Try this three mile walk around Belper

Belper is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Belper is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Credit: Gary Wallis

Helen Moat takes the rambler along the River Derwent from Belper River Gardens, returning through Belper Parks, Market Place and the town’s historic mill cottages.

The town of Belper is regarded for its independent shops and busy farmers’ market, held at Market Place on the second Saturday of the month (8.30am to 3pm).  

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Put the date in your diary, grab an empty rucksack on the day and stock up the kitchen larder with culinary delights for those special occasions with locally produced cheeses, honey, pies, cakes, sauces and breads.  

Alternatively, choose your favourite ingredients for a scrumptious picnic lunch in the park behind. 

Belper is not just renowned for its local produce, it’s also a focal point on the Derwent Valley Mills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches from Derby to Cromford along the A6.  

While Cromford is considered to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (the first industrial-scale factory system with Richard Arkwright as its formidable father), Belper lays claim to the world’s biggest mill complex under single ownership – the Strutt family – straddling the 18th and 19th centuries.  

Belper's beautiful River Gardens

Belper's beautiful River Gardens - Credit: Gary Wallis

This surviving legacy can be viewed on the walk: the North and East Mills and the heritage workers’ cottages leading off Green Lane. They include William, George and Joseph Street – named after the three sons of Jedediah Strutt – Long, Short and Field Row, Mill Street and Cluster Road. 

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From Belper River Gardens Car Park, nip into the lovely ornamental gardens with its bandstand, waterbirds galore and boat hire beside the River Derwent.  

Pause to take in the views of the soaring North and East mills on the weir. From the back of the car park, a bridge leads to Strutt’s North Mill Museum and Visitor Centre, where guided tours are available.  

Quaint Belper cottages

Quaint Belper cottages - Credit: Helen Moat

Exit the North Mill car park and turn right to cross Bridge Foot over the River Derwent, following the public footpath signed on the left at the end of the bridge. The path continues along the river and flood plains, crossing over a lane to continue through meadows.  

When you reach the water works of Severn Trent, take the path that climbs up to a pedestrian bridge. Cross over the Derwent and turn left to follow the road onto the A6.  

Turn right, crossing the busy Derby Road carefully, then climb steps on the left immediately after the railway bridge. The alleyway skirts the walled garden of a large house, emerging at Becksitch Lane. 

Turn left and follow the road up to the junction of The Fleet. Cross over the road and climb Chevin Mews then Hillside Rise to an alleyway that crosses over Valley View to the Melbourne Close entrance of Belper Parks.  

A woodland stroll

A woodland stroll - Credit: Helen Moat

Follow the gravel path through open meadow, then a tunnel of oak trees. Part of the park is an award-winning Local Nature Reserve made up of ancient flower-rich grasslands and woodlands.  

Just before the Mill Lane entrance, turn left to drop down alongside Coppice Brook. Cross the funky footbridge head uphill to Coppice Car Park. 

The car park brings you out onto the historic Market Place. Having arrived on market day, enjoy browsing the stalls filled with tantalising local produce.  

You can rest up with a coffee at No. 28 Café or a pint from one of the surrounding pubs – or just take in the bustle of the busy market place.  

Having stocked up on local produce, drop down King Street with its individual shops and cafés, providing more opportunities for retail therapy.  

Belper River Gardens' bandstand

Belper River Gardens' bandstand - Credit: Gary Wallis

Opposite the War Memorial Garden is the entrance to Green Lane. Take the time to explore this historic area of quaint mill cottages, including the Unitarian Chapel on Field Row and the Nail Maker’s Workshop on Joseph Street, before dropping down Long Row with its uneven cobbled stones and beautifully restored mill cottages.  

Pause on the railway bridge and look down to the track below street level and out of sight of the cottage dwellers. The railway, engineered by George and Robert Stephenson, was built at the behest of the Strutt family to serve the mills and their workers.  

At the bottom of Long Row, turn right onto the A6 and return to your starting point at Belper River Gardens. 

Start point: Belper River Gardens  
Distance: Three miles 
Parking: Belper River Gardens Car Park 
Map: OS Explorer 259 - Derby 
Terrain: Fairly easy. There’s flat walking along the River Derwent flood plains with a steep hike up from the A6 to Belper Parks.  
Refreshments: There’s a kiosk at Belper River Gardens (when open), refreshments at Strutt’s North Mill Museum and a plethora of options at Market Place and on King Street in the centre of Belper. 

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