Bakewell? Chatsworth? Edensor? Monsal Trail? This walk has it all
- Credit: Archant
Nothing beats a walk in the Derbyshire countryside, however few hikes get better than this
1. Make your way to the former Bakewell Station and set off in an almost southerly direction, following the Monsal Trail to its end. This walking, cycling and horse riding route utilises a section of the former Midland Railway line constructed in the 1860s and closed a century later.
2. Turn left and walk under a high arched bridge then follow the old Bakewell to Rowsley coach road, an important way south before a turnpike road was laid in the bottom of the valley that later became the A6. This gated track slowly wends its way up through Coombs Farm and then open pasture in an area dotted and spotted by grazing sheep.
3. Arriving at a combination of paths where there is a geological bench that appears like a natural bridge, notice how land sweeps away on either side providing a lovely vista toward Peak Tor and the Derwent Valley one way or towards Bakewell behind you, where the agricultural business centre buildings look like a Bedouin encampment!
Turn sharp left to follow a bridlepath with fingerpost sign and ascend the far end of Manners Wood. Keep right on reaching a Haddon Estates notice and continue uphill on the well-walked path. This eventually flattens out to pass through a hilltop plantation before ending abruptly at a high ladder stile and combination of bridlepath gates. In the distance you can see the Elizabethan hunting tower above Chatsworth, whilst commanding centre stage is the quaint and quirky Russian Cottage. It is said that the 6th Duke of Devonshire travelled to Russia in 1816 as British Ambassador to Moscow and befriended Tsar Nicholas. In 1844 the Tsar was invited to visit Chatsworth when the Emperor fountain and lake were constructed in his honour. Unfortunately, his trip had to be cancelled and so the Tsar sent the timbers for Russian Cottage with its decorative barge boards and window surrounds as a present, from Russia with love!
4. Follow the bridlepath ahead which descends to a gate by Calton Plantations. It then ascends and meets up with another path to become a grassy trackway leading to a gate where you will pass through a band of trees known as New Piece Wood.
5. After emerging through a high gate into the deer park be sure to take advantage of the strategically placed benches. Rest awhile and admire Chatsworth in all its grandeur, sprawled out before you like an architects plan implemented to perfection. The backdrop of Stand Wood and fabulous formal gardens were greatly influenced by Sir Joseph Paxton, whilst the deer park on this side of the Derwent is attributed to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown with his vision for specimen trees and small clumps or copses. Evidently this famous 18th century landscaper was not a fan of trees laid out in avenues or straight lines. William Talman was the architect of the iconic south and east fronts to Chatsworth House before us, commissioned during the rebuild that was undertaken by the 4th Earl of Devonshire and completed just before his death in 1707.
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Continue ahead to walk down a succession of grassy waves following the waymarked path and passing to the right of Maud’s Plantation. Aim roughly in the direction of the church spire that soon becomes visible as it rises up above trees surrounding Edensor.
6. Pass through a metal gate in the wall to the left of the churchyard and descend a series of stone steps into the village. The majority of the properties in Edensor built 1839-1842 were designed by Sir Joseph Paxton and John Robertson in a mixture of Anglo-Italian, Swiss and Gothic styles with each house having its own individual characteristics.
St Peter’s Church was constructed in 1867 and accredited to Gilbert Scott. Notice high up on the eastern gable which faces the tearooms are a pair of stone carved hunting dogs with horrible expressions. This is a medieval grotesque and survivor from an earlier church here, incorporated into the otherwise plain Victorian wall.
After a little wander around Edensor retrace your steps and leave this ‘picture-postcard’ pretty village by ascending the old coach road to Bakewell. Imagine how centuries ago this would have been a route used by Bess of Hardwick for whom the Elizabethan Chatsworth House was built, followed over the centuries by Earls and Dukes of Devonshire. Mary Queen of Scots was probably taken this way during her stay at Chatsworth on house arrest. You are walking in the footprints of aristocracy and royalty!
7. On meeting the Pilsley Road there is an old relic and an example of more recent artwork to discover. Look in the corner of the field to your right at an old guide stoop which is dated 1709. This remarkable old way-marker guided early travellers to the market towns of Sheffield, Chesterfield and Bakewell by pointing fingers showing each respective Rode (sic). To your left is a piece of stone artwork known as a Companion Stone. It was positioned here in 2009 to celebrate the guide stoop being 300 years old.
Turn left and follow the quiet road back to Bakewell. At its highest point there are sweeping views over a panoramic Peak District.
8. As you begin to descend you will come to an area known as Ballcross. Located over to the left on private land are earthworks of the prehistoric Ball Cross hill fort. It is considered to date back to the late Neolithic period although certainly improved upon during the Iron Age and possibly occupied during Roman times. The far side was evidently quite precipitous on two sides with a ditch and horseshoe shaped bank.
Sited in a promontory position atop high ground it would have been possible for those early tribesmen to see other Iron Age forts such as Fin Cop near Monsal Head and Castle Ring on Harthill Moor.
At Ballcross Farm and holiday cottages there is a choice of two routes. You can continue to follow the road as it descends to Bakewell. Notice after a sharp bend there are fabulous views of Bakewell Church positioned on an elevated rise above this famous market town. There has been a house of worship on this site for more than a thousand years. Alternatively, take a short cut on a badly eroded and often muddy bridlepath which descends steeply through woodland and then cuts through the golf course before emerging opposite the white painted Station Master’s House.
The road now passes over the Monsal Trail. Turn right at the junction to return to the station which you will notice has all the architectural hallmarks of Paxton’s properties in Edensor. However, it was actually designed by Edward Walters of Manchester for the Duke of Rutland at Haddon Hall.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Parking: Various long-stay car parks in Bakewell
Terrain: 8 gates. Easy to follow tracks, paths, trail and quiet country road without pavement. Deep eroded hollow-way on return from Edensor. Livestock grazing in fields and all around Chatsworth park.
Refreshments: Assorted eateries and shops in Bakewell and Edensor Tea Cottage tearooms (Covid-19 restrictions may still apply)
Toilets: Public toilets in Bakewell
Map: O.S. Explorer OL24 – White Peak
Walk highlight: Aerial view of Chatsworth when you emerge from New Piece Wood
Description: This route ranks high in my list of favourite walks. Enjoy woodland wandering, far reaching views, peace and tranquillity on this gently undulating amble. Discover curiosities a plenty and be sure to look at the fascinating way-marker from distant times to be found at point 8 of the instructions.