by Mark Halliwell, January 2021 [Next page]
I hadn’t really meant to do the Centenary Way, at least not yet. But I’m so glad I did!
I’d hiked for as many years as I could remember. I’d started walking as a kid with my dad, and then began long-distance hiking some 15 years back with my old Durham University buddies. But somehow the Centenary Way seemed a bit too close to home – or was it that it just hadn’t sounded quite as spectacular, or wild, as Coast-to-Coast and some others that I’d turned my attention to? But the moment the most stringent Covid-19 lockdown was relaxed late Spring 2020 – having until then survived on one-hour walks from home with our Cockerpoo – I was raring to go.
My first hiking escape had nothing to do with the Centenary Way but, observing the rule to exercise from home (in our case on the northern edge of Derby), became a lovely 14-mile jaunt taking in part of the Midshires Way. Next morning provided painful confirmation that lockdown had compromised my fitness! But with mind reinvigorated, I was off planning all the local hikes I could do. A bit of research indicated that the 25 miles of the Centenary Way (see map image) sounded more plausible than Midshires Way’s 225. First morning in and I was hooked.
Centenary Way is the name of at least four long-distance paths in the British Isles, but this one crosses beautiful, rolling central Derbyshire, starting in Ilkeston on the Nottinghamshire border. It heads west to Ashbourne, southern gateway to the Peak District National Park (a frequent stomping ground) and where the adjacent River Dove forms the county boundary with Staffordshire. The trail was devised to mark the centenary of the Derbyshire Footpaths Preservation Society (that had me humming a track by The Kinks – or a wood stain advertisement – several times on the walk), which had been founded in 1894 but was sadly disbanded in 2011. But it was still on my Ordnance Survey maps and was clearly in evidence on several long-distance hiking websites, so I was off!
So why did this seemingly moderate hike result in 65 miles and 6,500 feet of ascent (three times that advertised)? The plan, or maybe obsession, grew into five circular or linear-return hikes (see later image), the first two direct from home, with the others enabled through further pandemic relaxation. The wonderful Centenary Way, bookended by historic towns but otherwise hiked mostly in solitude, allowed me to experience beautiful countryside, pretty villages, and plenty of wildlife including 62 different species of wild birds. The description of The Way is split into five corresponding parts, and a summary below– please use the links to these.
Centenary Way Part 1 – Nature in abundance: Ilkeston to Stanley Brook
Centenary Way Part 2 – The Three Ways: Stanley Brook to Duffield
Centenary Way Part 4 – Brailsford and The Bonnie Prince: Mercaston to Shirley
Mark’s breakpoint locations on Centenary Way:
0 miles (0km): West End Road, Ilkeston
4.4 miles (7.1km): Stanley Brook
9.0 miles (14.5km): Bridge Inn, Duffield
15.4 miles (24.8km): Mercaston Hall
19.7 miles (31.7km): Mill Lane, Shirley
24.7 miles (39.8km): Ashbourne town centre