Derbyshire Walk - Melbourne
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:45 03 May 2020
Surrounded by fields of ripening crops in summer, captivating Melbourne is full of charm and character all year round. Sally Mosley takes us on a guided South Derbyshire walk
DESCRIPTION: Beginning at the heart of Melbourne where a wealth of historic houses surrounds Melbourne Parish Church, one of the finest in the country, this gently undulating walk passes through fertile South Derbyshire farmland intersected by ancient hedgerows. After walking through the village of Wilson for a quick dip into Leicestershire, the return to Melbourne follows a stretch of the Cloud Trail followed by pavement and paths through the town.
DISTANCE: 6 miles
PARKING: Public car park off High Street DE73 8GN; limited roadside parking on Church Street
TERRAIN: 4 gates, 5 stiles. Easy to moderate walk passing through fields set with arable crops or grazed by livestock. A stretch of walking along Cloud Trail (former railway line). Country lanes without pavement. Close proximity to water around Melbourne Pool.
REFRESHMENTS: Various tearooms, pubs and cafés in Melbourne; The Bull’s Head, Wilson
TOILETS: Public toilets on High Street
MAP: O.S. Explorer 245 – The National Forest
WALK HIGHLIGHT: St Michael and St Mary’s Church, Melbourne
1 Begin your walk at Melbourne Parish Church, which is dedicated to St Michael and St Mary. Dating from the early 12th century, the building was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as being ‘one of the most ambitious Norman parish churches in England’, the interior contains ornate carved pillars, an intriguing squint hole from the Lady Chapel to the high altar, hatchments to different Lords Melbourne, and an Australian flag relating to the 19th century Prime Minister who passed his name on to Melbourne, Australia.
2 Next to the church is Melbourne Hall, a stately home with a grand formal garden containing the fabulously ornate ‘birdcage’ arbour created by famous Uttoxeter-born ironsmith Robert Bakewell (1682–1752). Melbourne Hall is the family home of Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr, direct descendants of Sir John Coke who made his home here in 1629. The Hall’s Gardens are open from April to September on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays and daily during August, 1.30-5.30pm. During August the Hall is also open for tours (for details see www.melbournehall.com, call 01332 862502 or email email@example.com). In the adjacent stable block and outbuildings are a craft centre, shops and tearoom that can be visited all year around.
3 Pass through the gateway to walk in front of the Hall and follow the road along the side of Melbourne Pool which covers a site of 20 acres. Pass the former Melbourne Mill on your left and continue along Pool Road passing Pool Cottage on the right. Look for dragonflies skimming over the surface of the water and watch out for greedy geese that patrol the embankment. Ignore the first footpath on the right and continue 30 yards around a left-hand bend to a fingerpost sign. Follow the well-defined footpath through three large fields, often planted with crops, and then continue along a track ignoring a footpath which cuts across this tree-lined avenue. Where the track veers away to the left around a bend, continue ahead over stiles and through small field gates following yellow-painted posts to guide you.
4 After crossing a little stream known as Blackwell Brook, head uphill to a guide post and gate (do not go through the narrow stile straight ahead). Cross the next field diagonally uphill to a stile in the fence where you can see wooden farm buildings over to your right. Walk past the telegraph pole in the centre of the following field to a stile in the hedge by a metal footpath sign where you will emerge onto Burney Lane. Turn left and walk up the lane as far as a telephone signal mast then turn left to follow a public bridleway. This is the highest part of the walk, providing enough elevation to be able to look across the wonderful South Derbyshire landscape. The bridlepath follows the side of the field initially going straight ahead but then sharp right before passing an old fallen tree to enter a green ‘tunnel’ with high hedgerow on your left and woodland to your right. You will then emerge onto one of the greens of Breedon Priory Golf Course.
5 Continue along the bridlepath which now passes through a series of arable fields within Melbourne Park, following an almost straight line to the left of a long strand of trees. On meeting the drive leading to Park Farm on your left, continue ahead and walk along Green Lane to the village of Wilson, a small hamlet which is just over the county border into Leicestershire. Walk along the Main Street passing the Bull’s Head pub. At the side of the old red phone box and notice board is a prestigious plaque awarded to Wilson for being Best Kept Village in both 1995 and 1996. Established in AD972, when it was known as Wifel’s Torp, Wilson contains several early buildings that show evidence of timber-framed construction.
6 On reaching the little village green with its triangle of grass and gaily painted sign at the top of Short Hill, turn left and walk up a short rise following Blackwell Lane to a sign indicating the border of South Derbyshire. Turn right here and follow a footpath sign for the Cloud Trail.
7 At the former railway line turn left following the sign for Melbourne and Derby. The 13-mile long Cloud Trail is a walking, cycling and horse-riding route along an old railway track-bed from Derby to Worthington and Cloud Quarry. It forms part of the National Route 6, a Sustrans Greener Greenway which runs from London to the Lake District. These greenways are often lined with trees, shrubs and flower-rich verges used by birds, insects and small animals as a corridor enabling them to travel through open farmland and areas heavily developed for residential or industrial use.
After approximately one mile you will come to a road bridge crossing overhead. Exit the trail on the left to Melbourne Road and then turn left to walk down Station Road bringing you back to the centre of Melbourne.
8 At an unusual brick property with Turnbarrel sign on the front wall next to a post box, glance left to see the old Constabulary building, now a private residence. Walk ahead beyond the terrace of traditional brick-built Victorian houses to a triangular island of grass at the junction with Castle Street to see an old stone well. Continue along Station Road to another island and junction with Pack Horse Road. Bear left here and walk up Chapel Street to Derby Road which is the main shopping street.
9 Turn left and walk along Derby Road to the Market Place which is lined with buildings displaying a variety of architectural features. Notice the imposing old Co-op building of 1912. In the centre of the Market Place is a seated shelter built as a monument to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.
10 Bear right to the start of High Street and turn left down an alley between the public toilets and the United Reform Church. This will lead you through to Penn Lane, a quiet suburb of the town lined by fascinating old buildings.
11 Turn left and walk down the lane passing a tall Georgian brick house on the right which is Pennfield House, one-time home of the Haimes family who owned the adjacent factory where gloves and shawls were manufactured. Beyond this is the former National School, which has ornate pointed windows with Gothic-style metal tracery. It was founded in 1738, although this particular building dates from 1822, and is just one of a plethora of listed buildings in the town. Continue down Penn Lane beyond the junction with Salisbury Lane on your left from where it becomes one-way.
12 At a bend with the Chantry House on your left, which is almost hidden by lofty mature trees, as the road bends left, follow the pavement to the right of Vale House and proceed down a covered passageway known as the Dark Entry which will return you to the church. You will pass the Dower House and come to a fabulous medieval barn, used in the 19th century as a malthouse. This has an upper storey of Georgian brick on the top of a much older stone base and foundations. The finale and highlight of this walk is now before you: the wonderfully ornate Norman arch of the west doorway of Melbourne’s glorious parish church.