The Discovery Days Festival, Derwent Valley Mills

Masson Mills

Masson Mills - Credit: Archant

Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley will soon be celebrating its globally important industrial heritage, and so much more, with the county’s biggest heritage festival – now in its 15th year

A tour of White Peak Distillery

A tour of White Peak Distillery - Credit: Archant

The Discovery Days Festival runs from Saturday 26th October to Sunday 3rd November, and features a great variety of over 130 events, many of them based around this year's theme, which is transport, and all highlighting the international significance of the Derwent Valley Mills, the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands and the birthplace of the factory system.

Over the year, researchers, event organisers and volunteers have been looking at new ways to help visitors explore and discover new experiences.

Transport-themed highlights this time include a cycle-powered installation at Cromford Mills (see p.34); exhibitions in Darley Abbey and Belper's Strutts Centre; and a museum on wheels at three of the key mill sites. There are talks and walks, a tour of Derby's historic Roundhouse, a concert of traditional song and stories and access to a private motorbike museum - a whole host of activities to keep the festival motoring on!

There are some brand new treats planned - tours of the Lea Hurst Estate at Holloway, once home to Florence Nightingale; a new textile installation in the basement of Strutt's North Mill in Belper, by Japanese artist Seiko Kinoshita, incorporating a lantern walk on the first day of the festival; and an exhibition of newly-digitised maps of the area, dating back to the 1790s, in the Gangway, the Belper Mill Site footbridge which also originated in the 1790s and is rarely open. John Smedley at Lea Bridge is also hosting a tea party and tour for anyone willing to share memories of the textile industry in the 1980s.

The festival starts with a focus on the southern part of the World Heritage Site, at Derby, Darley Abbey and Milford on 26th October, with a busy day of activities and in Belper on the Sunday. After five varied days of activities across the valley, the final weekend focuses on Cromford and Holloway in the north.

The Derwent Valley is developing as a producer of artisan spirits and craft beers and there'll be a chance to see behind the scenes at the White Peak Distillery in Ambergate and the Derventio Brewery in Darley Abbey.

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For families there are craft sessions during the week, at Strutt's North Mill and Fleet Arts in Belper, Pickford's House at Derby and at Cromford Mill. A pumpkin trail around Belper's shops starts things off on the first weekend.

There are lots more things to see and do over the nine days. For details, look for the Discovery Days booklet in the mills, museums and visitor centres around Derbyshire or visit