Not all that long ago the thought of a walk around what is now Shipley Country Park would have been met by howls of derision. Then the site would have been a mess of mud, gaping water-filled holes and massive earth moving machinery. All this is now gone and the park has reverted to its natural state, mainly through restoration carried out jointly by the NCB and Derbyshire County Council. Originally, Shipley Estate as it was then known, was owned by the Miller-Mundy family who from the 16th century onwards made a fortune from the sale of coal that lay beneath their land. Prior to that the first mention of the estate was in the Domesday Book when it was classed as a hunting forest. The Miller-Mundy family built Shipley Hall on a mound that is now a central feature of the country park; William Eaves a follower of Capability Brown landscaped the grounds nearest the hall. The family began to seriously exploit the coal reserves around 1765, digging the Nutbrook Canal to carry coal and goods by way of the Erewash Canal and onwards to the Trent. Later and especially with the creation of the Midland Railway, side tracks served the coal field, running alongside the route of the canal and eventually taking over from it. Scandal hit the family in 1882, a scandal so great that had it happened two hundred years later it would have filled the News of the World. The brief facts were that Ellen Miller-Mundy ran off with Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, the young Earl of Shrewsbury. Aided and abetted by her three brothers all five left the country in a hurry, due mainly to the fact that the brothers were already facing a charge of conspiracy to murder. Apparently they had planned to murder their eldest brother who was owner of Alfreton Hall and split the proceeds from the sale amongst themselves. In 1948 the demand for coal to revitalise UK industry was so great that the Labour Government authorised the large scale expansion of open cast mining, making it possible to tap into seams of coal deemed too close to the surface and therefore unsuitable for conventional methods of deep mining. As a result the once pristine acres of manicured parkland were turned into a moonscape similar to the Somme in the Great War. Restoration of the site began in 1976 with a joint scheme operated by the NCB and Derbyshire County Council. Since then with imaginative landscaping and tree planting Shipley Estate, now known as Shipley Country Park, is available for the enjoyment of all, whether horse riding, cycling, walking, keeping fit on the track or simply picnicking and walking the dog. A big change to an area where once the privileged few hunted, or later civil engineers ripped coal from beneath the ground. This walk follows a series of carefully graded footpaths and bridleways in and around the limits of the park. It is easy to follow, but a word of caution, signposting could be better and so the safest suggestion is that if you go astray, don’t worry, go back to the last easily recognisably described feature and try again.
About 6 miles (10km) of gently undulating country; partly in woodland with country lanes and a short stretch of quiet road through the village of Mapperley. Easy walking throughout and no steep climbs. Muddy section near Mapperley Park. Refreshments at the Rambler Café near the Visitor Centre at the start of the walk and the Black Horse in Mapperley a little over half way round. Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25000 scale – sheet 260: Nottingham/ Vale of Belvoir. Nearest public transport. Frequent buses from Derby and Nottingham serve nearby Heanor. Car Parking (Pay and Display) at the start of the walk. There are two children’s play areas on either side of the car park and a trim track for keep-fit enthusiasts beyond the visitor centre.
• From the A608 Derby to Heanor road, follow the brown road signs to Shipley Country Park and drive past the industrial estate into the car park • Bear left out of the car park and follow a wide path towards trees. Cross the deep cutting where once the Nutbrook Canal flowed. • Turn right on to the cinder track bed of an abandoned railway and follow it with a few houses on the left, past two ponds partly screened by scrub willow on the right. Both the railway track and Nutbrook Canal served the numerous mines of the area. All that remains of the latter are the series of ponds passed along the way. Nowadays they are the haunt of wildlife and a place where contemplative anglers spend their time. • Cross a low road bridge and continue along the trail until it reaches a minor road. Turn right and go down the tree lined rough road until it begins to bear right. • Go past a road barrier and then turn left at a track junction. Walk along what is now a surfaced track, past a security fence surrounding a large lake. The lake is the only tangible reminder of the site of the controversial and now closed Britannia Park, later called the American Adventure Park. • Bear sharp right at a track junction where the main crosses the lake’s outflow and go past a boggy reed-filled hollow. • When the track reaches a ‘T’ junction, ignore the signpost pointing to Long Eaton and then turn right on to an unsignposted track going past Lodge Farm. The wooded land on your left once past Lodge Farm is Woodside Nature Reserve, owned and maintained by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. • Bear left on the track away from the farm and follow it down into a dip then up to a junction. Turn right here and continue past a bridleway on the left signposted to West Hallam. • Join the surfaced road and follow it through Mapperley Village. Go over the crossroads and continue past the Black Horse pub for about a quarter of a mile. • A few yards beyond a play park (picnic seats here), backed by a group of attractive bungalows on your right. • Walk on for a little way and then look out for a kissing gate on the right. Go through it and walk diagonally half left across the field in front. • Cross a muddy ditch by a plank bridge marked by two stiles and go forwards to a field track. • Ignoring the signposted stile in the hedge to your front, turn sharp right to follow a faint path over two fields. • Cross a footbridge and climb up to an abandoned macadamed track. Turn right and follow the track around the boundary of old open cast workings until it reaches a by-lane. • Turn right along the lane to drop down to a bridge over a stream serving Mapperley Reservoir. Walk on until a side lane turns to the left towards an old farmhouse. • Walk up to and then past the farm, bearing right and then left towards pine woods. • Turn left along the woodland boundary and follow a path leading directly to the Visitor Centre and the Rambler’s Café.
I hope you enjoyed another walk around beautiful Derbyshire – Rambler