Ashover and the upper reaches of the Amber Valley has always been one of my favourite walking areas. Surprisingly it is not all that well walked, maybe it gets overlooked by its proximity to the Peak District’s moors and dales, but it does deserve to be better known. As an indication of its lack of use, while most of the paths we followed on this walk are clearly waymarked, their actual line seemed hardly trodden. The trick therefore, is to follow the direction of the waymark arrows and by lining up stiles and gates you shouldn’t go wrong.
Speaking of arrows reminded me that it was the archers of Ashover who helped young King Henry V defeat the flower of French chivalry on the muddy field of Agincourt on St Crispin’s Day 25th October 1415. The Archers of Asher who were well known for their skill, practiced in the butts still apparent just outside the village. Their military fame is honoured today by the name of the ancient pub by the church.
Ashover has grown since the archers left their meagre homesteads to fight in faraway France. Nothing, apart from field boundaries is left from that time, even the farmhouses which replaced their mud and lath dwellings, have now been converted into des res.
The walk starts from the Parish Hall car park before leaving the village, to climb almost due north to the improved moorland pasture. Here a short road walk drops down to Press reservoir’s fishing lakes, where more field paths lead back by way of the tiny hamlets of Northedge and Alton. The last part of the walk reaches the delightful view of Ashover village nestling around its old church. A steep descent leads back to the car park and the village’s three hospitable pubs.
4½miles (7.2km) of easy field path and quiet road walking. One 410feet (125m) climb.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Sheet 269, Chesterfield and Alfreton.
Car Parking: Parish Hall Car Park on side road beyond Black Swan pub.
Public Transport: Hulleys 63/64 service – Chesterfield/Matlock – Ashover – Clay Cross. No Sunday service.
Refreshments: Black Swan Inn. Tea Room at Press fishing lakes about half way round the walk. N.B. The Black Swan Inn welcomes well behaved dogs and muddy walkers.
- From the car park turn left along the road past the Black Swan, then bear right at the road junction.
- Turn right into Malthouse Lane and follow it, uphill and round a sweeping bend for a little over a quarter of a mile.
- Ignore the path diverging right opposite a narrow lane and carry on for another 100yards.
- Turn right, uphill, opposite a stone cottage and enter woodland, eventually walking to the left of a stone wall. N.B. Do not follow the tempting path moving right, as it only goes as far as the gate into a field.
- At the top of the rise, bear right at Hilltop Cottage for four or five yards.
- Turn left through a gateway and begin to cross the almost pathless section of the walk.
- There are ten fields in all to cross. Keep half left crossing the first two.
- At the stile in the junction of four walls, go half right across the next field to reach a stile. Cross this and follow the boundary on your right.
- Go through two more fields and then hard left over the next.
- Half right into the next and keep ahead a further two boundaries.
- Join a road in the crux of a ‘Y’ junction and follow it to a cross roads.
- Turn right along Birkin Lane for about half a mile and into the dip of Press Brook.
- Resist the temptation to follow the wide gravel path beside the reservoirs, but turn right at a finger post to follow a faint grassy path alongside a hedge on your left.
The reservoirs on your left are stocked with trout and other fish and fishing is available on day tickets.
The small fisheries office close by the road usually sells drinks and light refreshments.
- Keep the first (upper) reservoir on your left beyond the thick hedge until its dam comes into sight.
- Bear right beside three field boundaries to reach Northedge Hall Farm.
- Go to the right then left around the farm buildings in order to reach a narrow lane.
- Turn left along the lane for a few yards as far as a stone cottage.
- Turn right at a finger post and follow the wall on the left of the cottage.
- Following occasional waymarks and stone stiles, walk on in a straight line across a series of fields towards the village of Alton.
- Bear left and then right at a junction along minor roads through the village
- After about 150 yards turn sharp right on to another minor road and follow its winding course, steadily uphill.
- Reaching a ‘T’ junction, cross over to enter scrub woodland and a small heather moor.
The strange lumps of concrete on the escarpment lip are the surface remains of an abandoned Observer Corps post, dating from the Cold War. Almost unbelievably now, its intension was to act as a monitoring post in the event of a nuclear attack.
Pause on the escarpment edge and admire the view of Ashover nestling in the protection of the Amber Valley.
- Begin to go steeply downhill along a rocky path through heather and bilberry in order to reach woodland surrounding the settlement near Eastwood Grange.
- Bearing right through a gap in the wall, continue downhill through trees and into a field.
- Follow the path down the field in order to reach the road beside the Black Swan. The Parish Rooms car park is on your left and the Crispin and Old Poets Corner pubs to the left beyond the Black Swan.