About this walk

The walk described below starts and finishes on the main bus route between Heanor and Derby and you can easily get there by the Trent Barton H1, or the Your Bus Y1. It starts at the Three Horse Shoes in Morley Smithy, and finishes at the Windmill in Breadsall Hilltop. However, because we recommend using public transport to get to the route, the start and finish points are interchangeable, and so an alternative would be to start at the Windmill in Breadsall Hilltop and finish at the Three Horse Shoes in Morley Smithy.

The overall route covers just over eight miles, much of it on flat ground following the River Derwent into Derby, though there are some steeper parts on the return to Breadsall Hill Top. There are several pubs, fairly evenly spaced along the eight mile route, serving good cask ales. So, it’s a comfortable four-pinter, allowing you to arrive home calorie and carbon neutral and none the worse for wear. These include: The Three Horse Shoes, The Queen’s Head, The Abbey, Standing Order, Olde Dolphin Inne, Windmill.

As well as the good ale, there are also along the way a number of points of historical interest. These include: Morley Almshouses, Breadsall Priory, the Derby Canal and the Little Eaton Gangway, the Darley Abbey Mills, Derby Silk Mill,  ‘Little Chester’, and the Great Northern Railway Derbyhire Extension and Breadsall village train station. Some background information about these points of interest, and relevant images, are featured in the route description below.

The route description

1. From the Three Horse Shoes Inn, walk down Brick Kiln Lane and after a few hundred yards turn left into Primrose Drive at the bottom of which you will find the footpath. Taking the footpath, walk across the fields in the direction of the electricity pylons. At the pylons, turn left along the footpath until you reach Morley Almshouses Lane. The Almshouses can be found a little higher up the lane on the right-hand side. Walk to the bottom of the lane and cross straight over Moor Road to take the footpath that will soon lead you along the outer edge of the grounds of the Breadsall Priory Marriott Hotel and out onto Morley Lane. Turn left here and walk down Morley Lane for just over a hundred yards where, on the right-hand side, you will find the footpath that takes you across the field and onto the Breadsall Priory’s Moorland golf course. Follow the footpath across the golf course which will take you in the direction of woodland which you should see on the horizon.

The terrace of six almshouses is a Grade II listed building founded by and built for Jacynth Sacheverell in 1656.  On the central gable above the two main front doors is a decorative feature bearing the Sacheverell coat of arms. The Breadsall Priory hotel is situated in the grounds of a former Augustinian priory which was established by a member of the Curzon family, before 1266, and dissolved in 1536. The original building was demolished in the 16th century and a private home, also known as Breadsall Priory, was built on the site. The Grade II listed house  and stables form part of the Breadsall Priory Marriott Hotel, said to be the oldest Marriott hotel building in the world.

2. As you enter the woodland take the footpath to your left down to Moor Lane. Turn left on to Moor Lane and continue down until you reach the B6179 main road into Little Eaton. (Just before the A61 you will see on your left the remains of Coxbench Quarry.) Cross over to the other side of the main road and walk into Little Eaton. Turn left at the red telephone box, over the Bottle Brook, and follow the footpath at the left of the row of terraced houses. This will soon take you over the old Midland Railway Derby to Ripley line, and up to Barley Close where you will turn left and walk down the hill to the junction. Here you can make a slight diversion to the Queen’s Head by turning left to the B6179 main road and then right to the pub. Alternatively, at the bottom of Barley Close, you can cross over at the junction and walk along Station Road until you reach Duffield Road, turn left here and, on the left, you will see the old Little Eaton railway station and station house. Continue down Duffield Road and when you reach the New Inn enter the industrial estate directly opposite and turning immediately left, take the footpath. After approximately 100 yards you will find on your left the remains of the origins of the old Derby Canal.

The Derby Canal was completed by Benjamin Outram in 1796 and connected Derby with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone, and with the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre. A spur of the canal continued north from Derby to Little Eaton where an early tramroad, known as the Little Eaton Gangway (officially named the Derby Canal Railway) linked Little Eaton to coal mines at Denby. Wagon loads of coal, hauled by horses along the gangway, were unloaded on to canal barges at Little Eaton Wharf.

3. With the old Derby Canal on your left, carry on down the footpath until you reach a second entrance to the industrial estate. Turn right here and, after approximately 50 yards, enter a gate on your left into a field where a footpath will take you south. At the bottom of the field, bear right, and follow a broad footpath, past a breakers’ yard on the left, until you reach Ford Lane. At the end of the lane take the footpath leading up onto the A38 dual carriage way and turn right. Walk along the carriage way for a few yards, crossing over the railway, to re-join the footpath on your right which will take you down and under the bridge to Talbot Turf’s depot. Approximately two hundred yards after the Talbot Turf depot, you will pass the first of two raised air vents visible on the left hand-side of the footpath. After the second of the two raised air vents you will reach an oxbow lake formed from the River Derwent.

Thanks to Reg Simpson’s research, Severn Trent Water has been able to confirm that these air vents are access points to groundwater tunnels that run alongside the River Derwent. Constructed in the Victorian era, the tunnels are of open brick design that were used to intercept groundwater from the surrounding hillsides to enable it to gravitate, via the tunnels, to the Little Eaton water treatment works. The ‘tunnel water’, as it was referred to then, was a source of filtered groundwater that needed very little treatment other than disinfection. As Derby’s need for water increased in the 1930’s, water was abstracted directly from the river and, once treated by new improved techniques then available, it was blended with the ‘tunnel water’. Today, the Little Eaton water treatment works has advanced water treatment techniques that do not require the use of the ‘tunnel water’, though Severn Trent still has the abstraction rights.

4. Continue along the footpath in the general direction of Derby, past the oxbow lake, until you reach Haslam’s Lane with Derby Rugby Club straight in front of you. Turn right into Haslem’s Lane and walk through the mill complex to cross the river into Darley Abbey. Turning left immediately after the bridge, walk approximately two hundred yards down the road where you will find the Abbey Inn on your right.


Built in 1783 by Thomas Evans, the Darley Abbey Mills were powered by water for the spinning of cotton using the revolutionary technology developed by Richard Arkwright at his mill at Cromford. The mills at Darley Abbey are part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site that extends along the Derwent valley from Cromford through to Derby and is considered to be the birth place of the modern factory system. The factories and technology developed in the Derwent valley proved so successful that by 1788 there were over 200 Arkwright-type mills in Britain and Arkwright’s inventions and system of organising labour were soon exported to Europe and the United States. The Abbey Inn is one of only two remaining buildings from the Agustinian Monastry of Darley Abbey. It was constructed in the 15th century and it is thought to have been part of the Abbot’s residence. The building appears to have been roofless for most of its post-dissolution life; a new roof was added in the 1920s and the building reinforced in the 1950s following some movement within the walls. The building was renovated to its present state in 1978. The other surviving monastic building makes up part of a private dwelling on Abbey Lane.

4. Leaving the Abbey Inn, follow the signs for Darley Park. Keeping to the right-hand side of the river, walk all the way through Darley Park. Pass the Derby Rowing Club on your left and go under the bridge that originally took the Great Northern Railway over the Derwent. Follow the river path into the city of Derby until you reach the Silk Mill Museum. Turn right across Silk Mill Park and up Amen Alley to Iron Gate. Here, across the road and to the left, you will find The Standing Order. Further up Iron Gate, to the right, is the Old Dolphin Inne with other real-ale pubs not far away.

Built in 1721 for John Lombe, the Silk Mill is the southern-most mill in the Derwent Valley Mills complex and is often referred to as the world’s first factory. John Lombe died in 1722 in mysterious circumstances, believed to have been poisoned by an Italian assassin in retribution for stealing trade secrets associated with the spinning of silk. In the centre of Silk Mill Park is a statue of Bonnie Prince Charles commemorating his stay in Derby in 1745, whilst on his way south with some 6,000 troops in his failed attempt to seize the British crown. The Bonnie Prince and his troops got as far as Swarkestone, just south of Derby, when the decision was made by his council to return to Scotland because of lack of English and French support and rumours of large government forces being amassed.

5. Re-join the river Derwent footpath and retrace your steps as far as the Great Northern Railway bridge over the river. Take the steps up to the bridge, cross the river, and exit the car park turning right onto City Road. Walk all the way across Chester Green to Mansfield Road, cross the road and walk to the top of Caesar Street passing under the bridge under the main Derby to Sheffield railway line. Keeping straight ahead, cross Stores Road and Sir Frank Whittle Way. In Racecourse Park, turn sharp left and follow the path running parallel to Sir Frank Whittle Way, across Hampshire Road and onwards to Old Mansfield Road.

The Great Northern Railway bridge (now known as Handyside Bridge after the name of the company that built it) carried trains from 1878 to 1968. The bridge is part of the Derwent Mills World Heritage Site and now has Grade II listed status. Little Chester, or Chester Green as it is more commonly known, was once the site of a Roman town. The Romans set up a fort in AD50 at Strutt’s Park, to protect the river crossing on the western side of the Derwent, before later establishing a larger fortified settlement, across the river at Little Chester, which they called Derventio. Little evidence of Roman occupation remains at Little Chester today, apart from two Roman wells, one on Marcus Street and the other in the garden of the vicarage of St Paul’s Church. In the 1970’s evidence of further Roman settlement was discovered on Derby Racecourse, consisting of a 25ft wide road lined with timber buildings, 2 pottery kilns and a cemetery.

6. At Old Mansfield Road, turn left and walk up as far as the main Mansfield Road which you will cross to enter the carpark of the Paddock public house. In the top right-hand corner of the Paddock’s carpark, take the Great Northern Greenway which follows the route of the old Great Northern Railway line out of Derby to Ilkeston. Turn right onto the Greenway and up the hill away from Derby. After about half a mile you will pass, to your left, the remains of Breadsall Village railway station. Just less than a quarter of a mile further on, the Greenway dips into a gully. Here, turn right taking a path that leads away from the Greenway and up to the Windmill Inn at Breadsall Hilltop. Buses to Derby, to Heanor, or to Ilkeston, can be caught close by the Windmill Inn.

Breadsall railway station was opened in 1878 as part of the Great Northern Railway’s Derbyshire Extension. This section of the Derbyshire Extension ran from Awsworth, then over the Bennerley Viaduct, into Ilkeston and on to West Hallam before descending to Breadsall. From Breadsall, the line crossed the Derwent valley by a succession of viaducts and embankments before crossing the river and on to Friar Gate Station in Derby. The station at Breadsall included a two-storey station master’s house, a signal Box, and single storey buildings. Passenger services from the station finished in 1953 and all services ended completely on the line in 1968.