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Walk Derbyshire – Carsington Pasture & The High Peak Trail

Walk Derbyshire – Carsington Pasture & The High Peak Trail

5 miles (8km) of minor road and field path walking with one steady 252 foot climb (77m). Moderate.

RECOMMENDED MAP: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map Sheet OL24.  1:25000 scale; the Peak District, White Peak Area.    

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Your Bus service between Ashbourne and Matlock calls at Carsington Water Visitor Centre and Carsington village every hour on weekdays and Saturdays.  Two hourly service on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

CAR PARKING: Accessed from the B5035 Cromford to Ashbourne road. Sheepwash car park is opposite the farm lane into Carsington village.  Alternatively, use Carsington Water Visitor Centre car park if planning a longer walk.

REFRESHMENTS: Miners’ Arms in Carsington village and café/restaurant facilities at Carsington Water Visitor Centre’s New Leaf Restaurant.

This walk combines popular routes by linking them with a little used path.  Here the view across Carsington Water leads on across the north Midlands Plain, almost to Leicestershire. 

Starting from Sheepwash car park, the way is first through Carsington village to Hopton. This is where the only serious climb in the walk follows a little used path up to the High Peak Trail. The trail is followed, parallel to the moorland road from Wirksworth to Brassington, until the two routes diverge. A sharp left turn at this point leaves the trail, then crosses the road to reach the popular path crossing Carsington Pasture.  Its wind turbines now stand where our prehistoric ancestors once farmed, or later inhabitants delved for lead.  This path eventually reaches Carsington village and its welcoming pub.

At Carsington a decision must be made, either to return to the car, or continue along the reservoir path into the Visitor Centre for a short stroll to Stones Island, and then walking back the same way, or perhaps catching service bus no. 110 Ashbourne to Matlock via Carsington.

The charming village of Carsington nestles in a sheltered valley above Carsington Water.  The reservoir was opened by HM the Queen in May 1992, and contains when full, 7,800 gallons of water, sufficient for the needs of three million people in the north Midlands cities. Carsington village’s tiny church though much ‘improved’ in Victorian times, actually dates from the 14th century, outdating its yew by more than three hundred years.

Hopton, the second village, more a hamlet with a manor house, passed through on the walk, surrounds the one-time home of Sir John Gell who led his band of locals on behalf of parliament during the English Civil War.  One of the Gells fancifully named the road he created to link Cromford and the coach road at Newhaven, the Via Gellia.  He did this in an attempt to make people think the road was Roman in origin.  Certainly the Romans inhabited the locality, basing their lead smelting on Lutudaron, a place yet to be discovered, but thought to be somewhere between Carsington and Wirksworth.  Hopton Hall is famous for its snowdrops blooming every spring and the garden. The flower garden on the far side of the house from the snowdrop beds is sheltered by the delightfully named ‘crinkle crankle’ wall. Built in a wavy line for both strength and to create sun-arbours, you will pass it early on during the walk.  There is an urn in the courtyard of Hopton Hall which Sir William Gell brought back as a souvenir from his Grand Tour visit to Pompeii in 1832.


1. Leave Sheepwash car park, and cross the main road.  Walk up the narrow lane opposite and cross the Miners’ Arms car park in order to reach the road through Carsington village.

2. Turn right and walk along the minor road for a little under a mile.

3. Go past Hopton Hall and its crinkle crankle wall.

4. Continue to follow the road downhill and then up for another half mile. Keep going forwards by bearing right at the road junction in the dip.

5. Leaving the hall and cottages behind, the road cuts through woodland.

6. Where the road begins to bend sharply to the right in order to join the main road, do not go forwards, but turn left at the corner of the wood on your left.  

7. Bearing slightly right and using stiles to keep to the right of way, begin to climb the hillside and enter the first of a series of fields by crossing the woodland boundary wall.

8. Cross the wall at the top right hand corner of the first field and immediately turn half right to cross into the third field.

9. Cross a walled farm track and then, still climbing, looking out for stiles or gaps in boundary walls, climb up through five fields.

10. Cross over a narrow minor road and walk through the last four fields by following their boundary wall on your right.

11. Next to an old farm building, turn sharp left and walk up to the High Peak Trail.

12. Turn left along the trail.  Follow it parallel to the Brassington road for around 1¼miles.

13. Where road and trail diverge, turn left to leave the latter. Go through stiles on both sides of the road in order to enter the vast expanse of Carsington Pasture.

14. With the wind turbines on your right, follow the boundary wall across the undulating and steadily descending grassy path.

15. Keep to the path where it zig-zags down the steepening slope.

16. Cross a stone stile and follow the narrow lane past a series of cottages.

17. Bear left along the road through Carsington village and turn right at the Miners’ Arms pub.

18. From the pub follow the farm lane you used in the first part of the walk, this time gently downhill to the main road.

19. Cross the road in order to reach Sheepwash car park.


If you still have the time and energy to walk another mile or two, the waterside path from Sheepwash car park to Carsington Water Visitor Centre is a delight.  Simply follow the well-made cycle and pedestrian path, away from the car park and down to the lake.  Continue along the path until you reach the visitor centre.  Either catch the bus back to Carsington village, or return along the same path after enjoying the facilities available.

Mainsail Restaurant has an excellent menu on offer and there is an interesting display by Severn Trent Water telling the story of how water is brought to our homes. 

Children particularly enjoy spinning the ‘kugel’ stone, a black granite ball supported by a thin layer of water that revolves at the slightest touch.

A couple of hundred yards into the reservoir beyond the visitor centre, Stones Island has an imaginative reproduction of a stone circle lined up to various features in the surrounding landscape.

There are a couple of features to see beside the path.  The first is not far from Sheepwash car park.  This is an odd-looking brick building which puzzles many who stop in order to explore its empty rooms.   During the war, the area now flooded by the reservoir was a bombing range and the building was where range observers sheltered.  Much closer to the visitor centre, the cosy bird hide makes an ideal place to watch water birds on CCTV screens.  Finally and don’t tell anyone I said so, but if you look carefully to the side of the path, you might find a black cherry tree laden with fruit at the appropriate time of the year!


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