.

If you join the tour, you’ll be shown the distillation equipment with its great wash vats, stills and pipes. One of the stills is named after the ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’ Betty, and White Peak Distillery use berries and botanicals from Shining Cliff Woods to flavour their gins.

Warmed by fiery spirit, return to the track and continue north, then west to climb through Shining Cliff Wood (where a green metal sign points to Alderwasley and other places in its surrounds).

There’s a short sharp climb through the woods. Eventually you’ll reach a drystone wall. Go through the gate in the wall and continue through Alderwasley Parkland.

Where the grassy path splits, veer right towards goal posts in a playing field. Go through the gate into it, veer left past the Celtic Cross and turn right to reach Higg Lane. Turn right and climb the lane, passing Alderwasley All Saint’s Church and Alderwasley Hall (now a school).

Continue onto New Lane, taking a left over fields towards Watergate Farm. At a meeting of paths, turn right down to New Road again. Go through the squeeze stile, cross the road and climb the wooden stile to cut across a small field, leading to the Derby Road bridge, crossing the Derwent at Whatstandwell.

The Family Tree is a good place to stop for a drink before returning to the car park, nearby bus stop or railway station.

Great British Life: Around Rocking Stone, near BirchoverAround Rocking Stone, near Birchover (Image: Helen Moat)

Around Birchover and the Red Lion

One of my favourite Peak District corners, Birchover is surrounded by rocky tors and clumps of woodland with great outlooks over Cratciff Tor and Robin Hood’s Stride.

The 172 bus stops outside The Red Lion, arriving from Matlock in one direction and Bakewell in the other.

It stops in the prettiest of villages: Wensley, Winster and Elton (if coming from Matlock); Youlgreave, Middleton-by-Youlgreave and Stanton-in-Peak (if coming from Bakewell.)

With the current £2 fare, you can combine a scenic journey with a great ramble. Otherwise, park considerately in the main street.

Starting at The Red Lion, head down the street in the direction of The Druid Inn, across its yard, and through the stone posts, turning right to ascend Rowtor Rocks.

Follow the overhang of rocks with their etchings, thought to be prehistoric rock art. You can go through the cave to emerge by steps or take the easier path around the rocks. If agile, you can climb the steep steps up through the rocks or take the easier path before them round the rocks to an upper level. Here you’ll find two carved-out benches, the work of a playful Victorian vicar who lived in the vicarage opposite the outcrop.

Rowtor Rocks was his playground – he also built stone walls, created shelters and carved steps in the gritstone. Perhaps he drew inspiration for his sermons from the stone benches he created.

The surrounding woodland is covered in little paths, one of which drops steeply to the west end of the woodland. If you’re not steady-footed, retrace your steps to The Druid Inn, then down Main Street, a bit of a misnomer for this bucolic lane.

At the end of the old vicarage, continue to circle the base of Rocking Stone outcrop, keeping high. The path follows the boundary of Birchover woods, passing a ruined build Lower Pond, Lumsdale ing and continuing to Cowley Knoll Farm.

Follow the sign to climb steps that take you through the farmyard. Turn right onto a farm track, then left to ascend through fields, passing Barn Farm to reach Lees Road. Turn right onto Birchover Road.

When you see a car park on the left, go through the back of it to cross the wooded ridge above the village. It drops down to emerge opposite the Druid Inn.

Turn left into the village and the Red Lion after a superb three-mile ramble and sample the inhouse brews, named after local landmarks: Nine Ladies, Cork Screw, Bircher Best and Robin Hood’s Stride.

Great British Life: Lower Pond, Lumsdale Lower Pond, Lumsdale (Image: Helen Moat)

Lumsdale to Riber Castle via Bentley Brook Brewing Co

A walk to do at the weekend when Bentley Brook Brewing Co is open. The taphouse is one of my favourite local places to fuel up – small, quirky and friendly. They’re open between 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Starting from Highfields School (upper site) with roadside parking, head over the footbridge into woodland. At the end of the path, turn right to drop to Bentley Brook.

In winter the heavy flow of water tends to cover the stepping stones, so wellies are recommended. Ford the stream and turn left to reach the middle pond (the upper pond no longer in existence.)

Pause and enjoy views of mill cottages and trees. The pond was created in the 1780s as a holding pond to supply water further down the valley. Silted up, the pond was restored by the Arkwright Society in 2014.

Continue past the cottages to the lower pond, built in the 1850s also to supply the mill industries (with their insatiable need for water) down the dale.

On both ponds you’ll see ducks, mallards, possibly moorhens, coots, herons, dippers and kingfishers (if lucky). Detour to take the path around the pond. At its end look down the ravine, where the water plunge tens of feet – an impressive sight, especially in winter.

Retrace your steps a short way to drop down the track to a gate, through which you get a view of the waterfall from below. Continue down the narrow path alongside the ruins of the old mills, romantically overgrown and otherworldly. These ruins contained the Bleach Works (the bleaching vats for cotton and smithy surviving).

Reaching the bottom of Lumsdale – a second waterfall cascading down the ravine – emerge onto Lumsdale lane. Drop down, looking for Bentley Brook Brewing Co. on your left. In this micro-brewery you’ll sit among the malt bags, stills, pipes and casks. Your beer will be fresh, travelling all but a few feet! Enjoy an in-house pint with a hot pie (soft drinks, tea and coffee also served).

Having tanked up, you’ll be ready for the steep hike to Riber Castle. Continue down the lane and veer leftish onto Smuse Lane. Turn right onto the A615, looking for a public footpath a short way down the pavement (easily missed in the bushes) on your left, signed for Riber and Lea.

Cross the road carefully and climb the narrow path beside houses. It’s a sharp hike to a woodland through two wooden gates. The path veers right before ascending to Riber hamlet.

Take the lane down past the Gothic Riber Castle, built in 1862. The lane joins a cobbled path with a helpful railing as its drops steeply off the hillside.

Drink in views of Matlock and the White Peak beyond. At a crossroads of paths turn right to ascend to Deep Carr Lane, emerging at the A615 closer to Matlock.

Cross the road and turn right, following the pavement a short distance before turning left onto Lumsdale Road. It meets the junction with Smuse Lane. Climb Lumsdale Lane (not much traffic passes but be ready to step onto the verge if a car appears as it’s very narrow).

You’ll pass Bentley Brook Brewery taphouse again (anyone for that second pint?) and continue up the hill, the brook babbling alongside until you meet the entrance of Lumsdale waterfalls once more.

This time, ignore its entrance and continue up the lane back to your starting point after a satisfying 3.7-mile ramble.


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