CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Ashford-in-the-Water - one of the Peak District’s prettiest villages

PUBLISHED: 10:30 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:30 26 April 2016

An idyllic scene at Ashford in the Water

An idyllic scene at Ashford in the Water

Mike Smith / Gary Wallis

As spring arrives and the Peak is back in leaf, Derbyshire Life journeys to Ashford in the Water – a place full of charm for residents and visitors alike

The Sheepwash Bridge, said to be the most photographed bridge in EnglandThe Sheepwash Bridge, said to be the most photographed bridge in England

Ashford in the Water is rightly regarded as one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District. Situated on the northern bank of the River Wye, the settlement is best approached on foot over a low, triple-arched packhorse bridge which is said to be the most photographed bridge in England. Willow trees overhang the river and, at appropriate times of the year, rainbow trout can be seen leaping in the crystal clear waters. Immediately beyond the bridge, there is a delightful set-piece composed of three elements: the parish pump, covered by an octagonal canopy; a former tithe barn, now sensitively converted into a dwelling; and a modest parish church, with a small battlemented tower.

The attractive buildings of mellow stone that make up the rest of the village are best appreciated by following a circuit that begins on Fennel Street, which runs northwards from the parish pump until it reaches a grass-covered traffic island with a wooden seat covered by a gabled canopy. A short road to the right of the island gives access to a large recreation area, bordered by a path that provides a fine overall view of the village, arranged like a stage set in front of a backcloth of low surrounding hills. The path emerges at Hill Cross, where the circuit can be continued by following Greaves Lane, before turning right into Church Street and walking slowly back to the Parish Pump.

The various dwellings encountered on this round trip range in size from the modest to the grand and vary in style from the simple to the sophisticated, yet they manage to combine to make a wonderfully harmonious whole. This is particularly apparent on Church Street, where an attractive terrace of houses with neat Georgian façades stands opposite a large dwelling called Great Batch, whose mullions and gables recall an earlier vernacular tradition. Even a nearby modern bungalow fails to add a discordant note to the composition.

This picture-postcard village has a long tradition of welcoming visitors by offering them good food and drink and by providing them with comfortable accommodation in restful surroundings. Tourists are also entertained during their stay by interesting tales of past life and times. One such story concerns the purpose of the unusual walled enclosure attached to that much photographed bridge over the River Wye. In former times, lambs were placed in the pen to entice ewes to swim across the river to reach them, allowing the waters to wash the fleece of the ewes in preparation for shearing.

The Aisseford Tea RoomThe Aisseford Tea Room

The ‘Sheepwash Bridge’ terminates at the entrance to the Riverside House Hotel, a former Georgian country residence set in a beautiful riverside estate. Recounting the history of the building, hotel manager Christina Lamb said: ‘The house was built in various phases from 1620 until 1990. Edith Smith bought the Riverside in 1931 and lived here with her sister Jessie Barber and her brother-in-law Dr Percival Ellison Barber, whose blind son, Michael, became the 13th Lord Aylmer, after inheriting the title from his second cousin. The hotel was acquired in 1997 by the present owner, Penelope Thornton, who is a member of the family that founded the Thorntons chocolate company.’

As well as welcoming guests seeking peace and relaxation, the hotel provides facilities for business meetings and is a romantic venue for weddings. There are four dining rooms, embellished with rich fabrics and furnished with antiques, and many of the 14 bedrooms have exposed beams and four-poster beds. Christina Lamb, who has worked at the hotel for the last 16 years, says, ‘I am very lucky to live and work in a village where time seems to stand still.’

Another villager, Jean Blackwell, has been running Cottage Crafts on Fennel Street for over three decades. The crafts on sale in her little shop include wicker baskets, tea-cosies, pots, pictures and some delightful ornaments in the form of miniature limestone walls.

One form of limestone found locally is Black Marble, so called because it turns black when polished. The deposits were first exploited by Henry Watson in 1748, but the stone was especially popular in Victorian times when it was often used on mosaics and for inlaid patterns on chimney pieces and table-tops. A fine example of a Black Ashford Marble table-top can be found in Holy Trinity Church.

Riverside Cottage from the Parish PumpRiverside Cottage from the Parish Pump

The church has two other striking features. Garlands hanging from the roof of the north aisle are known as ‘Virgins’ Crants’, because they were once carried at the funerals of unmarried females, and a carving above the doorway is said to depict a hunting scene from the Royal Forest of the Peak. The hunting forest was a huge swathe of land reserved for Norman kings and noblemen.

In the days of the Royal Forest, the village was known as Aisseford, which explains the name of the Aisseford Tea Room on Church Street. The café is managed by the brother and sister team of Elizabeth and Dan McGoverne, with the help of their mother, Ros. This is the place to enjoy lunches or light refreshments, including homemade cakes and freshly-made scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The tastefully decorated tea rooms extend through a small conservatory into an outside seating area. The McGovernes have a gift shop on the upper floor and run a holiday let at nearby Nanny Peggy’s Cottage, which is as cute as its name suggests.

Another source of good food and drink is the 17th-century Bulls Head. The pub is managed by George and Katie Maynard, who are members of the fourth generation of the family to run this former coaching inn. George says: ‘We always have three cask ales on offer and our steak and ale pie is a special favourite with people who regularly eat here. There is an open fire in the winter months and we provide boules in the sheltered beer garden in the summer months.’

Ashford’s other pub is the Ashford Arms, formerly the Devonshire Arms – the Dukes of Devonshire have been lords of the manor of Ashford for four centuries, although many of the houses they owned in the village were sold in the 1950s to pay for death duties. This popular inn and eating place has eight en-suite bedrooms and serves meals in the bar and in the large conservatory. The chef is Robert Muxlow, whose food has received rave reviews on the Trip Advisor website. The manager is Andy Fraser-Smith, who says: ‘Back in 2005, when I decided I wanted a change from my job in financial management, I searched the country for the perfect country pub and I found it here.’

It is rare these days for a country village to have two pubs and even rarer to have a local provisions shop that continues to thrive in an age when so much shopping is done in supermarkets. Known affectionately as the ‘Corner Shop’, Roberts in Ashford sells fruit and vegetables, cooked meats, deli products, chutneys, preserves, coffees and ice creams, as well as made-to-order sandwiches. Run for very many years by Kath and Ken Ibbotson, it was acquired in April 2015 by Cheryl and Nick Roberts, who are right to call it ‘one of the most delightful and individual food shops in the whole region’.

The Ashford of old had several other shops and supported a cottage industry for the manufacture of stockings, with the well-lit top floors of some houses being used as workrooms. All these premises have been converted into attractive dwellings, adding to the long list of very desirable properties in this picture-postcard village.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Derby’s QUAD arts centre has become an important part of the city’s identity over the last decade and it celebrates its impact on the cultural landscape at its 10th anniversary this September

Read more
Derby

Interesting architecture, characterful places to shop, drink and dine and a hub of arts, heritage and history are some of the reasons to plan a visit to the town.

Read more

Peter Seddon celebrates the county’s red telephone kiosks

Read more

Ad Feature: Students at Trent College celebrate another year of success

Friday, September 14, 2018

The overall pass rate for A-Levels this year was 99%

Read more

As the starting point of numerous routes, scenic Edale is one of the country’s iconic base camps for hill walkers

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search