Here is a walk through history – from medieval times through the industrial revolution to the present day. Starting at the quaintly named Golden Valley, it passes the monument to a Victorian ironmaster and civil engineer, before crossing farmland slowly recovering from the depredation of open-cast coal mining in order. From here farm lanes reach a castle built by one of William the Conqueror’s knights. On the way back the walk follows the line of an abandoned section of the Cromford Canal.
When the tunnel taking the Cromford Canal was dug beneath Butterley Park near Ripley, extensive amounts of ironstone and lime were discovered, making the raw materials founding the Butterley Ironworks. Specialising in large innovative projects, the company is best known for its construction of the Falkirk Wheel in recent times, to the famous pillars that still support St Pancras Station roof. What is not so well known is that the company made the cast-iron ‘trough’ carrying the Llangollen Canal over the river Dee. Such was the value and range of useful ores found during the canal tunnel’s construction that gave the name to Golden Valley.
Although later roof falls made it necessary to close Butterley Tunnel, a long narrow lake that once held water to top up canal locks lower downstream, has settled into the countryside. It is popular with both walkers and anglers, some of whom were startled when their hook snagged an unexploded German bomb. Cottages, many of them once the homes of ironstone or coal miners exploiting the mineral wealth of Golden Valley. Codnor and Ironville are relics of that industrial past, but now mainly offer accommodation to those working in nearby factories dotted around the modern industrial estates.
The walk starts from any one of the car parking spaces dotted around the valley road alongside Codnor Park Reservoir. Actual walking starts a few yards below the dam and follows a village street through Codnor, climbing out into open fields. Very soon a 70 foot high pillar comes into view; this is a memorial to William Jessop, civil engineer and canal builder, one of the founders of Butterley ironworks. An attractive feature for today’s visitor, it created great controversy when it was first proposed. Although it may not have pleased the pundits, it did however, soon become a popular attraction, with parties of school children coming out into the countryside and even train loads of visitors from as far afield as Sheffield.
Following a farm lane, the way carries on beyond the pillar, past a farmhouse, until it reaches a crossing of four tracks where Codnor Castle’s ruins are a hundred yards or so further on, half right across a rough field. From the castle, another track to the left of the crossing, drops down towards the valley bottom and the railway line. This is crossed by way of a footbridge and the path now descends further through woodland until it reaches a dried up section of the canal. The towpath runs to the right towards Langley Mill; and to the left back to Codnor: this is the one we must follow. After passing beneath the railway line, the path swings to the left and then follows a straight track all the way back to the reservoir, where if luck is with you, there will be a portable refreshment cabin offering all things necessary to slake your thirst, or fill an empty gap in your stomach.
The Walk :
From the car park walk along the road towards the reservoir dam. Continue further for about 200 yards and turn right, uphill, along a side road through the built-up part of Codnor village.
At the top of the village road, turn right at the junction with another road. Follow this as it swings left, uphill as a farm lane into lightly spaced trees. Lookout for the tall pillar of Jessop’s Monument. Also look out for a large circular concrete water tank above and to your left. Continue forwards to a four-way track junction and turn hard right.
After a quick look at the monument and making the right hand turn, continue as far as a ‘T’ junction. Turn left here and follow the track, over a low rise for about half a mile to another four way track junction. Turn left here and begin to go downhill. Codnor Castle is directly to your front on the far side of a meadow reached by a stile. On the left of the track it is possible to get closer to the castle, but only as far as the surrounding fence.
Continue down the track and then cross the footbridge over the railway line. Almost immediately cross a narrow footbridge over a drainage ditch.
Walk on, past a narrow wood until you reach the abandoned canal.
Follow the remnant of a towpath for a little over a mile alongside woodland covering the far side of the old canal.
Bearing left, go under the railway and follow the towpath for a little under half a mile, past Codnor village on your left and Ironville to your right, as far as the canal’s dam wall.
Continue along the road and back to your parked car.
An easy 4 mile (6.4km) rural walk along farm tracks and old canal tow paths.
Ordnance Survey 1:25,000
scale Outdoor Leisure Explorer Sheet 269. Chesterfield and Alfreton.
Busses between Ripley and Alfreton via Leabrooks stop near the turning for Codnor.
Mobile kiosk usually parked above the reservoir.
Roadside along the south bank of Codnor Park Reservoir.