On this journey I met so many animal friends, my Favourite has to be this sweet foal, so of course the Foal and all the other animals had to dominate my photos on this occasion, the whole area is filled with natural beauty which hopefully shines through with a touch a spring time.
Shining Cliff woods is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and full of natural diversity, birds range from warblers, bramblings and fly catchers along with my favourite the little robin and many many more woodland residents. In mediaeval days “Schymynde-cliffe” woods was one of seven royal parks in Duffield Frith and owned by the Earl of Lancaster.
The history and intrigue of the area is deep and wide including the Story of the Betty Kenny tree, supposedly the origin of the childhood lullaby “Rock-a-by-baby on the Tree Top.” Betty Kenney and her husband Luke lived in these woods and worked as charcoal burners in the 17th and 18th centuries in a portable hut under a large yew tree and brought up a family of eight children there, one child is buried under the yew tree in the woods. The Hurt family lived in a grand house in the woods, (which is now in a terrible state or dereliction,) Francis Hurt had a portrait of Betty and Luke Kenney commissioned by James Ward, a Royal Academy artist which was exhibited in London in 1882.
It was a dry but brisk winter’s day in Derbyshire, a little overcast but the rain held off for us as we headed out for a circular walk from the edge of Shining Cliff woods towards the Cromford canal and onto Alderwasley village. We picked up a few supplies of sandwiches and bottled water along the way and continued past the Hurt Arms pub which is only a short walk from the peaceful tow path of the Cromford Canal, a disused canal which features in one of my previous articles, High Peak Junction in the Derwent Valley, in fact if you were to continue following the canal from this point you will be able to incorporate both walks since we are heading in the direction of Whatstandwell train station and High Peak Junction.
I have walked this tow path many times over and cycled it too, but though it is familiar, it never fails to bring pleasure and enjoyment. This is a quiet part of the canal and we only saw a few dog walkers, mostly locals here and there, but with the tranquillity comes more chances of spotting a bit of nature. A very well managed route under foot and some lovely sights along the way of water birds, farm animals and flora and fauna.
Although our journey only took us part of the way along the Cromford canal it is a pleasure to revisit every time. After passing the Whatstandwell train station it’s just a short distance until we took a left at the bend, at which point we noticed a perfect spot to stop for lunch on a bench, so we broke out the supplies while the moorhens ate the pond weed on the canal. The next step of our circular took us onto the road and over a stone bridge next to a café and B&B called The Family Tree, which in years past used to be a pub. After the bridge is a stile and through a sheep field then left uphill along a little country road. As we stroll along uphill, on the left hand side the views over the stone walls into the valley are grand, the Derwent River winds its way through the trees and the little cottages in the distance are like dolls houses.
The views continue on this route and if you look carefully to the left you can see the Crich memorial tower dedicated to the Sherwood Forester’s Regiment. Only a short way up the hill we made friends with a sweet young foal who seemed eager to say hello over the wall as her mother looked on from the stables. I just have to stop and say hello to every creature on route!
Continuing uphill to Alderwasley village without veering off the road anywhere, eventually the road goes downhill at which point the route goes over a river next to the Alderwasley School which is a specialist school for disabled and special educational needs children of all ages. A very substantial building and quite grand, the school owns a lot of the local farm land around it since it also gives the pupils work experience and opportunities for life skills. After the river there is a pathway crossing the fields and as we crossed the field we passed by the local war memorial cross.
In sight at this point is Shining Cliff woods, but before we entered the woods there’s a lovely spot at a cluster of boulders in the sheep’s field with a perfect view and a peaceful place to open a flask or a bottle of water. With the sun peeping through the clouds we took advantage of this opportunity for a short stop to sit on the boulders and take a long drink of water.
Shining cliff woods were visible ahead of us, with the stile set into a dry stone wall. The path took us through the centre of the woodland with plenty of fresh streams for the dog to take a drink. This is the muckiest part of the walk and I was glad to have worn my sturdy walking boots! Max however was happy to make the most of this part of the walk and cover himself in as much muck as he could find, as per usual! The birds were singing loudly and the sun was trying to find its way through the tree canopy trickling onto the path here and there in streaks of light.
Walking downhill and it was easy going from here on through the woods, watching out for birds such as the friendly robins, and some spring flowers beginning to bloom. Such a calm place, mucky, but calm! Later as the path turns to the right there are plenty of sycamore trees where we had a lot of fun playing helicopters with the seeds, throwing them up and watching them helter skelter down again. I do adore woodlands, nature at its finest! The last leg of the journey and the track took us by a couple of warehouses, a few are still in use and a couple are boarded up. The path is soon close by some private houses along a dirt track, I say they’re lucky people living up there in all that tranquillity. From here on we were nearly back to our parking spot and walking downhill again.
The shining Cliff Woodland is a place of scientific Interest and is protected and I can completely understand the reasons why, it’s such a beautiful area with a diverse ecosystem. If you find the time there is a great little pond in the centre of the woods to ponder a while and relax where we’ve spent many a happy moment. Our Circular stroll was relaxing and a pleasure to complete, not exactly a hike but still a fun adventure taking in different terrain and finding lots of friends along the way, Horses, Sheep and birds to name but a few. All in all some gorgeous scenery and all that represents Derbyshire and the British Countryside.