For our first evening walk of the year, we chose to drive through Cromford to park at Black Rocks, near to a churchyard with very neatly spaced headstones, then crossed the road and walked through a field of buttercups and into a little wooded area.
We arrived at Dene Quarry, skirted the perimeter and walked up the hill to an information board, Rose End Meadows Nature Reserve. According to the internet, this reserve is in the hands of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and “made up of 16 small fields, none of which has ever been treated with artificial fertilisers or herbicides”. The area shows what limestone farmland would have looked like 100 years ago and it was spectacular.
Further up the hill we saw Riber Castle in the distance standing out against the pale blue sky and all around us fields and fields of buttercups, cow parsley, speedwell and the strong-smelling blossom of the hawthorn hedges.
On a gate we were informed of “dangerous lead mine shafts, which are normally capped but may be liable to soil movement”. We travelled on without incident and at the end of the path we turned left, walking uphill on a rocky, grassy track and into a wood, bordered by wildflowers once again. This time we spotted red campion, wild garlic, cowslips, forget-me-nots, viola and comfrey, the pathways awash with colour under the warm evening sunshine.
We walked across a white, limestone road, used by lorries to reach the quarry entrance and later, as we were so high up, had a good view of the quarry below with vehicles seeming like dinky toys.
In the village of Middleton, we found an information board inside a bus shelter mentioning those who died in the 1st World War and details about the Hopton headstones produced in this area. In 2018, a replica was erected at the Steeple Grange Light Railway where “more than 120.000 headstones were carried on this line for imperial war grave cemeteries”.
We turned onto a road signposted “The Moor” and at the summit were greeted by inspiring views and a directional board stating that we were 324m above sea level and pointing out places of interest on the horizon in the far distance – Riber Castle, Heights of Abraham, Stanage Edge, Crich Stand and Alport Heights.
We carried on down Middleton Incline and saw the chimney of the restored engine house, built in 1829 and used to haul wagons up the slope. This is the only survivor of nine which stood at the top of every incline along the Cromford and High Peak Railway and is in the care of Derbyshire County Council. Originally timber was supplied daily to fire the boilers but now compressed air is used.
We passed the Stone Centre and reached Steeple Grange Light Railway where we inspected the war memorial headstone, mentioned earlier, before reaching the car park.
Summer skies, bird song, wildflower hedgerows, friendly banter – what more could anyone ask for.
If interested in joining us, please meet at the church gates for our next 5 mile walk on Sunday 2nd July at 4pm. Transport will then be arranged.