Like many walkers, I got sick and tired of walking on muddy tracks this winter. As a result I began to look around for places where I could walk without dragging myself through a good impression of a Great War Somme battlefield. We did manage a few short strolls along the old railway trails, one of them a repeat of the High Peak and Tissington Trail walk I did a year or two back, but even this involved a muddy stretch linking the two trails above Biggin: New Year Bank Holiday found us together with a score or two of other walkers enjoying the Cromford Canal tow-path in glorious sunshine on one of the few proper winter’s day we were allowed.
This walk I am about to describe links the little known village of Ashover to the delights of the almost hidden communities scattered around the head waters of the infant River Amber. Apart from a short section of muddy footpath at the back of Ashover’s parish church, the rest of the walk followed a series of narrow, often tree-shaded lanes through Kelstedge to Uppertown and back across the Matlock/Chesterfield road into Ashover and its three walker-friendly pubs. I have to admit though, the day we did this walk happened to coincide with the day the refuse collection was being made. Unfortunately there are no footpaths along the narrow lanes and we had to keep jumping on to the verge to let the refuse lorry pass. This happened with such almost monotonous regularity that we ended on waving terms with the friendly characters sheltering in their warm cab.
As a walk, it is not only suitable for days when the mud of field paths takes away any possible enjoyment in exploring our fields and byways, it will make also make a pleasant stroll in spring when the trees and bushes come into verdant bud. Even later, as spring gives way to summer, will be the time for a short walk enjoying the primroses blooming in shaded spots beneath the hedgerows. Another of the advantages of this walk is that it only takes a couple of hours to complete and fits in easily with lunchtime at one of the pubs in Ashover. This is probably the only walk that can be followed by using a road map as an alternative to the usual Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure map, as you may note from the following guiding instructions.
Ashover is an ancient village, once the home of lead miners exploiting the riches beneath the surrounding limestone outcrops, or the later quarry workers who followed in their footsteps. Tradition has it that the archers of Ashover fought with King Harry on Saint Crispin’s Day at Agincourt, and that one of the survivors opened the pub honouring the saint’s name. However, while there are nearby remnants of butts where locals once practiced, as demanded by law and honed their skills with the longbow, but there is no proof in the story, for Saint Crispin is the patron of leather workers and cobblers. So it may have been that a shoe repairer was the first landlord. What is historically true is the story of drunken Royalist troops wrecking the pub when the staunch Parliamentarian landlord refused to serve them any more ale.
The Domesday Book refers to Ashover as Esseover which means Ash-tree slope and shows that the village was in existence since before Saxon times and links with Neolithic days were discovered when the remains of a round-house were discovered during the construction of the school playing field. You can find much of Ashover’s recorded history within the parish church, certainly as far back as 1086 when the first recorded rector is mentioned not by name, but as ‘a priest’. One of the best preserved painted tombs in the country stands beside the chancel. It dates from 1511 and contains the remains of Thomas Babbington and his wife Edith.
4½miles (7.25km) of easy walking along surfaced country lanes, with one short footpath at the start of the walk. It can be extended by links with nearby footpaths.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Map, Sheet 24. The White Peak Area.
Public Transport. Stagecoach X17 service from Matlock or Chesterfield stops at Kelstedge on the A632 where the walk can be joined.
Car parking (free) next to the village hall.
Refreshments. Three pubs all serving excellent food lie within 200 yards of each other in Ashover and one at Kelstedge.
The Walk with Rambler
- From the car park turn left and left again at the road junction.
- Walk down the road as far as the church and turn right beyond the far gate.
- Follow a short drive, past houses and out on to a footpath. Follow this, beside the school playing field until it reaches Butts Road.
- Turn right along the road and follow it, past modern houses and a converted chapel. Go with the road over Marsh Brook and climb towards Kelstedge.
- Cross the Chesterfield/Matlock road (A632).
- Walk along narrow Kelstedge Lane for about a mile and a half, ignoring side lanes, left or right until you reach a ‘T’ junction beside an old chapel.
- Turn right at the chapel and walk uphill past a couple of farms and then slightly downhill along Cullumbell Lane into the hamlet of Uppertown
The old school in Uppertown has been converted into a cosy village hall where concerts are held every other month or two, ranging from folk music to rock and roll. Look out for details in images ‘Coming Events’.
A stone bench outside the village hall makes an ideal place to enjoy a flask of coffee around mid-morning.
- Continue for about a quarter of a mile along the lane past a converted farm house.
- Turn right along Buntingfield Lane and follow it for about half a mile past a couple of farms.
- At the junction of four lanes, take the second on the left and walk gently uphill along Hardwick Lane as far as the main road. Turn right here.
- Facing oncoming traffic, walk down the main road for about two hundred yards. Cross over and turn left along the un-named side lane.
- Walk down to a ‘T’ junction and turn right along Bath Lane, past a converted farmhouse of that unexplained name.
- Ignore the lane bearing left beyond the house and continue along what is now Cripton Lane.
- Ignoring side roads left and right, follow the road which has now become Moor Road, past the public toilets and into the centre of Ashover where its welcoming pubs await tired walkers.