Ecclesbourne Valley

14 November 2021

The Ecclesbourne Valley runs from Wirksworth down to Duffield, where it joins the Derwent. Today’s walk explores the beautiful countryside and some of the history of this picturesque river valley and its tributaries. Please note that we shall not be following the official Ecclesbourne Way, except for a few short sections of that route. We have only a relatively short coach journey in both directions. The walking distance is approximately 11 miles.
The walk begins on the B5023 just outside Duffield, near the entrance to Croots Farm Shop. We climb gradually to Windley Hill Farm, passing the site of Farnah House (an old manor house) en route. The remains of an ancient moat and the foundations of an earlier manor house are close by. From Windley Hill, we see the Ecclesbourne Valley below us as we turn to Gunhills Farm and descend to the small hamlet of Windley. We hope to have a short break along the way.
After passing the picturesque Baptist chapel, we turn through Brook Farm and past the grounds of the delightfully named ‘Flower Lillies’, a grade II listed 18th Century country house. We follow Windley Brook up to an area called ‘The Limekilns’. In earlier times this was a hive of activity, with quarrying, multiple lime kilns and possibly iron smelting too. We pass the dramatic quarry and spoil heaps, long since returned to nature and head towards Turnditch Hall. We shall have our main break in Turnditch village. The Tiger pub is a tempting venue. The back of the churchyard, just down the road, also offers a pleasant place for lunch with an excellent view across the valley.
Beyond the church, we descend to the valley bottom, crossing the River Ecclesbourne, the railway line and the main road in quick succession. We turn towards Shottle Hall, which may be seen in the distance. We then head north, following the Franker Brook up to Lawn Farm. It is worth looking back at the view as we make this gradual climb. Ahead of us, we shall see the mast-covered Alport Heights and the wind turbines of Harborough Rocks.
Beyond Lawn Farm, we turn northwest towards Wirksworth, touching the northern edge of Gibbet Wood. We hope to have a short break here before ascending gradually to Lane End Farm. On our left will be a panoramic view of the Ecclesbourne Valley and beyond. We follow a narrow country lane down to the ford at Holehouse Farm. Here we take a shortcut along a footpath before joining Pratthall Lane for our final approach to Wirksworth. Light permitting, we shall finish the walk via Gell’s Bedehouses, the old Grammar School and the ancient parish church of St Mary’s, set in a secluded oval churchyard. Wirksworth is a fascinating town, once the third largest in Derbyshire. It has a number of other interesting old buildings. It is possibly the ‘lost’ Roman town of Lutudarum and capital of the Pecsaetan tribe, who lend their name to the Peak District.
The coach will pick us up on Harrison Drive (the main road to Cromford) at 5pm for the relatively short journey home.
Here’s a few photos from the recce, done on a dull, but dry day with my two intrepid assistants, Ann & Yvonne

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