This walk follows the Derwent downstream beneath the Chevin which is then climbed to its airy viewpoint. A gradual descent reaches the river crossing at Milford, one of the Derwent Valley Heritage sites. Over the river the way is through the tiny village of Makeney and then along an ancient bridleway back into the old part of Belper. In the 13th century Belper was known as Beaurepaire, within Duffield Frith, the hunting ground of Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster. The scant remains of his once massive castle stand just inside the confines of Duffield on the northern approach along the A6.
Chevin is an Anglo-Norman word for ‘Chase’; a jealously guarded hunting preserve where any peasant caught poaching to feed his starving family would suffer harsh punishment. Jedediah Strutt built the first of his cotton mills here in 1776 by using the power of the Derwent as its driving force. It burned down a decade or so later, but part of its 1797 replacement still stands and is open as a museum of his industry. Unlike his associate Richard Arkwright, Strutt was a more benevolent employer who provided his workers with comparatively spacious housing in what became known as ‘The Cluster’. The last part of the walk is down cobbled Long Row, the first part of the development.
Nail making was an important cottage industry in Belper until it became mechanised. Strutt made provision for this industry to flourish alongside cotton spinning and so small foundries-cum-workshops sprang up in the back gardens of some of the houses – there are still one or two preserved nailer’s shops left standing, the best being in the garden of N° 8 Joseph Street. These provided work for the male members of families while the wives and daughters worked in the mill. Tenants were encouraged to grow their own vegetables and some cottages even had a pig sty; the narrow alley next to the Drill Hall on Cluster Road is still known as ‘Piggy Row’ as it led to a butcher’s shop.
Milford, where the walk crosses back over the Derwent, grew as a busy little village where Strutt built the second of his water-driven mills and is where he spent the last years of his life. He also built the bridge over the river and so allowed the road which became the A6 to develop in the valley bottom; prior to this the only way along the west side of the valley was by the now abandoned track along the Chevin, now an attractive high level walkway. Relatives of Anthony Bradshaw, the main signatory on Charles I’s death warrant lived in the Old Hall at Makeney. The lovely stone built hamlet once stood on the coach road from Duffield and an old stone near its inn has the words Derby Coach Road 1739.
6 miles (9.5km) of moderate walking along riverbank and through meadowland and woods. Two climbs; the first a steep 406 ft (127m) from the riverbank and the second an easier 214ft (67m) across meadow and through woodland. Car parking is usually available on the roadside across the bridge from Strutt’s North Mill at the start of the walk – take care not to block driveways. Local bus services between Ripley, Derby and Belper are plentiful. Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 1:25,000 scale, sheet 259, Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne & Cheadle. Refreshments available in Belper and at Milford.
• At the north end of the bridge go down to a path leading to the riverbank and follow it downstream. Pause and admire the tiny garden filling the apex of the triangle created by the junction of two roads above the bridge. The whimsey of one man, the garden is full of delightful nooks and crannies.
• Go past two converted farmhouses and a closed off bridge. Count your way through four narrow fields as far as a stone stile.
• Turn diagonally right immediately after the stile and climb up to houses and a farm on Chevin Road. Turn left along the road. The turning on to this path is not very clear, but counting the preceding fields can help with navigation. If you miss the turning don’t despair, but continue downstream as far as the Sewage Works and turn right along Chevin Road to rejoin the described route as follows:
• About 120 yards left along the road (100yards from a bungalow if following the alternative as above), go through a stone stile and climb steeply uphill through two fields, aiming towards an isolated tree-screened house. (There is a convenient seat and a view to admire at the top of the climb).
• Turn left along the ridge-top of The Chevin and follow the ancient bridleway over its tree-lined summit. The rather incongruous high stone wall on the left is the rear of a shooting range once used by Strutt’s volunteer militia, a kind of territorial unit. The tower a little further on is a bit of a mystery and has many stories attached to it, ranging from a robber’s hideout, to a survey marker aligning the railway tunnel which passes deep beneath the track.
• Follow the track, going between sections of the golf course and ignoring a path turning right waymarked Midshires Way, begin to drop down and bear left into the outskirts of Milford. The small triangular roadside public garden has a seat convenient for a lunch stop. Alternatively there is a pub on the far side of the road bridge and a riverside pub restaurant is behind the still closed Strutt’s Arms.
• Cross the A6 at the pedestrian lights and turn left to go over the bridge.
• Turn right in front of the pub and follow the side road as far as Makeney.
• Look out for a side turning on the left that could be mistaken for a private drive. Walk up it until it turns sharp right (another pub is a little further on). This lane was once the coach road from Derby by way of Duffield.
• Turn left along Dark Lane as far as the last houses on your left.
• Go through a stile, bearing left away from the lane and begin to cross a series of fields with the footpath marked by purple and yellow waymarks of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way…
• Diagonally cross Shaw Lane using stone steps on either side and then contour around the hillside towards a narrow wood. Keep to the right and on the upper side of the trees as far as an imposing stone gabled farm house.
• Turn left in front of the farm to follow its access lane, downhill and then up, past another farmhouse and reach a street on the southern outskirts of Belper.
• Turn right along the street and at its top go to the left on side lane as far as open scrubland.
• Walk steeply downhill through the area known as The Park and then uphill into the oldest part of Belper. The Park is a unique relic of Beaurepaire’s one time life as a hunting ground. Part of it is built on with a housing estate, but the rest is a carefully preserved nature reserve for the enjoyment of the people of Belper.
• With the market place to your right, turn left down King Street, Belper’s main shopping street.
• Turn left opposite the Ritz Cinema along Green Lane, continuing to its end and then left down cobbled Long Row and past the school in order to reach the main road.
• Using the pedestrian crossing, go over the main road and The Triangle to follow the road opposite, past the mill and over the bridge to where you started from. The mill museum is well worth a short diversion at the end of the walk.