This short walk skirts the western boundary of Derby enjoying some of the fine surrounding countryside, returning 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. Apart from the trail, the bridge (now a listed monument), is the only link with what must have been an extremely useful railway. 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 passenger traffic on 7th September 1964, but until the 4th September 1967 it continued to operate carrying freight only. Even then it had its uses when the Mickleover to Willington section was used as a test track. The station at Mickleover is still there, but fulfilling a new existence as a private house with the name of the Great Northern Railway immortalised by the one-time station pub. Starting from the small car park beside the Mackworth/Mickleover road opposite the Great Northern pub, the walk follows the converted railway for about a mile before branching out to the north west over the fields leading towards Radbourne. A walk along a short rural lane away from the village forges links with part of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk. This path is abandoned where it crosses a field track which is then followed back to the railway trail. Here a left turn is made to return to the car park.
4 miles (6,4 km) of easy trail walking followed by cross country sections over field paths. Muddy places after rain, especially before and beyond Radbourne. Public transport: 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. Park in the small layby car park (free), on the opposite side of the road from the pub. Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map Sheet 259 (Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne and Cheadle), 1:25,000 scale. Refreshments available at the Great Northern pub and Hackwood Farm tea room.
• 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 a private house that now turns its back on to what was once the station platform. You can still see traces of siding where coal deliveries 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.
• 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 slightly downhill, bearing right on a faint grassy path. This section of the route is along the right of way through Radbourne Hall park. 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.
• Cross a small bridge and then aim for St Andrew’s church.
• Go through the little iron gate on your right and walk past the church, keeping the 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 who intermarried with the Chandos 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 along the road, following it round a sharp bend and over the narrow 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 the right and gently uphill to cross a stile next to the tree.
• Using a line of electricity poles as guide, follow a path well to the left of Silverhill Farm.
• Cross the boundaries of four fields by using stiles and following waymarks. This part of the walk follows a section of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk. The walk is just one of four long distance footpath trails 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 area of walking countryside.
• 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 is left at this point).
• Do not cross the ditch, but turn sharp right and follow the line of trees down to a road.
• Climb stiles on either side of the road and continue forwards on to a field path, crossing intermediate boundaries by their stiles. There is a tea room at Hackwood Farm about a hundred yards to your left of the road crossing.
• Go down a flight of steps beside the brick piers of a demolished footbridge and turn left on reaching the trail. Follow it all the way back to the car park.