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My Local Walk - Ben Roughton

28/07/20
By Ben Roughton

A short walk from my house sits a lighthouse atop a cliff. Yet I live almost 100 miles from the sea!

To cure my wanderlust, I needed a hike that would be both liberating and well-earned. I wanted to pick up footpaths I never knew existed through my time living in the Derbyshire hills, and to end at a place I had been pining for since before lockdown. And also to see this strange tower, which I can see from my house a few miles away - a fitting place to start my hike, as I had long been watching it on the horizon for many months.

WP_20161113_10_58_40_Pro.jpgOff we set, me and my father. Before the outbreak, you could climb the 58 steps to the top of this tower; Crich Stand, a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters regiment and those who fell in the World Wars. A light still flashes around after dusk in their memory (exactly like a lighthouse), but today the tower remains temporarily shut. The views from the base of the surrounding countryside (at almost 300m above sea level) are still wonderful, out towards Nottinghamshire in the east, the city of Derby to the south, and the meandering Derwent Valley to the west.

20200726_110709.jpgTo the north of the tower is a path following the edge of an old quarry (responsible for those coastal-looking cliffs) which soon arrives at railway tracks leading off to the nearby tramway village. Safely crossing, we descend to a farm where the path joins an enclosed track between freshly mowed fields and blackberry bushes. We leave the track onto a footpath slicing through a field of golden wheat, which ripples and waves as the breeze travels over.

20200726_110937.jpgBeyond, the path vanishes into a line of trees, and descends to a sunken track with the canopy of branches creating a shadowy tunnel above. Following this led us to the village of Lea, where my father reminds me that he met my mother at a barn dance here, and that Florence Nightingale opened a clinic here, and to check the oil in my car when I get home.

20200726_112217.jpgWe left the village on a woodland path, crossed stepping stones over a babbling brook, and started climbing a rather steep hill filled with wildflowers. This was particularly brilliant for me, as to reach the town on the other side I've previously taken the roads around the hill (or by walking along the Cromford Canal via the Derwent Valley Heritage Way which follows a similar route), but never over it.

20200726_113821.jpgAt the top, we were treated to spectacular views back towards Crich, down the Derwent valley and beyond. We joined a bridleway called Hearthstone Lane which rode atop the hills, with more wildflowers, blackberry and bilberry bushes.

20200726_120041.jpgThe bridleway continued towards Riber Castle (not so much a castle, more a 19th century country house, but still a mighty impressive sight) but we headed away from this landmark towards the nearby ridge overlooking Matlock Bath; a splendid riverside town founded atop warm water springs, often nicknamed "Little Switzerland" for the houses clinging to the steep hillsides.

20200726_121559.jpgThis view was brilliant, looking right down on the main street beside the river where I have walked many times. I have often looked up to this very hilltop where I stood from down on that street, but never pushed myself to cure that curiosity of what it’s like up here. I was glad to rest here for a few minutes to properly soak it in.

20200726_122255.jpgWe left the wonderful panoramic view of Matlock Bath and dropped down into the small village of Starkholmes. We followed the road down, past cozy cottages and a couple of village pubs now safely welcoming their patrons. A sunny day meant they could enjoy their beverages outdoors, which leads me to my end destination; a pub with a truly wonderful view.

20200726_122544.jpgFrustratingly, it sits right at the top of Matlock; the larger sister town to Matlock Bath, and against yet another steep hill. We walked through the beautiful park beside the River Derwent with it's avenue of trees leading to the town centre. Here, a long road stretches uphill, passing the huge 19th century 'County Hall' building, once a lavish hotel, but now the headquarters for the local government.

20200726_131143.jpgFurther uphill, almost at the very top, we arrived at a small pub which overlooked the Derwent Valley back towards Matlock Bath and further to Cromford. The garden at the front allowed us to appreciate this magnificent view, whilst safely enjoying a well earned pint under the sunny sky.

20200726_144923.jpgIt wasn't the pint of beer I had been pining for. It had been the walk and the company that felt truly librating for the mind and body, after months of staring out my window at the tower of Crich Stand, and wondering what else is over the hill. My father agreed we could have stretched my legs anywhere and been happy, but sometimes all you need is a destination, a map and some creativity...

...and someone to remind you to check your car oil occassionally. Thanks dad!

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