Enjoy this 3 mile bluebell walk near the charming Peak District village of Winster
- Credit: Helen Moat
Exploring the spring flower-filled delights of rural Winster.
This short but very sweet three-mile walk starts in Winster, a charming Peak village of modest mining cottages and resplendent 17th and 18th Century houses.
The historic Winster Market House (National Trust) along with the Dower House and grand Winster Hall are the jewels in the crown of this settlement, with an extraordinarily high number of Grade II listed houses.
Below Winster, ancient mining paths drop through dimpled meadows riddled with disused mineshafts. From here a brookside path snakes through an exquisite dale that’s bursting with colour in April and May.
The route then meanders alongside a long open meadow surrounded by conifers more reminiscent of the Black Forest than England.
The forest path through Clough Wood is particularly beautiful in spring, swathes of bluebells spilling down steep-sided slopes.
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At this time of year, the woods are a riot of birdsong, along with the rattle of the great spotted woodpecker. Emerging onto a meadow top, the views open out to the glorious uplands of the White Peak - a grand finale before cutting across the valley to Winster again.
1. From the car park next to Winster Primary School head downhill along the B5057 for a short distance, keeping an eye out for a fingerpost on the left-hand side of the road.
Go through the wooden gate and follow the path through fields to a wooden bridge at the bottom of the valley.
The tell-tale pock marks of the fields bear witness to a lucrative mining industry that explains the high number of elegant Grade II listed houses in the village.
2. Cross the wooden footbridge at the bottom of the fields and follow the stream as it wiggles through the valley. The route is a delight in spring, the white of hawthorn brilliant against the blue of sky on sunny days.
Yellow marsh marigolds, with their rounded glossy leaves, sprout from the wetlands. In the muddy sections look out for the footprints of the melanistic fallow deer – sometimes known as black Norwegian deer, originating from an ancient Stanton Hall herd.
It’s thought there could be upwards of 300 animals roaming the wider area – and more than a hundred in Clough Wood alone. If lucky, you may just encounter one of these notoriously shy animals.
3. At the end of the meadow, the path climbs to meet a triangle of gravel tracks. Take a sharp left to follow the smaller path back through woodland.
A short way in, you’ll come to the imposing ruins of Old Millclose engine house and Watts engine shaft. It was constructed to pump water from the Old Millclose lead mine.
Continuing along the path, the ground beneath the mixed woodland of sycamore, ash, oak, beech and alder is thickly carpeted with bluebells at this time of year.
Streamlets cascade down the hillside to meet the brook on the valley floor below. Drop down to ford the brook, its water cascading through the valley. This is a lovely spot to find a log by the pines, have a snack and tune into the sounds of the forest.
4. From here the path climbs to a junction. Turn left off the main track to follow a smaller path that curves through dense woodland.
In this part of the wood there is a good chance of hearing a great spotted woodpecker, the thrilling scattergun tap of beak on wood ringing round the forest at a phenomenal forty raps per second.
I’ve encountered the woodpecker in this same spot in spring and winter.
Watch your step as the path drops steeply downhill before swinging west to emerge onto open land with fine views over the White Peak.
5. Head down the hillside back into Clough Woods at its western tip, crossing the brook once more before climbing through fields back into Winster.
Notice the stone slabs, laid here for the miners who made their way wearily home through these fields after a hard day’s graft.
The path emerges at Painters Way. Follow the lane through pretty stone-built cottages back to the B5057. Turn right to explore the village or left for the car park and your starting point.
At a glance
Distance: 3 miles
Map: OS Leisure – OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak
Grid reference: SK 2485 6068
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There are a few steep sections. The paths can get very muddy after prolonged rain. Choose to do the walk after a dry spell, if possible.
Parking: There’s a small car park at the eastern edge of the village next to the primary school.
Refreshments: Check out the 15th century Old Bowling Green on East Bank. On the main street, the post office offers takeaway tea and coffee along with cakes and pastries.
The popular Miners Standard at the top of the village now quenches the thirst of tired ramblers rather than miners.
Easy Alternative: From Darley Bridge, the first left turn off the main Oldfield Lane takes you up a surfaced road that cuts between Enthoven Smelter and Cambridge Wood, terminating at the edge of Clough Wood.
Park up and follow the forest track past the engine house to the junction, but instead of turning left, continue straight on up through woodland, then meadow, where the path meets Clough Lane.
Turn right to follow the farm track back down to your starting point.