Derbyshire walk - Cromford and Middleton Top

View of Willersley Castle (centre) with Masson Mills to the left

View of Willersley Castle (centre) with Masson Mills to the left - Credit: Archant

This walk guarantees far-reaching views and a wealth of industrial heritage around every corner, twist and turn

Old rolling stock at Middleton Top

Old rolling stock at Middleton Top - Credit: Archant

1. Head from the car park to the engine house with its distinctive tall chimney for your first offering of far-reaching views. Middleton Top is the last surviving complete winding engine house on the former Cromford & High Peak Railway Line which opened in the early 1830s. It still contains an original pair of beam engines, built by the Butterley Company in 1829, together with boilers and chimney.

Proceed down the incline following the old track bed. When it flattens out you will pass Derbyshire Eco Centre on the left and the National Stone Centre to your right, followed soon after by the entrance to Steeple Grange Light Railway.

2. Continue along the High Peak Trail as it passes beneath huge boulders below the towering mass of Black Rocks, which are outcrops of weather-eroded gritstone.

View from the top of Sheep Pasture Incline

View from the top of Sheep Pasture Incline - Credit: Archant

Near the engine house at the top of Sheep Pasture Incline there are seats and picnic benches placed to allow visitors to admire the wondrous views over Cromford. Trace the twisting path of the River Derwent through Matlock Bath flowing far below through a deep tree-lined gorge. Spot distinctive landmarks such as Willersley Castle and the Prospect Tower atop the Heights of Abraham with its unique cable car access.

3. Descend part of the way down the incline until you come to a sign - 'Longway Bank & Cromford'. Turn right and follow the path beneath trees on a carpet of muesli-mix pine needles, leaves, seeds and berries. Take the footpath for Cromford and go through the arched bridge beneath the trail. Where the path divides bear right and continue, emerging onto the tarmacked top section of Intake Lane.

Looking across the mill pond at Scarthin

Looking across the mill pond at Scarthin - Credit: Archant

4. Almost opposite Castle View Drive go over a stile on the left by a footpath sign and follow this wonderful level path through fields and stiles, admiring as you go an aerial view down over Cromford and Scarthin to your right.

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5. After a narrow gated stile and part-cobbled path go past cottages and barn conversions. Notice an old trough fed by clear spring water. Turn right to walk in front of two sets of modern semi-detached houses and then turn right down Bedehouse Lane. Notice the stone cottage immediately on the left is built on top of an outcrop of solid rock. The pathway heads steeply downhill, at one point passing around the side of single storey almshouses built in 1662. See the eroded crest on the end wall.

New Nature Reserve information board

New Nature Reserve information board - Credit: Archant

6. Emerging onto Cromford Hill, turn right and walk down to No. 73. Turn right to follow a path around the back of further millworkers' cottages and their pretty gardens leading you to Cromford School, which dates back to 1794.

On your left is North Street. Constructed in 1771 by Richard Arkwright to house his workers it is reputedly the earliest planned industrial housing in the world.

7. Opposite the playground to the far side of the school, and beside a towering lime tree, descend a set of stone steps to follow a path through allotments leading you past old pigsties to the Bear Pit. Look down to see how water flowing down from Cromford Sough to power Arkwright's first cotton spinning mill could be diverted if necessary to the mill pond at Scarthin.

North Street, Cromford

North Street, Cromford - Credit: Archant

8. Returning to Cromford Hill, turn right and walk past Arkwright Stores with its original shop front. Use the pedestrian crossing to access the former market place dominated by the impressive Greyhound Hotel.

Head up past the Boat Inn to walk along the promenade past the famous Scarthin Bookshop, said to contain 100,000 books!

Incline on the High Peak Trail

Incline on the High Peak Trail - Credit: Archant

9. Emerging onto the start of the A5012, better known as the Via Gellia, turn right and head uphill past Walkers Garage toward Chapel Hill and then turn left to cross a wooden bridge over Bonsall Brook cascading down as a waterfall from the mill pond. To your side is the former corn mill of around 1780 built by Sir Richard Arkwright to serve the village. Over a high wall you can see where the very deep wheel pit was located.

10. Head past a fenced-off old adit and ascend a set of wooden steps. Turn left to follow a footpath past a towering limestone rock face followed by a steep uphill path with handrail.

11. Go through a small stone stile and turn immediately right onto a grassy path. After the last of the houses to your left this will soon become a deep dark holloway passing Rose End Meadows Nature Reserve.

Continue directly uphill, eventually passing through a field, until you arrive at a wooden gate onto a rough gravel track.

12. Cross over (watch out for quarry traffic) to a gap in the wall with public footpath sign. The path follows the perimeter of Dene Quarry.

Notice the contrasting landscapes on either side in an area of renowned industrial heritage. To your left is the vast and visible void created by quarrying millions of tons of limestone whilst to your right are lumps, bumps, spoil heaps and capped shafts - the only visible evidence of the lead mining era.

The centuries-old, thin strip fields hereabouts are interspersed with fabulous old field barns. Many were built by smallholders who were part-time miners. Records show that in winter they worked mainly below ground but during the summer months they were busy farming the land, harvesting hay and so on.

From this elevated vantage point, enjoy far-reaching views toward Riber Castle, Holloway and Black Rocks, which now looks like a little jumble of stones surrounded by Bonsai trees.

13. About half way along the top edge of the quarry cross over a wooden step stile on your right and head uphill on a walled grassy path. Then go through a narrow squeeze stile beside a barn to your left. Follow the footpath across fields and a further section of walled path to emerge at Middleton-by-Wirksworth opposite King Street.

14. Turn right and walk up Chapel Lane then turn left along Dukes Drive.

15. Go straight ahead at the crossroads to walk up Water Lane, bearing left up The Moor.

16. Pass through a stile by the side of a bridle gate and follow a grassy track leading you back to Middleton Top. u


Distance: 7 miles

Parking: Middleton Top Car Park (pay & display) DE4 4LS Grid Ref: 275552

Terrain: 10+ stiles and gates. Trail, footpaths and some roadside walking without pavement. Trip hazards include tree roots and rough stones. Fields where livestock graze. Close proximity to quarry workings (fenced off) and deep water by the mill pond.

Refreshments: Pubs, tearoom and village store in Cromford. Food kiosks at Middleton Top and Black Rocks (seasonal opening hours apply).

Toilets: Middleton Top car park and Black Rocks car park

Map: O.S. Explorer OL24 - White Peak

Walk highlight: Wandering around and about Cromford

Description: Beginning and ending on a high, this fabulous walk initially descends to Cromford, following a section of the High Peak Trail, then traces an exploratory route of paths and alleyways into the heart of this historic village. The ascent back to Middleton Top is via old miners' paths through fields around Middleton-by-Wirksworth, renowned for old stone barns and attractive cottages. Be prepared for stupendous views along the way!

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