Derbyshire Walk - Bolehill near Wirksworth
PUBLISHED: 09:27 19 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:15 03 May 2020
Featuring railway lines past and present, Sally Mosley leads us on a ramble near Black Rocks that includes stepping through the history of stone
DISTANCE: 5.25 miles
PARKING: Black Rocks car park DE4 4GT (pay and display) Grid Ref: 291557
TERRAIN: 10+ gates and stiles. Woodland paths with trip hazards. Livestock grazing. Roadway without pavement. Steep steps and pathway down to Little Bolehill.
REFRESHMENTS: Black Rocks food kiosk (seasonal opening hours apply); The National Stone Centre (light snacks)
TOILETS: Black Rocks car park
MAP: OS Explorer OL24
WALK HIGHLIGHT: Bird’s-eye view of Cromford and The Matlocks
DESCRIPTION: This elevated walk over Peak District hills follows a scenic section of the High Peak Trail as well as going through fields, stiles and along old paths. Bolehill is a quirky and quaint little village nestling in the shadows of nearby Wirksworth. After passing the National Stone Centre for a geological experience ascend through time on the Geosteps. The walk then heads beyond Steeple Grange Light Railway on another section of redundant trackbed.
1 From the car park make your way past the food kiosk and toilets to the High Peak Trail and turn left at the fingerpost for High Peak Junction, guiding you beneath and beyond Black Rocks, a weathered outcrop of Ashover gritstone. Now a 17-mile long walking, cycling and horse riding trail, the former Cromford and High Peak railway line of 1831 was initially designed to transport minerals, farm produce and people from Cromford Canal down by the Derwent to the Peak Forest canal at Whaley Bridge. This involved climbing 1,000 feet up and over the limestone dome by means of seriously steep inclines. The highest point of the line was at Ladmanlow near Buxton where it reached the dizzy heights of 1,266 feet above sea level.
2 On reaching the empty shell of the old engine house at the top of Sheep Pasture Incline, admire the wondrous views of Cromford village and Willersley Castle below. See in the distance the cable cars introduced in 1984 to carry visitors to the hilltop attraction where a tall stone tower is known as The Heights of Abraham. This was constructed long ago in memory of General James Wolfe who was killed in battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, Canada, in 1759 during a confrontation with the French army led by General Montcalm. Fatally injured by three musket shots, Wolfe was posthumously dubbed ‘The Hero of Quebec’. Also notice how the River Derwent snakes through a narrow gorge beneath sheer limestone cliffs dominated by High Tor, whilst through the gap you should be able to make out part of the urban sprawl of Matlock Bank which evolved on the profits of the hydropathic era.
3 Walk part way down Sheep Pasture Incline (gradient between 1:8 and 1:9) to a ramped path on the right following the signs for Intake Lane and Long Way Bank. At a junction of paths by the bridge below, turn right to walk up Intake Lane, an early route which now forms part of the Midshires Way.
4 Follow the narrow walled lane around bends and then straight ahead for half a mile until you reach a corrugated metal shed on the left.
5 Turn right leaving Intake Lane and cross over a fence type stile. Head uphill with a wall on your left. After two fields the route becomes a short narrow walled path. Where this ends cross another stile to meet with the top of a grassy track leading up on your left from Meerbrook Farm.
6 Walk up the large field beyond, bearing right to a set of double gates in the top wall with woods about 25 yards to your right. Go through the gates and at the top of the following field be sure to glance behind you at the views of Crich Stand atop its cliff and the spire of St Mary’s Church, Crich on the skyline.
7 Go through a stile by a gate and then head around to the left to avoid walking through a prickly thicket of blackthorn and gorse bushes. After about 50 yards rejoin the path as it becomes a gravel track and continue straight ahead. This bridleway leads past Wigwellnook Farm and continues down their access drive to the road.
8 On meeting the old Oakerthorpe Road turn right. After 500 yards look for a green fingerpost on the left indicating the way to Bolehill and Wirksworth. Descend a steep path with steps leading down past the former Primitive Methodist Chapel to Little Bolehill, arriving at the telephone box which has been adapted to hold a defibrillator.
The mining village of Bolehill was established during the 18th and 19th centuries and takes its name from a medieval smelting hearth known as the Bolehill Bole. The census of 1841 records 637 inhabitants of which 77 out of 209 workers were employed in lead mining. During the 18th century the nearby Bage Mine was the only British source of Cromfordite and Matlockite – two extremely rare secondary lead minerals.
9 Continue straight ahead past the redbrick Bolehill Institute and follow a well-defined path towards Wirksworth which eventually crosses a bridge over the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. This nine-mile long heritage line runs between Duffield and Wirksworth and on certain dates continues to Ravenstor.
10 Walk up to the school at the top of Cemetery Lane and turn right. Walk on the pavement beside Cromford Road for approximately 300 yards and then turn left up Old Lane which soon becomes a rough track. After passing beside fields where spoil heaps are indications that this particular area was at one time extensively mined, you will pass beneath a dark bridge. Continue ahead as the track becomes a path, going through woodland which contains the ruins of its industrial past.
11 At a strange circular stone tower, head uphill and around to the left to access the National Stone Centre set within a 50-acre site where there is a museum and industrial heritage discovery centre, as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
12 Leave the Stone Centre on the path going to the top of the Geosteps, made using stone of different ages sourced from around the UK. Turn right following the sign for Light Railway and return to the High Peak Trail. This will take you past the Steeple Grange Light Railway which is a stretch of 18” narrow gauge line on the trackbed of the former Killers branch, named after the Killer brothers who owned and operated Middleton Quarry. It was used for transporting building stone in the early 1900s. Continue along the trail to return to Black Rocks car park.