Derbyshire walk - Brassington and Carsington Water
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 March 2018
Sally Mosley invites you to listen to birds singing and watch lambs playing as you stride out on this lovely scenic walk with the joys of spring in every step. Photographs by Sally Mosley
DISTANCE: 8.5 miles
PARKING: Wirksworth Dale car park and picnic site (free parking) on the edge of Brassington. Nearest post code DE4 4HA. Grid Ref: 234546
TERRAIN: 10+ stiles and gates. Moderate walk along paths and through fields where livestock graze. Some roadway without pavement. Stretch of cycling, horse riding and pedestrian path beside Carsington Water. Areas prone to mud in wet weather.
REFRESHMENTS: Carsington Water Visitor Centre. Miners Arms and The Gate Inn, Brassington
TOILETS: Carsington Water Visitor Centre
MAP: O.S. Explorer OL24 White Peak
WALK HIGHLIGHT: Visiting various hides beside Carsington Water to observe birds
DESCRIPTION: Long stretches of easy walking over a gently rolling landscape eat up the miles on this scenic ramble. It begins with a walk through historic Brassington and incorporates a bird’s-eye view of Carsington Water on the return which appears like a giant puddle embracing the Peak District landscape.
1. From the car park, walk down Dale End into Brassington, now a relatively quiet road through the village. Branzincton, as it was recorded in Domesday Book, is some distance from today’s main roads, however, in 1663 a King’s highway passed directly through here with strict instructions that residents should maintain and upkeep this important road. ‘Everie one everie yeare scowre their ditches adjoyneinge to the King’s highway before the first daie of May or else to forfeite 12d’!
2. After passing the Village Hall take the second turning right up the rather strangely named Maddock Lake and make your way to the church which stands proudly on a rise overlooking its congregation. Dedicated to St James, the church has many early features and a south chancel aisle thought to date back to 1200. High up on the west wall is said to be a small crudely-carved figure of a man with hand on heart, thought to be of Saxon origin but built into the Norman tower. He is said to be Brassington’s oldest inhabitant but the one most rarely seen. Continue beyond the church along Well Street to West End where you will come to a junction with a combination of routes including Bradbourne Lane and Middle Lane.
3. Turn left down Nether Lane and follow this for almost a mile until just before Clipshead Farm where a sign on a stone outbuilding indicates there’s no right of way ahead. Go through a small gate on the right and go diagonally across a field to a stile. Head straight across the second field and in the third field follow the line of overhead wires to a fence in the bottom right-hand corner. The footpath crosses a ditch here and then passes through a small gate.
4. Walk across the field behind a house and then turn left, heading downhill and to the rear of a second property, to a corner in the hedge where you will find a concealed stile. Carefully walk down through the thicket of bushes to access Brackendale Lane by a fingerpost sign and stile.
5. Turn left and follow the lane past Brackendale House and then Netherton Hall which dates from 1684. Continue as the road gently ascends, flanked either side by ancient hedgerows, and walk up to meet the busy B5035.
6. Carefully cross the main road to a path opposite which forms part of the National Cycle Network, also for use by walkers. Follow this past Uppertown Farm and then continue when it crosses a road and heads down to Carsington Water Visitor Centre where there are excellent information facilities, shops, cafés and an RSPB centre. Owned and managed by Severn Trent Water, Carsington Water reservoir and its surroundings provide a wealth of wildlife habitats where since its construction and official opening in 1992, 30 mammal species and 215 bird species have been recorded. See also the famous Kugel Stone in the courtyard. This one tonne sphere of solid granite is able to revolve on a thin film of water pumped into the socket of its stone base. 4
7. Follow the reservoir path clockwise from the Visitor Centre which passes several hides and viewing points where you are able to observe many types of birds, including migrating flocks and resident wildfowl, either on the water or along the shore. At one point a bench placed by a fence provides views of a bird table and feeders beyond where a variety of woodland birds can generally be watched. Walk past the Bomb Tower which was constructed by the RAF as a lookout during bombing practice raids here in the 1940s, some 50 years before the reservoir was constructed. At that time this was an area of rural farmland. Go through Sheepwash car park and continue as the path drops down to cross an outlet of Brown Ale Bay.
8. On meeting a gate by the side of an information board, with extreme care cross directly over the main road and proceed along the track opposite which leads into the village of Carsington. At the Miners Arms turn left and walk past the small village green with play equipment. Now bypassed, the village has become a sleepy little settlement snuggled beneath Carsington Pastures. Notice Carsington Church, which is thought to date from 1320, nestling under the trees. St Margaret’s contains an impressive wooden gallery at the west end erected in 1704 on the instructions of the local landowner Sir John Philip Gell for the comfort of his tenants.
9. At the junction where the main street bends sharply around to the left, head straight on up the ‘no through road’ on a well-walked footpath to Brassington. Along the way you will see and possibly hear the blades of wind turbines rotating in the breeze, generating power that when captured is transported along a line of pylons striding out with giant steps towards Ashbourne.
A succession of hollows, known as ‘rakes’, marks the site of the now disused Perseverance Mine. These hills have long since been exploited by man through mining and quarrying, leaving behind a legacy of lumps, bumps and earthworks. Other workings in the area include the Nicalum, Greatrake and Wester Head mines, whilst just to the north are the remains of Bees Nest sand pit and Green Clay pit where silica sand was extracted. In the 1720s Daniel Defoe passed by here, writing in his A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain about how he came across a poor lead miner emerging from a shaft. He described him as, ‘a subterranean creature, lean as a skeleton and pale as a dead corpse, his flesh lank, something of the colour of lead itself.’
10. Follow the footpath through a pair of isolated posts. At one time a narrow squeeze stile, they are now somewhat redundant as the wall either side no longer exists. From here the path drops down into a natural amphitheatre surrounded by strange rock formations of eroded dolomite limestone, fashioned into jagged shapes that form an eerie silhouette against the skyline. The path crosses over a grassy accommodation lane and then heads uphill again initially following a track. However, bear left at an old metal sign with worn arrow pointing to the left and continue on the well-defined path through a succession of fields and stiles. Descending steeply down a field, bear right half way down and follow the footpath which leads between houses to emerge onto Dragon Hill, back at Brassington.
Nearby Tudor House was built in 1615 and is said to be the oldest dated property in the village. A datestone shows the initials of its builder Thomas Westerne and his wife Anne, although the words Tudor House were evidently added sometime in the 1890s. For a time this building was an inn but it was bought by the parish in 1820 to serve as the local workhouse. In a census of 1841 it records 15 inmates but this increased considerably over the following years until a new Union Workhouse was built in Ashbourne. Since 1848 Tudor House has been a private residence. Walk up the road to return to the car park, admiring as you go a wonderful array of characterful cottages and houses built mainly from local stone.