Stanley Brook to Duffield, by Mark Halliwell [Next page]
I was now totally with it on the Centenary Way! A four-day working week brought about by Covid-19 had the fringe benefit of giving me more days to hike. A fine day allowed me not only to do the second leg of The Way but also to integrate it within a wonderful circuit of three joined-up ways, returning to the Centenary Way via the Midshires Way and completing the loop via the excellent Derwent Valley Heritage (DVH) Way. I’d noted this possibility some years back in an area familiar through dog walks from home, now made reality.
Hiking out from Derby I joined the Midshires Way at the north-east of Locko Park (with a pretty lake and Locko Hall, north of Spondon), thereby joining up with the end point of my post-lockdown debut hike, and spotting an exciting herd of seven Fallow Deer nearby. Heading north and then skirting west around the edges of Stanley village on the increasingly sunny Midshires Way, I once again crossed the Great Northern line and Stanley Brook just before rejoining the Centenary Way.
On the rising westbound Church Lane, passing attractive cottages and many finches, my last glimpse of the Great Northern line was marked by three soaring buzzards. At the top of the lane, The Way meets Lime Lane (at a dip known locally as Donkey Hollow) at the scattered village of Morley. St Matthew’s Church, dating from the fourteenth century and with an attractive steeple, was a good place to open my flask on the steps of the contemporary Butter (or Barter) Cross. The grounds also include the Sacheverell-Bateman Mausoleum and Morley Diocesan Retreat, in what was the old rectory.
Crossing over the A608, the Centenary Way then passes through fields of burnet that were swaying in the breeze and enters the hamlet of Morleymoor with its old almshouses. The lane exits onto Moor Road, the course of the Roman Road Ryknield Street, and The Way continues straight over and bears right through some attractive woodland, with chiffchaffs and whitethroats warbling away. The path here skirts the grounds of ancient Breadsall Priory, founded by 1266 as an Augustinian Priory, now a hotel (where we’ve been to weddings of two couples of friends) and golf course headquarters.
Still broadly following the Midshires as well as the Centenary Way, the path heads north across the golf course and enters lovely Horsley Carr woods, with its birch, oak, pine and Scots Pine trees. This is the start of a most familiar area where I’ve done many wildlife surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology – in fact from here through to the River Derwent is a superb part of The Way. At the bottom of the wooded hill, and to the accompaniment of blackcaps and goldcrest, I turned left onto the woodland track from Brackley Gate to Coxbench. Then, as the view opened up on the right, looking north up the valley to the wooded hill with the remains of Horsley Castle, I took the track bearing right between fields and under the A38 – the only dual carriageway encountered on the Centenary Way.
The path at the bottom of the valley adjacent to the dismantled Midland Railway branch line and Bottle Brook, here flowing south through Little Eaton on its way to join the River Derwent, is usually awash with birds, and today was no exception. Coming back into civilisation, I took a left on Alfreton Road through the northern part of the village of Coxbench, and then followed The Way up right, just after the Bell and Harp Pub. The lane up through Eaton Park Woods eventually gives way to fields on the flattish top of the hill, essentially the southern terminus of the ridge of hills following all the way from Yorkshire down the eastern side of the Derwent Valley. With good views from this vantage point at 400 feet altitude, it was a great place for lunch!
The fields carried on at around this level for about half a mile, then the path started to descend steeply into the Derwent Valley through the woods of Duffield Bank. After dropping height, I reached Duffield Bank Road amongst some unusual houses and pretty cottages with a view out across the River Derwent to Duffield, its church, and beyond to Cumberhills and the next section of the Centenary Way. I headed down the road to the right, coming to Duffield’s Bridge Inn right next to the crossing of the beautiful River Derwent. Another hostelry sadly not serving at present, this has been a frequent haunt over the years, its riverside terrace being a great place for a beer!
When I first used to come with friends to the Bridge Inn in my late teens, my brother and I used to call it The Last Friendly Inn, recognising both that the Derwent Valley beyond to the north became a lot more rural and as an ode to The Lord of The Rings (Rivendell was the Last Homely House). The bridge crossing became my latest staging post for The Way, but time first to pause for the wonderful sight up and downstream, rewarded with a grey wagtail and a goosander flying downriver.
The return home would be on the DVH Way, along a familiar stretch. The path leads up past the tall chimney and remains of Peckwash Mill, a paper mill expanded by Thomas Tempest in 1805 and scene of two fatalities in 1900 on the now-dismantled railway siding. I continued along the DVH Way over Eaton Bank and through Little Eaton, then home via Breadsall. My Three Ways day had been awesome.