Wirksworth, Ecclesbourne Valley and Kirk Ireton

This walk is found on the south-east edge of Britain's second most visited national park but it is not one you will find in any of the popular walking books. Shying away from the popular White Peak uplands of limestone and also from the Dark Peak moors of gritstone this walk is a quiet circumnavigation of the quiet footways in and around the Ecclesbourne Valley and including a visit to the gorgeous village of Kirk Ireton.

The story of a walk in the year of lockdown (by Ken Brockway)

Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Wirksworth Distance: 10.5 miles (16.9 km) Climbing: 512 metres
Grid Ref: SK 28409 52743 Time: 4-5 hours Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Kirk Ireton
Start: Wirksworth Distance: 10.5 miles (16.9 km)
Climbing: 512 metres Grid Ref: SK 28409 52743
Time: 4-5 hours Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

Wirksworth unrecorded footpathWirksworth unrecorded footpath
Speedwell Mill, WirksworthSpeedwell Mill, Wirksworth

This one is special so don't tell anyone else. I discovered the Ecclesbourne Valley some years back, it suits me just fine, it's so deserted. There is a bit more traffic now along the Ecclesbourne Valley Way from Duffield to Wirksworth but elsewhere I feel alone.

I would usually get the bus to Wirksworth but this is Covid time so I take the car for the ultimate in social distancing. There are usually a few issues to report so the camera and Garmin act as pencil and paper. I'm heading south today as far as Kirk Ireton. I've spotted a couple of paths I want to explore and there will be others I've done before.

Ashleyhay farm houseAshleyhay farm house
Stile now useful guidepostStile now useful guidepost

The day is dry and no wind but I don't see much in the way of sunshine, still shower free is very welcome. I'm soon crossing the Ecclesbourne Valley Heritage Railway on the level and hope the bright rails mean that trains are running. A choice of paths, not so unusual but a footpath runs inside the field parallel to the track. Today the track looks okay, at times it can get rutted and muddy. A Peak and Northern Footpaths Society signpost offers encouragement to take the field path which could easily get ignored.

I pass two walkers and a well behaved owner who kept their pet under close control as I pass, then through a private garden and onto an often flooded lane. I take the next path and leave any company behind. Ducking under and around trees and bushes, lets hope this one is the right path and not created by livestock.

Idridgehay Station, Ecclesbourne Valley Railway Idridgehay Station, Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
Approaching Kirk IretonApproaching Kirk Ireton

Great views across the shallow valley and all the fields are grass so good walking. Some interesting property, but would I want to live in these isolated locations where a car journey was essential for any trip. I can enjoy the view they get from their windows and I will never get bored with it. I've heard of folk who live on the coast but never visit the sea.

Click. I'll report that one, it needs a major cut back as I push my way through the hawthorn hedge. Getting close to lunch time, so my stomach tells me, I know the perfect seat. A man in uniform stands at the gate, will he let me pass, do I need a face covering? A train is due, perfect. I sit and eat lunch and watch the train go by. It's the up train the gate keeper said, so I look north but he looks south. My dad told me trains always go 'Up' to London this one was up to Wirksworth.

Barley Mow Inn, Kirk IretonBarley Mow Inn, Kirk Ireton
Well kept farm house at Millers GreenWell kept farm house at Millers Green

The railway follows the river up or is it down the valley floor so now it's time to climb again and approach Kirk Ireton along another path just over the hedge from a proper road this time. My desire for solitude is rewarded as I hear cars passing just feet away, their occupants are oblivious to my presence, hidden, like a rabbit in the grass. A surprise awaits me, two walkers approach, we confer our unfounded expectation that this path would be neglected and I'm offered the bad news that the pub is closed. Yes the Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton is one of my favourite inns but I had no plans to enter even this establishment so soon after shielding for many months.

More issues to investigate, this time a botched diversion application from 1960 leaves questions for landowners and path users leading to unnecessary conflict which staff at the County Council do not have the resources to resolve.

Dahlias above WirksworthDahlias above Wirksworth
Round Meadow approaching WirksworthRound Meadow approaching Wirksworth

Yet another path just inside the field which offers great views and easy walking. Better than the road I expect but as I didn't walk that way I can't confirm. It's still pasture but some inconsiderate electric fencing with no provision to safely pass prompts another report. Yes all little niggles but they show a lack of concern for our legal right of passage.

On a short section of quiet road I pass a traditional house with well painted doors and windows, a closely trimmed hedge and good display of dahlias in the garden beyond which a view of Wirksworth and journey's end.

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