Every year around the middle of December I am invited to join the Derbyshire Association of the Blind’s (DAB) Christmas walk. This year was no exception, but it did come with a reminder to bring waterproofs! Apparently, or so Keith my blind friend and organiser of the walk told me, there was likely to be a lot of mud; how right he was, but it is something that has to be accepted at this time of the year. The walk starts and finishes at the hospitable Horse and Jockey in Wessington before moving out in the general direction of Crich where the beacon of the Stand makes a good indicator. Fortunately the mud Keith promised was not too bad, mostly as one would expect, around valley bottoms and ploughed fields. The walk should be perfect in frosty weather, but a note of caution nevertheless; frozen mud can be a bit ankle turning as they say. Wessington sits roughly in the middle of a little known corner of Derbyshire, the largest village in a group of farming hamlets to the west of a ridge used by the Romans to carry their Rykneild Street on its way north to Chesterfield. All the farms, which look as though they have been around since the seventeenth century, sit amidst some of the most fertile land in the area. Winter wheat was just making itself obvious in fields, where if the weather had been warmer, could easily have grown rice! Several farms have been amalgamated and the surplus houses and cottages converted into most pleasant properties, especially around the straggling hamlet of Wheatcroft. There were plenty of sheep and beef cattle still braving the elements and although guide dogs are trained to ignore stock, it was only courteous to keep them on the lead when crossing meadows. One of the dogs is called Dylan and he has featured in my walks from time to time. Born and bred in Sheffield, he ignores sheep, possibly thinking them to be large cats, but hates cows. He makes no attempt to chase them, but grumbles and mutters all the way until they are out of sight.
Helpful Information About 4½ miles (7.25km) of field and brook side walking with gentle climbs throughout. Muddy sections around Lindwaysprings Brook and fields on either side of Wheatcroft village. Public Transport. TM Travel 150 hourly service from Alfreton stops outside the Horse and Jockey in Wessington. Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000 scale – sheet 269: Chesterfield & Alfreton. Refreshments at the Horse and Jockey Inn.
• With your back to the Horse and Jockey, cross the main road heading for the green more or less opposite and follow the lane at its far side, past new houses and as far as a largish house sheltering behind a high hedge on your right.. Wessington is unique amongst north Derbyshire villages in that it has a common, known here as Wessington Green. The concrete pillar surrounded by wooden seats opposite the village school contains a cache, recording life in the twentieth century. • Opposite the entrance drive to the house, climb over a rather awkward stile on your left and bear right, downhill across a field where two large friendly horses live. I didn’t notice the horses when I climbed over the stile, but soon became aware of them when their hot breath blew down my neck. They were obviously on the lookout for the odd carrot or toffee, but as none were on offer, they totally ignored us on our return later that morning. • Aim towards the bottom corner of a wood on your left and go through another awkward stile and into the first muddy section of the walk. Turn right and walk down the field, keeping just a few feet to the left of a boundary hedge. • Cross the brook by a plank bridge and bear right and then left on to a track to the side of a ploughed field. • Join the access track leading to Spring Farm, but do not go as far as the farm buildings. • Turn right by a gate and cross the field in front of the farm, bearing left and then downhill to a side stream. • Follow the muddy track up and over into Lindwaysprings Brook valley and then through woodland away from the brook and on to a fairly wide track. • Continue past a converted farm, just one of the excellent properties in the area and go forwards until a side road is reached. • Turn left along the quiet lane and go down to the brook once more. • Skirt round another converted property and on the far side of a large stone barn, the last building; leave the road by climbing over a stone stile beside the corner of the barn. • Cross the field immediately to the right of the house by going diagonally right and downhill. • Cross a small side stream and bear right to climb fairly steeply uphill to the top corner of the field at a junction of boundary walls. • Go forwards and into a walled track visibly used by cows on their way to milking. The track will unfortunately be muddy at all times, but perversely the firmest ground will usually be in the water filled tracks made by tractors. • Go through the yard of Beech Farm and out along its drive, then bear left downhill through the scattered hamlet of Wheatcroft. Take notice of the restored farm implements and an old pillar box in the yard of Beech Farm, obviously collector’s items of merit. • Where the road bears left and right, turn sharp left and go downhill along a wide grassy track beside a high stone wall. • Climb through a stile when the track reaches a field of winter wheat and go downhill on a field path until it reaches a footpath junction bedside a boundary hedge. • Turn sharp left and follow the path as far as the access drive to Spring Farm • Turn right along the drive, rejoining the outward part of the walk, but in the opposite direction. • Where the drive bears sharply to the right, go forwards on to the track beside the ploughed field, following it towards the tree-shrouded brook. • Cross the stream and go uphill to the left to reach the unsurfaced lane back into Wessington.