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Walk Derbyshire – Along the Great Nortner & Bonnie Prince Charlies Trails

Walk Derbyshire – Along the Great Nortner & Bonnie Prince Charlies Trails

This short walk skirts the rapidly expanding western boundary of Derby enjoying some of the fine surrounding countryside, and returns by way of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk.

The Great Northern Railway was once a cross country line from Grantham to Stafford by way of Nottingham, effectively linking both east and west coast mainlines.  It passed through Derby to the north of the city centre, crossing Friar Gate (Ashbourne road), on a magnificently decorated wrought iron bridge: it still exists and its listed status ensures its preservation. Apart from the trail, the bridge (now a two-starred listed monument), is the only nearby link with what must have been an extremely useful railway.  Another subsequently useful link with the history of this line is the recently restored Bennerley Viaduct, a uniquely constructed listed and stared building – a rarity in this country, it is made from latticework wrought-iron, crossing the Erewash Valley, as well as its canals and also the Nottingham/Sheffield branch of the Midland Railway, in one huge high level swoop.

With the restoration of Bennerley Viaduct, much of the central section of the Great Northern has been open to pedestrian and cycle traffic, albeit the bit beyond the viaduct unfortunately is buried beneath housing estates.  What the Bennerley Viaduct does, however, is act as a link between two canal tow paths, thereby making an excellent walk through a long gone industrial area. For a longer walk, the section beyond Mickleover takes some beating; this walk follows part of the Mickleover section before wandering off through Derby’s Green Belt to follow part of the Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Way.

Suffering the fate of the Beeching Axe, the line was decreed to be uneconomical, but rather than submit meekly its demise was slow and long drawn out.  Officially the line was closed to freight on 7th September 1964, but until the 4th September 1967 it continued to operate carrying passengers only.  Even then it had its uses when the Mickleover to Willington section was used as a test track for experimental rolling stock.  The station at Mickleover is still there, but fulfilling a completely new existence as a private house and with the name of the Great Northern Railway immortalised by the one-time station pub on the main road.

Starting from the small car park beside the Mackworth to Mickleover road opposite the Great Northern pub, the walk follows the converted railway for about a mile before branching out along paths to the North West, meandering over the fields leading towards Radbourne.  A walk along a short rural lane wandering away from the village forges links with part of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk.  This path is abandoned where it abuts a field track, which in turn is then followed all the way back to the railway trail.  Here a left turn is made to return to the car park.


From the car park follow the surfaced lane down to the site of the old station and join the trail.

The remains of the old Mickleover station have been converted into private houses, but it nowadays turns its back on what was once the station platform.  You can still see traces of siding where coal deliveries for the local district and goods were offloaded.

The trail which here runs as far as Etwall is as proclaimed by the blue cast iron signpost to be part of Route 54, within the national cycle network.  Walkers and cyclists can enjoy the safety of the track away from the danger of motorised traffic.

Interesting art-work beside the bridge next to the last house gives a few facts and figures appertaining to the Trans-Pennine Cycleway, that runs, as the information on the nearby five-barred gate, for 350miles between Derby and Berwick on Tweed.

Follow the trail for a little over a mile and look out for a footpath sign on your right.

Leave the trail and drop down to and then cross a narrow stream.  Climb up through rough woodland and out into open fields.

Follow the right-hand edge of woodland before crossing four crop growing fields.

Go through two gates on either sides of the minor road in order to enter a small wood.

Leave the wood by going through a kissing gate and then bear slightly left and uphill.

Aim for a wooden pole.  It marks the route and on reaching it start to walk gently downhill, bearing right on a faint grassy path.

This section of the route is along the right of way through Radbourne Hall Park, traditional home of the Pole family, at least since the late 18th century when the brick-built hall was erected.  In 1781 the hall was the home of Erasmus Darwin, father of Charles whose theories delved into the origins and development of life on earth.  Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have spent a night at Radbourne Hall on his abortive march south. The village sprawls in a layout the medieval inhabitants would easily recognise, possibly finding it easier than modern visitors who frequently complain about getting lost when attempting to find the church.  Incidentally it is probably easier to find when following this walk, as it lies in plain sight a matter of four or five yards from the footpath from Mickleover.

Cross a small bridge and then aim for St Andrew’s church.

Go through the little cast iron gate on your right and walk past the church, keeping the bell tower to your right.

If the church is open it is well worth a visit, if only to admire the medieval tombs. Here lies Sir John Chambers, friend of Edward the Black Prince in the 14th century.  Many of the Pole family intermarried with the Chandos family and later were laid to rest within the nave.  Here is the effigy of Peter de la Pole who died in 1432 and is shown lying alongside his wife Elizabeth.  He has long straight hair and holds a sword marked with the family arms on its hilt, his feet resting on his pet dog; Elizabeth has an ornamental chain wound three times round her neck.

Go between the outer walls of two old brick houses and then out on to the minor road.

Turn right and walk along the road, following it round the sharp right-hand bend and over the narrowest part of a tree-lined pond.

Immediately beyond the pond go through a gate on your left and into a field.

Aiming for an old oak tree ahead, walk a little to its right and go gently uphill and then cross a stile next to the tree.

Using a line of electricity poles follow a path well to the left of Silverhill Farm.

Cross the boundaries of four fields by using stiles and follow waymarks on stumps or attached to mature trees.

This part of the walk follows a section of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk. The trail is just one of four long distance footpath walks around Derby. It is waymarked and starts in Ashbourne town centre, finishing by the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the back of Derby Cathedral. Whether he used this route could well be spurious, but it certainly opens up a little known part of the excellent countryside, ideal for gentle strolls, especially on a fine sunny day.

Hitherto the path has kept to the middle of fields along this section, but as it enters the last field by following a hedge on your left hand, go forwards as far as a tree lined ditch, but no further.  (The Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk traverses left at this point).

Do not cross the ditch, but turn sharp right and follow the line of trees down to a minor road. 

Climb stiles on either side of the road and continue forwards on to a field path, crossing intermediate boundaries by their stiles in order to keep to the Right of Way.

There used to be a useful tea room at Hackwood Farm about a hundred yards to your left of the road crossing.  Unfortunately that treat is just a fond memory, buried beneath the burgeoning houses of Derby’s latest spread into countryside beyond the remains of the Great Northern Railway.

Go down a flight of steps beside the brick piers of a demolished railway era footbridge and turn left on reaching the trail.  Follow it all the way back to the car park.



4 miles (6.4 km) of easy trail walking followed by cross country sections along field paths.  Muddy places after rain, especially that part immediately before and beyond Radbourne.


Ordnance Survey Explorer Map Sheet 259 (Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne and Cheadle), 1:25,000 scale.


The small layby car park (free), over the bridge on the opposite side of the road from the pub.


Regular bus services between Derby and Mickleover.  The walk starts opposite the Great Northern pub about a mile and a quarter from Mickleover town centre.


Available at the Great Northern pub. 


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