Some time ago the editor of this illustrious magazine asked me if I could write about walks in the south of our territory, rather than keep simply to my beloved Peak District. Since then and with the help of various friends, I have managed to fulfil that request and with it have found what to me is some excellent walking country, none of which is very far from Derby the ‘capital’ of our county.
One thing I have learnt, is the fact that Derby is surrounded by grand houses and as a result the nearby countryside is virtually undeveloped. Rights of Way as old as the Enclosures Act, or even older, criss-cross their fields and parkland. Most I am pleased to say are well walked by local ramblers and as a result navigating them is reasonably easy. It is only when one comes to some rampantly overgrown hedge that difficulties arise, but that is not caused by some landowner’s greed, but simply the rampant exuberance of brambles only too willing to let passers-by enjoy their fruits.
This walk starts on the A6096 a little over half way between Kirk Hallam and Spondon and therein lies a problem. A short unsignposted cul-de-sac leading to kennels at Dunhill has room for two or three cars and one would have preferred it to at least (the kennels that is), to be signposted. It marks an important junction of paths, not just the one this walk follows, but also the long distance Midshires Way Trail. I have given a grid reference below in the Useful Information box which I hope should help find the place.
The route is south-west through Locko Park, and then veers south to Spondon and east to Ockbrook. From there paths are followed roughly north-eastwards towards, but not quite into, Dale Abbey, in order to join a farm access back to the start.
7 miles (11.2 km) of easy field path and by-lane walking with negligible climbing. Can be muddy after rain, especially in woodland or alongside ploughed fields.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Map; Sheet 260, Nottingham & the Vale of Belvoir.
Parking is off the A6096 Ilkeston/Spondon road in a side road near kennels at Dunshill (GR 422 385).
Public transport on services between Spondon and Kirk Hallam/Ilkeston. (Ask to be set down at Dunshill for the kennels).
Refreshments: several pubs along the way at Spondon and Ockbrook. Bartlewood Lodge half a mile down the road from the finish of the walk does a very good value carvery. Outside seating makes it a suitable dog friendly pub.
- Go through the gate at the rear of the kennels and follow the bridleway into Locko Park.
- Bear left with the track where the hall’s access drive turns off to the right and continue past the attractive lake and its wildlife, as far as the lodge gate.
Unless you are getting married, or a member of a conference group, Locko Hall is strictly off limits to the general public, apart from one or two days a year, when the gardens are open for special events.
The hall is mainly Victorian, but is built on medieval foundations. There are links with Shakespeare though, for his only daughter, Susanna, brought up Elizabeth Barnard, who married Henry Gilbert builder of the hall’s chapel. Sadly Elizabeth died aged only 35 and is buried at Spondon church.
- From the lodge walk down to the road and turn left along a pavement for a little over 100yds.
- Where the pavement ends, turn left to go through a squeezer stile and bear half right across a meadow and over a narrow footbridge. Climb up to a farm access track.
- Immediately look out to where a power line crosses the track and follow it into the field opposite.
- Entering the field, bear right, away from the power line. Go over a stile and follow a hedge as far as the outer houses of Spondon.
- Enter the town by going past allotment gardens and then turn left along the side road and into a housing estate.
- Follow the estate road as far as the main road the A6096, and turn left. Cross over to the opposite side.
- Follow the main road for just over 200 yards, ignoring the first of two side tracks.
- At the second track turn right as directed by the signpost, then forwards to where it forks.
- Follow this track, beside a public recreation ground, continuing past a series of fields and into Ockbrook where a minor road is joined.
Spondon has developed a great deal since it became an industrial suburb of Derby, but its church clearly shows its importance in the Middle Ages and before. Nearby Ockbrook is where a group of Moravian dissenters found refuge in 1750, one of only three such places in England. The church and school they founded still flourish. The rest of this large village is mostly Derby dormitory and two pubs passed along the way will tempt the weary walker.
- Turn left to follow the road through the village and after just under a quarter of a mile turn right along the last side road, called The Ridings.
- Where this road makes a sharp right hand turn, do not go forwards on the track opposite, but turn sharp left along a lane towards The Fields Farm.
- With the farm in sight leave the track in order to follow a field path bearing slightly away from the farm. Cross three fields by way of their high access stiles.
- At the corner of a wood follow a path across a ploughed field until it reaches a hedge where a sharp right turn gives access to another field.
- Follow the boundary hedge and into another field, going forwards to a wood.
- Begin to descend slightly and join a wider path coming in from your left. Bear right on this and follow the grassy path over three more fields.
- Where the path enters woodland, go steeply downhill past outcrops of sandstone as far as their foot. Turn sharp left at the bottom.
The low outcropping sandstone crags are a continuation of the cliffs where a hermit made his home in medieval times, leading to the formation of Dale Abbey which can be glimpsed through the trees. A short diversion can be made at this point in order to visit the hermit’s cave, or the ruins of Dale Abbey.
- Follow the track as it winds along the foot of Dale Hills, as far as its junction with a farm access track.
- Bear left on to the track and follow it until it turns sharply right within hearing of the main road.
- Go forwards away from the bend, on to a tree shrouded bridleway, climbing as far as the main road. The side road and parked car are opposite at the top of a short rise.
The last section of the walk, along the foot of Dale Hills is part of the Midshires Way, a 225mile (362km) long distance footpath from outside Manchester to the south of Milton Keynes.