The chances are that if you are not acquainted with the area, you will be thinking to yourself, ‘Rowarth, where on earth is Rowarth?’ The village of Rowarth, the subject of this month’s walk, is one of those little known places one finds from time to time tucked away in some pleasant corner of the Peak District. A little beyond my normal central Derbyshire walks, it sits in a sunny high-level bowl, close to the western boundary of the Peak District National Park, a couple of miles to the north of the post-industrial cotton town of New Mills, the subject of one of the features in next month’s edition of Country Images.
Rowarth is a cluster of gritstone cottages surrounded by moorland farms. In times gone by the farms existed only at a subsistence level and the cottages housed workers at one of five small cotton mills up and down the tiny valleys. Nowadays the farms have mostly been amalgamated into larger and more profitable units, with their houses turned into high class residences. The terraced mill-workers’ cottages lining the village in-by grazing at the road end, have also gone upmarket, giving the place a picture-postcard look.
Only one mill building survives of the five that once provided employment by making candle wick thread. This one, down in the valley below the village, no longer hums to the sound of spinning frames, but has been converted into a popular inn. Now known as the Little Mill Inn, it serves meals from the historic comfort of a railway coach that once ran as part of the Brighton Belle Pullman service into London. This is the only pub in the village, but there was once a second and you will pass the building on your drive into Rowarth. A colourful sign above the door announces that the building is The Children’s’ Inn, but don’t expect to enjoy a pint inside its attractive portals, it is now run by the Girl Guides Association as a bunk house.
To reach the start of the walk drive (regrettably there is no public transport beyond New Mills) through the centre of New Mills and bear right and then left along the Mellor Road, steadily uphill for about a mile. At the top of the hill by a four-way junction, take the second turning on the right, Shiloh Road (ignore the warning not to follow sat-nav advice as it only applies to heavy goods vehicles attempting to take a short cut to Glossop). After a mile, turn right along Hollinsmoor Road (the roads are named). After half a mile, turn left along the lane signposted to Rowarth only. The car park is on your right as you reach the village.
4¼ miles (7km) of easy to moderate walking. Muddy fields beyond the Little Mill Inn and also beyond Matleymoor Farm.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale, Outdoor Leisure Sheet 1, The Peak District, Dark Peak Area.
Public transport; nearest bus and train services to New Mills.
Refreshments: Little Mill Inn, Rowarth. Pack Horse Mellor Road, New Mills.
- From the car park in Rowarth, turn left and walk back down the access lane as far as a ‘T’ junction.
- Turn left and walk down the lane to the Little Mill Inn.
The inn was once a cotton mill producing candle wick thread in the days before gas or electricity. Above it stands a coach from the Brighton Belle Pullman Service. How such a large object was brought along the narrow access lanes to this isolated spot can only be imagined.
- Still following the lane, walk uphill for about 200yards, then at a finger post on the right go over a stile and cross three muddy fields frequented by over-friendly horses.
- Go through the yard at Thornsett Fields Farm.
- Do not use the farm access drive, but aim for a stile crossing a high stone wall, above and to the left of the furthest building. Follow the grassy path beside a low boundary wall and into woodland.
- Drop down to a narrow road and turn left, uphill (keep a careful lookout for traffic).
- Follow the surfaced road for about half a mile, steadily uphill, past Aspenshaw Hall and Feeding Hey Farm.
The attractive small eighteenth century Grade II Aspenshaw Hall was built by the Buckley family, local land and mill owners. Set amongst mature trees and rhododendrons, it is one of the Peak District’s hidden gems.
- At a track junction at the top of the rise, turn left at a walled track junction, and follow its rough surface for about a quarter of a mile.
- Go through a gate and begin to go downhill, bearing right on to an adjoining track.
- Follow this track, down then uphill for almost half a mile until it reaches a track and footpath junction.
- Go through a gate and turn left along the walled lane, following it past Bullshaw Farm on your left and continue as far as Matleymoor Farm on your right.
- At Matleymoor Farm, turn sharp left on to a boggy path, crossing a stile and then bearing left at a second stile on the far side of the field.
Cown Edge is high above and to your right. This is the focal point of a waymarked path from Hazel Grove near Stockport, to Gee Cross near Hyde. Over to your left the view takes in the moorland bordering Lyme Park, a National Trust property.
- Follow the steadily improving path along a broad ridge and then swing left and right, downhill to Higher Harthill Farm.
- Go right and downhill along the concreted farm access, past a second farm and continue as far as a ford.
- Either take the muddy path on the right avoiding the ford, or wade through it (it is not normally deep).
- Above the ford climb a wooden stile and follow the path above the stream and through woodland.
- The path enters Rowarth. Turn right and then left to follow the lane past the attractive stone cottages back to the car park.