Every year Keith my blind walking friend arranges a Christmas walk for the small group of blind walkers and their guides. This year in his wisdom he decided to leave the walk until after the holiday break in order, as he said, ‘to avoid the bad weather’. How wrong could he have been because the date he chose was Sunday 26th January which you may recall, had about the worst day’s wind and rain to hit us over this dreadful winter. To show how bad it was, the large golfing umbrella I decided to use was blown inside out in a matter of minutes and my so-called waterproofs soon proved to be anything but; very soon, water was positively cascading down the inside of my suit and out through my gaiters. Having seen The Rising Sun in Middleton by Wirksworth’s advert in Country Images, and knowing about its reputation as a walker and dog friendly pub, the choice for a lunchtime venue couldn’t have been better.
Roaring fires at each end of the bar, good food and well kept ale helped to dry us out reasonably quickly, a fitting climax to what to say the least, had been a rather damp walk. Having had my grouse don’t let me put you off because in good weather or bad it will be a perfect half-day walk, especially with the added attraction of a good meal in warm friendly surroundings. Because there were one or two places where I was unsure of the route, Keith and I (plus of course Dylan the faithful guide dog), decided to recce the walk a week or so beforehand, in perfect weather I must add, and we soon managed to sort out the potential hazards. The route was from the Rising Sun down the High Peak Middleton Top incline to the foot of Black Rocks with a sharp left turn to cross the top of Cromford Hill followed by easy paths into Middleton. At the top of the village street, a side lane climbs steeply out on to Middleton Moor, where a field track wanders over to the High Peak Trail and a left turn then follows the trail downhill to rejoin the short stretch of back road as far as the Rising Sun. It was while we were walking up the main street through Middleton that a lady stopped us, obviously keen to pass the time of day. This shouldn’t have been any problem other than the fact that she was carrying a huge and I do mean huge, pile of freshly laundered towels. Far too many for the average domestic bath-time needs, so I could only assume they were from the local football team, and the sight of such a load did rather embarrass, but as I said, she did want to chat. In order to keep the conversation going, as a joke I mentioned that Middleton was my ancestral home. Mine is a very common name in Middleton and the lady even suggested we were related, especially as I have what she called ‘Spencer eyes’ – don’t know what to make of that, maybe it’s that shifty look I can give. Anyway we eventually tore ourselves away in case she collapsed under the strain of the massive pile of towels she was holding all through our conversation and made our way out of the village.
6 miles (9.6km) of easy walking with one 361 feet (110metre) climb on surfaced trails and field paths. Frequent muddy sections over Middleton Moor after prolonged rain. Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Map; White Peak Area – Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock & Dove Dale. Parking for patrons at the Rising Sun Middleton by Wirksworth. Access from the B5035 Cromford to Ashbourne road. Public transport from Matlock or Derby stops fairly near the pub. Refreshments: Rising Sun, Middleton by Wirksworth. Also a small kiosk near Black Rocks car park opens during summer months to sell light refreshments.
• Turn left immediately after the bridge and then climb the short path steeply up to the trail.
• Turn right and follow the trail, at first steeply downhill and then fairly level for a little over a quarter mile, past modern houses on the right and then the terminus of Steeple Grange Light Railway. The section of trail which you are following is the lower part of a steep incline where trains were once hauled by cables powered by a steam engine located at Middleton Top; the engine house and distinctive chimney will be passed on the return leg of the walk. Steeple Grange Light Railway is a short stretch of narrow gauge track climbing up to an abandoned quarry. Open carriages hauled by diminutive diesel locomotives ply their way up and down the line at weekends.
• Follow the trail, over the road bridge as far as a side path close to the entrance to Black Rocks car park. Turn left and go down to the access drive, then turn left. There is a small kiosk next to the toilet block where home made refreshments are served during the summer months and school holiday weekends. The distinctive outline of Black Rocks is a popular climbing wall for gritstone devotees. The crag sits on top of underlying limestone where extensive lead mines still exist far beneath the ground; their only remains are the capped off shaft and stump of the mine engine chimney, together with the naturalised spoil heap.
• Go down the drive and turn right along the road, past the cemetery and turn left along a narrow grassy path as far as the main road. Cross with care and go through the small industrial estate opposite One of the units is used by the local Rotary Club for their Aquabox organisation, assembling water purifying kits which are despatched to third world countries and others in time of national disasters.
• Go straight ahead on a path at the top of the yard to cross an unsurfaced side lane and then go through a stone stile opposite.
• Follow the path over a small rise and down into a hollow beside a ruined barn. The grassy moor you are crossing is littered with the capped off remains of numerous old lead mines so take care and do not go too close to them. Wildflowers are in abundance in the nearby fields.
• The path gradually widens into a lane, past allotments and a chapel with the old vicarage opposite.
• Walk up to a side road surrounded by houses. Turn left and then right at the main road.
• Follow the road up through the village of Middleton as far as a tiny square where a sheltered bus stop makes a suitable place to open thermos flasks.
• With the shelter to your front turn left up the steep lane to the junction with Moor Lane. Turn left here to follow the lane upwards, bearing right on its way out on to Middleton Moor. The rather curious line of fencing on your right where a notice forbids entrance is a long standing test for reinforced wire mesh fencing used around Her Majesty’s Prisons of all things! • Join the field path ahead from the fencing and cross the moor, using stiles and gates in three boundaries.
• At the fourth field boundary do not attempt to climb the gate if it is closed, but follow the boundary fence to your left, for about twenty yards and climb over a stile.
• The path is indistinct here so walk forwards until a field track appears. Turn left and go down this as far as a group of semi-abandoned farm buildings.
• Follow the drive away from the farm as far as the High Peak Trail and turn left.
• Follow the trail, past Middleton Top Visitor Centre and the distinctive chimney of the winding engine house. • Go steeply down the incline, over a road bridge and as far as the next. Turn right off the trail here and then go down to the side road where a right turn leads back to the Rising Sun.