Mercaston to Shirley, by Mark Halliwell [Next page]
The next opportunity I had to hike was a fine day, but it began grey and cool. The other days’ hikes had been around 13 miles, but this was over 15, though I covered less of the actual Centenary Way than the others. Starting from near Mercaston Hall again, The Way crosses a couple of fields, then rises to over 500 feet, providing an extensive view back to Mugginton and up beyond to the Derbyshire hills. Heading up to the top of the field, a Red Fox ran ahead effortlessly, then vanished.
Meeting the aptly named Wood Lane, there were a couple of buzzards as I made the staggered crossing: I would return to this pretty spot towards the end of the day’s walk. Across a couple more fields with an extensive view ahead, The Way then dropped down into the village of Brailsford, skirting left on Alley Walk before meeting the Derby-to-Ashbourne A52 road. Brailsford has a small housing estate away from the main road, but other than that is a rural village with the Rose and Crown pub, and shops and buildings around Saracen’s Yard. It’s been settled since Roman times, but these days has a golf course, and another lovely cricket ground that I’ve played at a few times.
It’s only a short walk along the A52, then, just where there’s a side road on the left (The Green, leading to Church Lane), the Centenary Way dips off through a gap in the hedge and trees past a hidden pond, eventually heading out west and gradually losing altitude across some fields. Brailsford’s churchyard appears to be in the middle of nowhere, well-separated from the rest of the village, but that’s exactly where the path goes. The churchyard is atmospheric with beautiful trees and the historic twelfth-century All Saints Church. The path leaves through the right of the churchyard and drops down to the pretty crossing of Brailsford Brook, amongst woods and warblers.
Keeping to a westerly direction, The Way passes Birch House fishing lakes, then enters the village of Ednaston amongst some beautiful gardens. The Yew Tree Inn off to the right could provide no lure today, so I followed the road round through the village to the west. Just after the bend to the south, I took a stile by a gate on the right of the road and headed diagonally across a small field, then two large ones. This emerged on to the minor road called March Hollow, where The Way takes a shallow angle off to the left, west, by a small pool just before the lane turns north to Shirley. Beyond a couple of fields with beautiful poppies, the path arrived at a dead-end road off Mill Lane, just south of Shirley.
I’d decided that this was to be the end of my Centenary Way walking for the day, and took advantage of the adjoining Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk on its southern trajectory from Shirley. This waymarked route from Ashbourne to Derby was created in 1995 on the 60th anniversary of the Ramblers Association, and the 250th of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s march to Derby. It was a lovely walk south to Longford, west to Lees, then heading northward to form a large square, twice crossing the Roman Road Long Lane. Just before rejoining the Centenary Way at Wood Lane, there was the attractive Brailsford Hall with its many rhododendrons, and then the sight of a brown hare, sitting alert with ears up in one of the crop tire-tracks, a super end to a long day out.