About this walk
The walk described below starts from the main A61, between Higham and Stretton, and passes along Ogston Reservoir, through Ashover and then finishes at Clay Cross. However, the start and finish points are interchangeable, with both sited on the A61 and the route of the Trent Barton Comet bus connecting Derby and Chesterfield.
The overall route covers just over eight miles with some easy sections that follow parts of the line of the now defunct Ashover Light Railway; however, elsewhere on the route there are also some fairly steep hill sections. There are several pubs en-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. The pubs include: The Greyhound Hotel at Higham, the Old Poets Corner, the Crispin Inn, and the Black Swan at Ashover, and several in Clay Cross including the Rykneld Turnpike, the George and Dragon, and the Three Horsehoes.
As well as the good ale, there are also along the way a number of points of historical interest. These include: the limestone and fluorspar quarries around Ashover; the now defunct Ashover Light Railway that transported the limestone and fluorspar to ironworks at Clay Cross to Ashover; George Stephenson’s role in the development of heavy industry at Clay Cross; and Rykneld Street, the old Roman road following the line of the A61.
The route description
1. Halfway between Higham and Stretton, on the Ogston Reservoir side of the A61, you will find a footpath leading steeply downhill towards the main railway line that runs along the bottom of the valley, north to south. Take the footpath and, at the bottom of the valley, walk through a small wooded area and cross over the railway line over the footbridge. Walk over the service road that provides access to the water treatment works at Ogston, and continue straight up the other side of the valley until you meet a single track road. Turn right at the single track road and continue along it for approximately a quarter of a mile where you find a footpath marker taking you off to the left. Follow the footpath, across the field, until it meets the B614 road. Turn left onto the B614 and continue on the road for approximately a quarter of a mile where, at the bottom of the hill, the northern end of Ogston Reservoir will come into sight. Continue along the road, with the reservoir on your left, passing over the bridge which crosses the River Amber as it feeds into the reservoir.
Ogston Reservoir was originally created in 1958 to supply the National Coal Board’s Carbonisation and Chemical Plant at nearby Wingerworth. The damming of the valley allowed water from the River Amber to flood farmland, roads, part of the disused Ashover Light Railway and most of the village of Woolley. Villagers were relocated into council houses built in another local hamlet, Badger Lane, which eventually became known as the present village of Woolley Moor. The reservoir holds approximately 1300 million gallons of water and is run by Severn Trent Water to supply the local area and to provide holding water for nearby Carsington Reservoir. It is the home of Ogston Sailing Club and Ogston Bird Club, one of the largest bird clubs in Britain.
2. On the right hand-side of the road, about a hundred yards past the River Amber, take the footpath that runs along the side of the field and carry on into the edge of a wooded area that broadly follows the river valley which you will see below you. Out of the wooded area, continue on for approximately a quarter of a mile, along the footpath, until you reach the junction of Dalebank Lane and Brown Lane. Cross over the junction and turn right down Brown Lane and, after approximately a quarter of a mile, you will reach Oakstedge Lane. Turn right, down the lane and, at the Miners’ Arms in Milltown, bear right to reach the junction with Hunt Lane and Fallgate. At the junction, turn left into Fallgate and, with the River Amber on your left, walk down the road and take the next left turn into Jetting Street, crossing over the River Amber which will now be on your right. Approximately two hundred yards along Jetting Street, embedded in the road way, is a section of the Ashover Light Railway which originally serviced the quarry at Fallgate, remains of which, including an old lime kiln, can be seen to your left.
The Ashover Light Railway was built by the Clay Cross Company to transport minerals, chiefly limestone, fluorite and gritstone, from quarries around Ashover to its works at Clay Cross. Construction started in 1922 with the railway opening to goods traffic in 1924 and to passenger traffic in 1925. The narrow gauge line and rolling stock were built using First World War surplus equipment from the War Department Light Railways. All passenger services were withdrawn in 1936 and, although mineral traffic continued, the railway declined through the 1940s finally closing in 1950. To avoid tunnelling, the line made a detour south, from Clay Cross, before turning westwards towards Ashover crossing the now flooded valley at Ogston.
3. Continue along Jetting Street, past the limestone escarpments on your left, until you reach the top of the hill and a row of vertical stone slabs along the field’s edge. Walk over the cattle grid, turn right onto the stone slab path and then immediately turn right again to take another stone slab path that leads steeply down the hill to the village of Ashover. In the floor of the valley, the path bears left along the old track bed of the disused Ashover Light Railway before going to the right and resuming its course down the river. Cross the footbridge over the River Amber and continue up the path, entering the village alongside the Old Poets Corner pub. Cross the road and walk up Church Street, past the church and on to the Crispin Inn on the left, and the Black Swan at the top of the road. Continue past the Black Swan, into Milken Lane and, just after the pub, take the footpath off to the left that leads along the edge of the field towards the high ridge in the distance. At the end of the field, the footpath enters a wooded area and passes under two stone arches leading up to a lane towards the back of Eastwood Grange School. Turn left onto the lane and, after a few yards, take the footpath on the right and climb up to the top of the ridge. On the ridge, take the footpath to the right, walking along the edge of the ridge, until you exit the heath at Milken Lane.
The top of the ridge provides an excellent vantage point to appreciate the many differences between the area of Derbyshire from Ashover and further west, and the area to the east, to Clay Cross and beyond. The ridge above Ashover is part of a seam of millstone grit, forced upwards by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and exposed to form the dramatic landscape of the so-called ‘dark peak’. To the east, the landscape is flatter and less dramatic, containing the old coal fields and iron ore deposits of the more industrialised part of Derbyshire. This geological distinction not only explains the different landscape and scenery of the areas to the east and to the west, but it also explains much of their differences in demographics, economy and culture.
4. Turn left onto Milken Lane and, further on, turn right into Alton Lane. Approximately two hundred yards down Alton Lane, just before it turns sharply to the right, take the footpath off to the left. Continue down, past Tinkley lane which will be on your left, and down a short lane to the junction with Ashover lane. Turn left here and walk approximately three hundred yards down Ashover Lane until you reach a footpath on your right. Take the footpath until you come to the farm and some cottages where the footpath veers off to the left taking you on to Holmgate Road. Turn left down Holmgate Road and, after about four hundred yards, you will reach Poplar Farm on your right. Walk through the yard to the back of the farm and take the footpath across the fields in the general direction of Clay Cross Church whose spire you will see in the distance. Walk across the fields from Poplar Farm for about a quarter of a mile to reach the fishing pond at Smithy Brook. Keep to the right of the pond and, following the footpath running along the brick wall boundary of Kenning Park, walk uphill, straight towards the centre of town, with Clay Cross Church spire visible to your right.
In the early nineteenth century, Clay Cross was a small village, and it wasn’t until the Derby to Leeds railway was built in the 1830s that it began to develop as an important industrial town. Whilst driving the railway tunnel underneath Clay Cross, George Stephenson discovered rich deposits of coal and iron ore which, together with the demand for limestone, prompted him to set up business as George Stephenson and Co, later known as the Clay Cross Company. The company ran its own collieries, brickworks and iron works and built hundreds of houses for families who were attracted to work and live in the town. The company continued to develop into the twentieth century but, following the rationalisation of heavy industries in the latter part of the century, it finally closed in 1998 with much of the land it once occupied now turned over to small, light-industry units.