It is hard to realise that this walk never strays far from the outer limits of Derby, but right from the start the route wanders through farmland devoted to wheatfields and lush pasture. Surprisingly and despite its proximity to such a vibrant city, none of the paths used on the walk can be said to be overused; in fact, on the return leg the path through fields of grazing sheep and cattle is so little used that in places it can, without careful attention to the described route, be positively non-existent.
The walk starts from the western edge of Markeaton Park, where on a sunny weekend the car park fills rapidly and parking might be a bit of a problem. The way is then along well defined farm lanes, past a couple of substantial brick-built farm houses and through wheatfields that should be a bit bare by the time this walk is published. To the right of the track on the outer journey, a long belt of woodland screens the view into Kedleston Park, quite near, but coyly almost invisible from this angle.
A short length of rural road leads towards Meynell Langley where a minor diversion will be rewarded by a cup of tea in the delightful surroundings of an almost Norwegian-style café attached to a plant development nursery. The way from there is as previously hinted, a little vague on the ground; there is some waymarking, but the thing is to follow my instructions carefully and if I’ve got them right you should eventually find yourself deafened by the noise of traffic thundering along the Ashbourne road. Fortunately this is fairly brief and by taking a left-hand turn down a country lane you will find yourself in the tranquil village of old Mackworth. Passing beyond its church, hedges lining yet more wheatfields are criss-crossed on the way back to Markeaton Park, with the aerial-topped tower of Derby University pointing the way.
6 miles (9.7km) of easy walking along farm lanes and field paths. 197ft (60m) total ascent with some muddy sections after prolonged rain.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Explorer Map; Derby, Uttoxeter, Ashbourne & Cheadle.
Parking (pay and display) at the Markeaton village end of Markeaton Park – entrance off the minor road from Allestree to the A52 Derby/Ashbourne road.
Public transport by Derby to Markeaton services
Refreshments: Meynell Langley nursery tea rooms (slightly off route), ‘All Day Diner’ at the petrol station on the A52, or at Markeaton Village Tea Rooms, Home Farm near the entrance to Markeaton Park.
- From Markeaton Park car park, turn right and follow the road for about 100yds as far as the surfaced driveway to Markeaton Stones Farm.
- Go past the attractive brick-built farm and its subsidiary buildings. Pass through a traffic barrier and follow the unsurfaced track through arable fields for about a mile.
- There is a side path cutting the next corner but it is easier to continue along the track and as far as a ‘T’ junction with a tarmac lane.
- Turn left along the lane, heading for a belt of woodland appearing on your right – this is Vicar Wood.
- Where the surfaced lane bears left, continue forwards until you reach Upper Vicarwood Farm.
The farm like the others seen or passed along this walk, is built of mellow-hued bricks no doubt produced locally a couple of hundred years ago. From the proximity of Kedleston Hall the farms are likely to have originally been part of the estate.
- On entering the farmyard of Upper Vicarwood Farm aim to the left of the stable block and go through a gate. Continue along the now grassy track running between the mature woodland and a ploughed field. Follow this track, climbing gently uphill until it reaches a gate.
If you look carefully, over to your right and through the trees, Kedleston Hall appears beyond its nearby pleasure grounds that were laid out around the time (1761-70) when James Paine and Robert Adam co-operated in its building. Built in the classical style, it was made for the first Lord Scarsdale. He was one of the Curzons who have lived there for over nine centuries. George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess of Kedleston, Viceroy of India who as a supporter of the National Trust, gave Kedleston to the nation. Many of the treasures he amassed during his time as Viceroy are on display, including a magnificent gown made of peacock feathers made for his first wife. She incidentally is buried in the estate chapel. The exquisite marble tomb shows her lying beside Lord Curzon, both covered by a white silken sheet; she was dead, but he was still very much alive, the point being highlighted by the fact that his right foot has kicked the sheet away.
- Go through the gate and turn left on to a minor road, Lodge Lane, which is followed across a dip, for about 120 yards.
- Leave the road where it turns sharp right. Turn left by the gatehouse, and go down the drive leading to Meynell Langley gardens, but almost immediately go left through a gate marked with a footpath fingerpost.
A short diversion before turning off the drive will be to follow the drive towards the nursery where plant trials study the suitability of new arrivals. There is an almost Scandinavian-style café that makes an ideal break half way along the walk. Return to the gate opposite the gatehouse and bear right to continue the walk.
- Follow the garden’s boundary hedge into a grassy field, then through a small, wooded enclosure, after passing a lake glimpsed briefly in a hollow to your right.
- The path is indistinct in places and waymarking is sparse. Go through a small gate and out across the middle of two fields, down to a narrow brook.
- Cross the footbridge and climb up the field on its far side, at the top of which the path forks. Follow the waymark pointing left and go through the gap left by an abandoned gateway. Outbuildings of Bowbridge Fields Farm will appear to your right.
- Ignoring the temptation to follow the lime tree lined drive away from the farm; bear left across the field and follow the hedge on your side of a large house.
- Go through a kissing gate and out on to the busy A52.
- Turn left to follow the pavement for a little under half a mile, passing the garage and its diner.
- Turn left down Jarveys Lane and follow it through Mackworth village.
With the main road separating them, the vast estates of modern Mackworth leave the original village untouched. It is a line of pretty cottages built in the local mellow brick and were saved when the castle was wrecked during the English Civil War. Now only the gatehouse remains, but the parish church at the far end of the village still has some interesting tombs and a lectern made from locally mined alabaster; there is also some Blue John, the semi-precious stone that is still found in Castleton to the north.
- Where the village road turns sharp right, continue forwards on to a rough field track. Bear left and go through a stile to skirt round to the right of the church. Go to the right when level with the church.
- With Derby University and the cathedral tower on the skyline ahead, follow occasional waymarks alongside the hedge on your left.
- Where there is a wide gap in the hedge go through it and with the next section of hedge on your right, follow the steadily improving path as far as the Markeaton road.
- On reaching the road you can either turn left to follow the pavement back to the car park, but it will probably be more enjoyable and traffic free to cross the road where it turns sharp left and continue forwards along a driveway into the park. Cross the twin-arched bridge over the lake and go left by the children’s playground, then left again by the boating lake to reach the car park.