In a new series, we shine a light on all of Derbyshire's districts - starting with the Amber Valley; the heart of Derbyshire

Constituting just over 100 square miles, the Amber Valley’s name is taken from the River Amber, which joins the Derwent at Ambergate. 

Home to around 130,000 people, it is the second most populated of the nine districts in the county, second only to Derby City and slightly ahead of Erewash. 

The district was formed in 1974 and granted borough status 14 years later. Amber Valley’s coat of arms was subsequently granted in 1989 and the borough’s motto is ‘Per laborem progredimur’, meaning ‘By hard work we progress’. 

In the heart of Derbyshire, only two districts – Chesterfield and High Peak – don't have boundaries to the Amber Valley. 

A diverse area, the Amber Valley district is interesting in that it is something of a fusion - made up, on the whole, of a still-industrial eastern portion, contrasting with the more rural settlements to be found to the west. 

The Amber Valley is often referred to as ‘the heart of Derbyshire’ and it’s easy to see why. 

This is the borough of Florence Nightingale, of the Pentrich Revolution, of historic villages nestled amongst famous towns and of industrial prowess – forming part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In Belper, the Amber Valley has a town centre crowned in 2020 as English Champion High Street of the Year, described by judges as ‘a fantastic example of a community that has made huge strides in transforming its high street to significantly improve the experience for locals and visitors alike.’ 

Belper is one of four towns that lie within the Amber Valley’s boundaries, the others being Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley. 

The Amber Valley is equally renowned for its picturesque villages which span from beautiful Dethick in the district’s northern fringes to Mackworth at its southern tip. 

The Amber Valley is described by Derbyshire Life writer Helen Moat, who regularly walks this beautiful part of our county, as ‘a place of gentle beauty, where clusters of inky green woodlands lie in dips and darken buttery meadows – an undulating landscape where you’ll find villages of weathered stone spread out across uplands and tucked into folds of high-hedged lanes.’ 

This description of the area, married with proud and enduring industrial heritage which it possesses, makes Amber Valley an incredibly compelling place. 

Here, we uncover some of the places and attractions that make the Amber Valley such an attractive and exciting area, which welcomes over four million visits every year. 


Great British Life: Betty Kenny Yew in Shining Cliff Wood, AmbergateBetty Kenny Yew in Shining Cliff Wood, Ambergate (Image: David Guyler, Flickr (CC BY 2.0))



Forming part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Corridor, Ambergate is a great stop-off point along the A6. 

Here, the river, road and railway line run in harmony side-by-side. Indeed, in its heyday, Ambergate was one of the most important railway junctions in the Midlands, handling 240 trains a day. 

It was here, in 1966, that the first fully operational electronic telephone exchange in Europe opened - the first small to medium electronic exchange in the world. 

Ambergate is an access point to Shining Cliff Wood, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to the ancient Betty Kenny Yew, believed to have inspired the classic nursery rhyme ‘Rock-a-bye baby’. 

Great British Life: Crich StandCrich Stand (Image: Gary Wallis)


Home of the famous National Tramway Museum, Crich is a pretty village which could easily constitute a full day out. 

Close to the Derbyshire Dales boundary, its major landmark – Crich stand – can be seen from miles around.  

The views from the summit are spectacular. On a clear day, views can extend as far as Lincoln Cathedral, some 50 miles away. 

Crich was also used as the fictional village of Carsdale in the popular TV series Peak Practice.  


Great British Life: DuffieldDuffield (Image: Ashley Franklin)


Five miles north of Derby, Duffield is a thriving community in a lovely setting, set against sprawling fields and areas of interest. 

The parish church of St Alkmund's dates from the 12th century, whilst Duffield is also home to the ruined remains of a castle and the site of one of England’s largest medieval keeps. 

Duffield’s centre, split by the A6 which runs through it, is one of the most easily recognisable in Derbyshire and is host to a number of popular independent stores and eateries. 

A famous past resident is Ernest Hives, the major force behind the iconic Rolls Royce from 1936 to 1956. 

Great British Life: Heanor Memorial ParkHeanor Memorial Park (Image: Gary Wallis)


Once the route of the world's longest tramway (the ‘Ripley Rattler’) which ran from Nottingham to Ripley, Heanor has evolved since its industrial heyday - in the mid 1900s, almost half the town’s working population worked in the collieries, with a further 15% making their living in the textile trade. 

Aside from its bustling high street, Heanor benefits from areas of calm and beauty, such as Heanor Memorial Park and nearby Shipley Country Park. 

Heanor is D.H. Lawrence country and the writer’s influence here can be found, not least at the D.H. Lawrence View Café at Heanor Antiques and Craft Centre with comprises views over his birthplace. 

For those wanting to take in the whole area, a dedicated four-mile walk begins and ends at Shipley Park Visitor Centre

Great British Life: RipleyRipley (Image: Gary Wallis)


Ripley still holds traditional markets and, having been granted Charter Market status by Royal Decree by Henry III in 1250, is one of the county’s oldest markets – with its popular and historic Charter Market taking place every October. 

Ripley’s most famous son is Sir Barnes Wallis, who invented the ‘bouncing bomb’ used to such devastating effect in World War Two, who was born on Butterley Hill. 

The town is home to Midland Railway – Butterley, a trust dedicated to preserving railway locomotives, rolling stock and other items related to the Midland Railway.   

Nearby Butterley Reservoir, the largest of three built to service the Cromford Canal, is open to the public who can enjoy a circular walk of the reservoir. 

READ MORE: Spending 24 hours in Ripley in Derbyshire


Great British Life: Heage WindmillHeage Windmill (Image: Ashley Franklin)

Heage Windmill 

Heage Windmill is the only working six-sailed stone tower windmill in the whole of England. 

The 225-year-old Grade II-listed structure was restored in 2002, when it was opened as a visitor attraction. The 20-year anniversary was marked last year. 

This fascinating site has drawn many a well-known face down the years, including a Royal visit from Prince Edward and Derbyshire’s very-own Dame Ellen MacArthur, whilst in November 2021 the windmill received national attention when it was visited by the Hairy Bikers for the Derbyshire episode of their hugely popular BBC series, Go North. 

However, Heage Windmill – which benefits from a group of dedicated volunteers – needs support. 

Maintaining such an old building is not cheap, and Heage Windmill is currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register.  

‘This will be a hard-fought battle but the old girl will survive,’ says founder trustee Alan Gifford. ‘She must survive: Heage Windmill is an icon of this county and a wonder of this world.’  

For more information on Heage Windmill, including how to support its future, visit 

READ MORE: The enduring legacy of Heage's windmill on the hill

Great British Life: Kedleston HallKedleston Hall (Image: Gary Wallis)

Kedleston Hall 

The National Trust-managed Kedleston Hall is one of Derbyshire’s best-loved country estates. The original medieval village of Kedleston was even moved to accommodate it! 

This 18th century neo-classical manor house was commissioned in 1759 by Nathaniel Curzon and, whilst the house is now owned by the National Trust, the Curzon family continues to reside here. 

Described by the National Trust as ‘one of the finest and most complete examples of an 18th century show-palace and parkland in Britain’, visitors can enjoy the Curzon family’s considerable collection of fine art and furniture as well as the numerous stunning state rooms. 

The grounds are equally impressive. Designed originally by renowned 18th century architect Robert Adam, the wider parklands are expansive – covering some 800 acres. 

Features, of which there are many, include 18th century flowerbeds, statues, an Orangery, wonderful views and abundant wildlife. 

For more information, visit 

READ MORE: The amazing renovation of the State Rooms at Kedleston Hall

Great British Life: Wingfield ManorWingfield Manor (Image: Ashley Franklin)

Wingfield Manor 

The grandeur of Kedleston Hall is in stark contrast to the ruins of Wingfield Manor – but that doesn’t make it any less attractive for a potential visit. 

Now in the care of English Heritage, this palatial medieval manor house is described as a ‘vast and immensely impressive ruins... arranged round a pair of courtyards, with a huge undercrofted Great Hall and a defensible High Tower 22 metres (72 feet) tall.’ 

If these walls could talk, what stories they could tell. Built for Lord Cromwell in the 1440s for, intriguingly, ‘conspicuous consumption’, it was later the home of Bess of Hardwick’s husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and used to imprison Mary Queen of Scots in 1569, 1584 and 1585. 

It is worth noting that Wingfield Manor is part of a working farm, so please respect the owner's privacy if planning to take in this magnificent and historically-significant local landmark. 

Times of the year in which Wingfield Manor is open to the public vary, so worth checking in advance. Details can be found at 

READ MORE: Derbyshire Walk - South Wingfield

Great British Life: Midland Railway - ButterleyMidland Railway - Butterley (Image: Midland Railway Trust)

Midland Railway - Butterley  

Derbyshire’s railway heritage is well known and a proud part of the county’s identity. This is well and truly embodied at the Midland Railway – Butterley, run by The Midland Railway Trust, an Art Council England-accredited museum. 

The Midland Railway was once one of the most important railway companies of its time and the centre houses a unique collection of railway locomotives and rolling stock, as well as the iconic Princess Margaret Rose and the Duchess of Sutherland as part of its railway museum. 

Heritage train rides are also available, transporting you to a bygone era long since passed. 

Trains run regularly on the seven miles of preserved track including steam, diesel and electric locomotives set within the 57- acre museum site.  

Other attractions include narrow gauge railways, a demonstration signal box, a Victorian railwayman’s church, miniature and model railways and more. 

Reopening this spring, more details can be found at 


I have been fortunate to live in two beautiful parts of the Amber Valley, an area I have lived my entire life. 

I have such find memories of growing up near Denby – of John Flamsteed and Denby Pottery fame!  

I was fortunate to be able to grow up away from the hustle and bustle, but knowing that the delights of Derby, Belper and the likes were close by to enjoy with friends at weekends and during the holidays. 

These days, I live with my husband and our three children near Holloway (switching John Flemsteed fame for Florence Nightingale fame!). 

It’s a beautiful part of the world with a strong community feel with the delights of the Peak District within easy reach. 

Joyce Parker, Derbyshire Life reader 


As a long-established family bakery business, we’ve had our shop in Heanor for seven years now and we’re fortunate to have loyal, regular customers who tend to buy more take-away products, such as sausage rolls, filled cobs and cakes compared to our other shops in Ilkeston and Eastwood.  

Community spirit is definitely evident here, with Heanor Vision a very active force, working to promote local businesses and support the town generally.  

Special events such as the Christmas Lights Switch On are always really well attended, with shops staying open late and a great atmosphere being generated. 

David Stacey, managing director at Stacey’s Bakery 


The average price paid for properties in Amber Valley stood at £238,000 as of December 13, 2022, according to property search company On the Market – although average prices clearly vary depending on location. 

According to New Base New Life, which provides location data and property services throughout the UK, the property market in Amber Valley has witnessed a steep increase over recent years, although growth is slowing. 

Property prices in the Amber Valley, states New Base New Life, are similar to the average property prices across Derbyshire. Prices have risen a little quicker than the annual average price change seen across the Derbyshire region. 

Great British Life: The Holly Bush at MakeneyThe Holly Bush at Makeney (Image: Ashley Franklin)


Tucked away on the aptly-named Holly Bush Lane in Makeney – equidistant between Belper and Duffield – The Holly Bush is an unspoilt 17th century village inn believed to have once been visited by notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. 

If true, it’s likely Turpin would instantly recognise the place today, for The Holly Bush is like an inn frozen in time – a truly unique atmosphere awaits visitors.  

For many, The Holly Bush’s homemade pork pie and award-winning real ale combo is unbeatable, enjoyed in a Grade II listed building which radiates charm and character – don't miss the snug or indoor red phone box! 

A CAMRA Good Beer Guide regular, for those who know of The Holly Bush, it’ll be anything but a hidden gem – despite its unassuming location in a small, pretty village off the A6. 

For those who are yet to discover it – enjoy! 

READ MORE: A walk back through time - the intriguing past of the Amber Valley