I am indebted to Amber Valley Group of the Ramblers Association, as it is they who first planned this interesting walk. Despite their good work, especially in producing the excellent leaflet I picked up way back in 2005, regrettably the leaflet is now out of print, but luckily I came across a rather dog-eared copy the other day, which helped me to follow my version of their described walk. I enjoyed it so much that it prompted me to carry out some research into the history of these ancient places of worship, together with the villages they have served since Saxon times. Here is my version.
Starting from the small car park above Brassington, the route soon passes St James,’ a church with at least Norman foundations, if not earlier. It has served the village for centuries, a focal point for generations of lead miners who delved far beneath the nearby grassy moors. The only link with this long-dead industry is in the name of one of the local pubs, The Miners’ Arms, and a smoke-stained cave high on jagged Rainster Rocks. This is where a miner and his family lived as described by Daniel Defo in his book about a journey through England in the early 1700s. His description of the family living like a group of troglodytes clearly brings to life the harsh conditions of a life dependant on living and working in stygian gloom for days on end.
First mentioned in local records around 1281, when its Norman foundations were laid on the site of an earlier Saxon oratory, is St James’ church. The present church, Grade II Listed, is the result of the Victorian craze for ‘improvements’, such as the embattled parapet added to the Norman tower, but at least they left the plain bowl of the font, untouched since Saxons ruled the land.
Many of the cottages in Brassington date from a time when they housed families more prosperous than Defo’s troglodytes. The village layout would not pass today’s planners, and as a result we are left with a cat’s cradle of narrow streets and ginnels, all just waiting to be explored.
Moving out of the village and following a narrow lane, the walk crosses the B5056 Bakewell to Fenny Bentley road. Joining a short section of the Limestone Way, it skirts Ballidon where a tiny chapel originating from the 13th century is built on the footprint of a much older edifice. The village itself is tiny, sheltering under the protection of White Edge and Blackstone’s Low, today it caters mainly for the needs of quarrymen’s, or heavy goods drivers and their families.
The Limestone Way is followed through fields, as far as Parwich. This time it is the Victorian adaptation of a Norman church and many of the game animals inhabiting the district in medieval times are represented within. Once a subsidiary Chapel in Ashbourne parish, it stands as it has done since the first monk, preaching beside a rough stone cross, brought Christianity to the pagan Saxons. They were the earliest settled people to live in this sheltered hollow. The church we see today is listed Grade II and seems to have ministered to the needs of a gradually swelling population, one of whom at least, if his 12th century grave cover is anything to go by, joined one of the Crusades in medieval times.
Parwich is sheltered from cold winds blowing from the north, by a grassy hill. Here an 18th century Manor Hall surrounded by pretty gardens, overlooks the grey-stone village houses surrounding a small green.
Finally Bradbourne’s Grade I Listed All Saints, dates back to the 13th century, but like the others in this quartet, probably dates from a much earlier chapel. A weathered Saxon Cross has stood in the churchyard since around 800AD. The Old Hall and other interesting des-res buildings line the surrounding village.
The actor Alan Bates is buried in the graveyard to the rear of the church, alongside other members of his family.
A quiet stroll along a farm lane leads back to Brassington by way of a series of fields lined by farm houses and a scattering of other attractive houses. The track reaches Brassington conveniently close to the Gate Inn, but if it is crowded the Miners’ is an alternative just a little further into the village.
USEFUL INFORMATION: A moderate walk by field paths through meadows and along quiet country lanes, covering 9miles, (14.5km). One busy road, the B5056 Bakewell/Ashbourne road is crossed twice. Muddy sections in fields between Ballidon and Parwich.
RECOMMENDED MAP: OS Explorer 1:25000 OL24, the Peak District, White Peak Area.
CAR PARKING: Small car park in Brassington Quarry off the Wirksworth road out of Brassington.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Buses from Ashbourne.
REFRESHMENTS:Pubs in Brassington and Parwich.
THE WALK – STEP BY STEP
Turn left outside the car park and walk down Dale Road for about 100yards towards the village, and then go right on into a narrow road leading towards the church – (use the church tower as a guide).
Follow Church Street until it joins Hillside. Turn right here and walk uphill for about 150 yards, then go left at a footpath sign, following it until it reaches the head of a field track going left.
Turn left along the track, and follow it downhill when it becomes Pasture Lane and is metalled.
Cross the main road with care and go through the gate opposite. Follow the gently rising track as far as a solitary standing stone.
Turn left off the track here and keep to the left of the stone, aiming for a stile in a stone wall about 100yards away and cross the stile.
Beyond the stile go steadily downhill, soon to aim for tiny Bradbourne Chapel.
Follow the concrete path behind the church, down to the road used by heavy traffic serving the nearby quarry.
Turn left and walk in single file on your right of the road and look out for a footpath sign to Parwich in the boundary hedge. Go through it and bear left.
Follow the indicated path through four fields by way of stone stiles and small bridges.
After roughly half a mile you should reach Highway Lane. Turn right along it, uphill for about 400yards until a footpath sign appears on your left.
Join the footpath and descend steeply along the field path, through a series of fields, all the while aiming for Parwich which comes into view below.
At the bottom of the hill turn left on to a back road leading into the village and aim for the church spire which can be seen over to your right. Reaching here will make an ideal resting place roughly halfway along the walk.
To your left opposite is a signpost across the road which points ahead to a small stream.
Walk towards the stream and cross.
Aim for a partially hidden stile in the hedge to your front.
Beyond the stile, and in order to join a narrow green lane leading out into open fields, turn left and climb gently towards another stile in a hedge.
Turn left over the stile and follow a line of telegraph poles, bearing half left and passing through two more stiles.
Pass to the right of a stone barn, continuing ahead through three old stone gateposts accessing three fields. Keep to the right-hand field boundary.
Go through the last pair of gateposts and aim for the hedge on the right-hand field boundary. Cross it by way of a stile.
Aim towards a tall, prominent tree and, keeping to its left go through a gap between clumps of hawthorn.
Using stiles and gates in field boundaries, walk gently downhill towards a prominent farm (Sitterlow).
Keep to your left of the farm and cross its access track, then continue ahead along a footpath leading down to Bletch Brook, crossing it by a wooden bridge.
Cross the main road with care and look out for a signpost pointing ahead and uphill.
Follow the path until it reaches the road leading into Bradbourne. Turn right along the lane and follow it into the village.
Beyond the church, continue to walk along the village street, taking the right hand where it forks. Follow the narrow road for about half a mile and look out for a signpost at the end of a lane with a scattering of houses.
Continue forwards at the lane end, then by path over fields to Clipshead Farm.
Follow the winding track away from the farm for a little over half a mile into Brassington, reaching the village close by the Gate Inn. The car park is to your left beside the Bakewell road uphill from the Miners’ Arms.