Derbyshire walk - Tansley

View of Matlock from Riber Hill

View of Matlock from Riber Hill - Credit: Archant

Mills, manor houses and magnificent views punctuate this hike around Matlock, Tansley and Riber

Matlock Bridge

Matlock Bridge - Credit: Archant


1. Start your walk in Crown Square by the side of the old stone bridge. This has been an important crossing of the River Derwent since medieval times when it was known as Pontem de Matelock. Originally a narrow packhorse bridge, the 15th-century structure was widened on the upstream side in 1904 to cater for ‘modern’ traffic requirements.

Walk down the avenue of trees beside Hall Leys Park. Notice the shelter with clock above which at one time stood in the centre of Crown Square. This was the lower terminus of a cable tramway constructed in 1893 to copy that of San Francisco. It ran up Bank Road at a gradient of 1 in 5½ and cost ‘tuppence up, penny down’. See also the rare surviving trademark black elephant on the gable wall of what used to be Burgon’s tea merchants many years ago.

Follow the lines of the miniature railway and notice a solitary standing stone by the river erected by voluntary subscription to the memory of PC Arthur Wright who lost his life by drowning whilst attempting to save another in 1911. Exit the park into Knowleston Place and look for early date stones on older houses before the fabulous Victorian terrace where tiny carved stone faces decorate some of the window lintels.

Thatch Cottage, Tansley

Thatch Cottage, Tansley - Credit: Archant

2. Continue ahead as the road narrows to become a pathway emerging at Matlock Green by the side of Tawney House. Turn right and walk to the crossroads then carefully cross over to the petrol station which stands on the site of the former ‘green’ where markets and fairs were held long ago. Beyond the forecourt notice the houses at Paxton Court that were designed by Sir Joseph Paxton of Chatsworth and Edensor fame.

3. Continue beside the main road and then cross over to Butts Drive. Go through a stile to the left of the Scout & Guide Group headquarters car park to follow a path through the playing field. At times this old path becomes part-paved with gritstone flags, weathered and worn over time by the soles of millworkers and walkers.

Former Bailey's Mill

Former Bailey's Mill - Credit: Archant

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Continue ahead to the rear of Bailey’s Mill, now converted into residential accommodation. The path then proceeds along the bottom of a recreation area before dipping downhill, eventually emerging onto Lumsdale Road opposite a derelict mill building.

The first cotton mill at Lumsdale was probably built in the 18th century, but by the time the pioneer British geologist John Farey visited here a hundred years or so later, there was a bleaching house, a candlewick mill, four cotton-spinning mills, a dye house, a flax-spinning mill and a bobbin mill.

4. Turn left and follow the road up Lumsdale Valley. Just beyond where there’s a footpath and old mill building with blocked up windows on your left, go through a gap in the wall on your right where you will find an information board, courtesy of the Arkwright Society.

Derelict mill building

Derelict mill building - Credit: Archant

5. With extreme care head up the path and succession of steps leading you through what is reputed to be one of the best water-powered industrial archaeological sites in Great Britain. See the waters of Bentley Brook cascading and falling over gritstone boulders which have been eroded and carved by nature over many millennia but fashioned in part by man over several centuries. This tumbling torrent was harnessed by a succession of waterwheels to create energy that then powered a string of mills. Long since abandoned as a place of work, Lumsdale is a paradise for photographers and a beautiful site of historical interest for walkers.

In 1976 the Lumsdale Project began when the area was leased to The Arkwright Society by Mrs M H Mills of Lumsdale House who wanted future generations to enjoy and appreciate the heritage of this amazing valley. Work began in 1981 and continues today to stabilise buildings, make areas safe and accessible but at the same time to preserve the general appearance in a way that has made Lumsdale ‘frozen’ in time.

Date stone on Riber Manor

Date stone on Riber Manor - Credit: Archant

6. Walk to the far end of Lower Pond and turn right to follow a former coach road, now designated as a footpath. From this elevated route there are superb views toward the hilltop folly of Riber Castle. See in the distance the sweeping blades of wind turbines atop Carsington Pastures and notice the Victoria Prospect Tower constructed in 1844 at the summit of the Heights of Abraham, now accessed by Britain’s first alpine-style cable car.

7. On entering Tansley head uphill over The Knoll bringing you down to a junction beside the Gate Inn. Cross the road and follow a footpath sign along Green Lane. After a recreation field continue on the path passing Tansley School on your left and the church on your right.

Bridge at Lower Pond

Bridge at Lower Pond - Credit: Archant

8. Enter a field by means of a stile and gate and head diagonally left. The route of the footpath leads around to the left of Jackhills Farm through a series of fields and stiles and then aims towards a large house with high brick wall before passing between properties to emerge at the side of the main road.

9. Turn right and follow the roadside pavement as far as Thatch Cottage. Cross over the road and go through a stile to follow the path around the back of a timber yard that at times smells like a fragrant pine forest.

Property by the weir at Lower Pond

Property by the weir at Lower Pond - Credit: Archant

10. Turn right and walk down the road to a junction. Cross over Starth Lane and continue ahead along Thatchers Lane, passing characterful cottages and houses.

11. Turn left on meeting Alders Lane. Walk around the bend onto Carr Lane followed by a ‘Welcome to Matlock’ sign.

12. On reaching a left-hand bend go through a stile on the right by a footpath sign. Initially keeping the wall to your left, head virtually straight ahead through fields and narrow stiles to Riber. All around are wondrous views, but the best view of all is yet to come!

13. After walking past Riber Manor with its date stone of 1633 turn right and pass cottages on a drive leading to an old turret building, beyond which is a high metal gate providing private access to Riber Castle development site.

14. An elevated fenced path above a disused quarry area leads like a tunnel to the front of Riber Hill.

Pop briefly through a gap to the right of the stile for the best view of Matlock and appreciate why John Smedley built this hilltop folly so that he could look out over his empire below, dominated at the time by Smedley’s Hydro that commanded the best position in the town. See St Giles Church, sited on high ground in what was the oldest part of Matlock. Return to the path and descend with extreme care, following the long succession of gritstone pavers.

15. Turn right when emerging at the entrance to the Highfields School Starkholmes Site and walk down the pavement to just before the Duke William pub.

16. Cross over the road and head down the public footpath leading to Dale Road. Go over the river by means of a metal footbridge and turn left if returning to Artist Corner car park. Alternatively, turn right before the footbridge to follow a lovely riverside path which leads back to Knowleston Place and Hall Leys Park.

Compass points

Distance: 7 miles

Map: O.S. Explorer OL24 (White Peak)

Parking: Matlock Station DE4 3NA (pay and display) Artist Corner DE4 3PS (pay and display)

Terrain: 10+ gates & 10+ stiles. Lots of steps. Very steep footpath descent from Riber. Close proximity to deep water. Uneven paths and trip hazards. Some roadway without pavement. Livestock grazing in fields.

Refreshments: Pubs in Tansley. Pubs, cafés and tearooms in Matlock

Toilets: Matlock Station and Hall Leys Park (20p charge applicable)

Walk highlight: View from the front of Riber Hill

Description: Leave behind the hustle and bustle of Matlock town centre by ascending Lumsdale, a remarkably beautiful heritage site of ivy-draped ruins and tumbling waterfalls. After heading to Tansley over high ground the route then rambles uphill again to the hamlet of Riber. Take in spectacular views before treading carefully on the steep descent to end this fascinating walk with a riverside saunter.

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