Calver weir on the Derwent River is a picturesque and peaceful place to walk and relax. Originally an area bustling with industrial mills as I will talk about later.
Now the mill buildings set beside the river are converted into stylish accommodation for comfortable living. The riverside walk is a pleasurable experience with plaques set beside any interesting feature you might encounter such as information about the local nature to be discovered here and any conservation efforts in the area.
One such area is a breeding ground for Lampreys, a species that likes clean freshwater streams and certain conditions that suit it. I will elaborate more on the Lamprey species a little further in a section of its own since it is not as common as many other UK wildlife. They are an ancient eel-like fish.
This is truly a place of tranquillity and natural beauty with a few exceptions of synthetic structures adding to the interest such as the historic stone bridges that span the river here and add a magical look to the already stunning area.
The historic cotton mill in Calver opened in 1778 by John Gardom of Bakewell and John Pares of Leicester in place of a corn mill at leased from Thomas Eyre of Hassop, and by 1785 the mill had been developed and it stood at three-storeys.
But in the floods of 1799, however, the river Derwent washed away Calver Bridge and took away a part of the mill with it; shortly after that, the mill was burned to the ground.
After this a new mill was subsequently constructed and began production in 1804. It thrived, and within thirty years it employed around two hundred workers and in 1833 new, larger, water wheels were constructed to keep up with the demand.
By 1923, spinning at the mill had ceased, but during the Second World War the mill was used as a storage depot and as a plant for crushing and washing the fluorspar that is used in steelmaking. In 1947 the mill was bought by W & G Sissons to produce stainless steel holloware.
A piece of trivia: the cotton mill was used as a set during the production of the television series Colditz Castle.
Calver village had a corn mill, which was also called Calver Mill. It was constructed in the mid eighteen hundreds on the site of a smelting mill.
Lamprey in the UK
Lampreys were a Medieval delicacy and if you are a fan of the series, Game of Thrones, you may have seen them eaten in one of the scenes on the show.
Lamprey evolved almost two hundred million years before the dinosaurs, but industrial pollution drove them out of many of Britain’s rivers. They are now beginning to return to the upper reaches of rivers that were once known as their mainstay breeding areas.
Among the rivers the fish, described as “living fossils,” are reclaiming are the Ouse, Trent, and Derwent. Pollution and river blockages caused them to decline en mass.
The species thrive in clean rivers and need to be able to return up stream via free-flowing water to go back to their breeding grounds when they are mature enough to make the journey and spawn.
According to the environment agency, “For the last two hundred years, some rivers have not been capable of supporting lamprey species because of water quality, poor habitat, and manufactured barriers.
Barriers such as weirs which block the fish’s passage, have been removed by the Environment Agency in England and innovations have been introduced to help them get past other structures, such as at Buttercrambe Weir on the River Derwent in Yorkshire where special ‘lamprey tiles’ have been laid.
So, what are Lampreys? Lampreys are parasitic fish that latch on to larger animals to suck blood and scales. Sounds a little bit like an aquatic vampire. There are three species occurring in the UK: Brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri), River lamprey (Lamprey fluviatilis), Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)
The river lamprey is a small, eel-like fish with a toothed, suckered mouth. It uses this sucker to attach itself to other fish, rasping away at the flesh and feeding on bodily fluids.
It will also feed on carrion. Adult river lampreys live in the sea and return to freshwater to spawn. When they find a suitable breeding place, the male will attach itself to a female using his sucker and wrap his body around hers, ensuring that he fertilises the eggs as she lays them.
Females can lay up to 25,000 eggs with a succession of males attached to her. After spawning the adults will die; the young hatch but will spend several years buried in the silt at the bottom of the river. When they finally reach the adult stage, they will migrate out to sea.
Although they are making a return to some of the UK rivers where they once were in decline, they are now classified as endangered across Europe.
The river walks
The river walks are mostly flat without incline but can be uneven or muddy at times. The access is not pushchair or wheelchair friendly for the main part of the trail. This is due to the old narrow access points through stone walls and uneven ground in places.
This is of course a historic area and was never designed for modern day purposes. The public footpaths run both sides of the river and can be made into loops by crossing over the stone bridges on route. In the springtime, there are profuse amounts of daffodils and wild garlic in bloom all along the riverbanks transforming the views into such beauty.
On a calm day with clear skies, the river reflections are mesmerising and remarkable.
If you are starting out from The Bridge Inn, walk over the bridge to the left and you will see The Mill Gallery where you’ll follow the footpath to Stocking Farm Campsite, carrying on through a gate and across a farm field at which point you can see the rocky formations of Curbar and Froggat Edges in sight until you reach the riverside which is under cover of trees all along the route from there on.
This path shows the obvious previous use of mills, the stone sided water mill feed runs alongside the river here, remnants of the industrial past. The weir will soon come into sight but no access from this side.
Soon the stone bridge will be in sight where you can opt to shorten the route and cross here and see the weir from the opposite bank and walk along the river until reaching the start point again or cross the road to the next stile and continue along the river. Take care while crossing this road because it can get busy at times.
From this section there is a beautiful view of the stone Froggat bridge, looking very reflective on a fair-weather day.
Just after this point you will notice a sign for Calver Marshes Project; this area is important for great crested newts. Soon after is an information plaque about Lampreys, as I discussed earlier.
- “Continue alongside the river and making the most of this tranquil place, remember to practice some mindfulness and let your cares blow away, just be in the moment here. Take in the natural peacefulness and notice the tiny details of the flower petals or the reflections in the water. Notice the breeze on your face and the aromas of plants.”
Soon the outstanding, Froggat bridge will be in view. This is another place where the reflection is apparent in the river on a clear calm day. This is quite a romantic looking bridge; it looks as though it could be in a fairy tale.
Cross over the bridge here and use the wooden gate on the other side to return along the Derwent River on the opposite bank to eventually return to your start point.
You will find Calver weir along this side once you have crossed the road again where you will remember I gave you a reminder to use due caution while crossing.
The weir is a lovely spot for kids and adults alike to relax and take in nature. Always keep a keen eye on the kids while beside water though.
I enjoy taking the opportunity to play around with camera features here and the dogs love to have a paddle. My kids enjoy it here too, the youngest are both adults now and they use this opportunity to practice photography too. It can be good fun to practice silky water photography here, I am learning all the time. There is still lots for me to learn.
After a little break at the weir the path continues beside the river with lots of gorgeous views along the way and finally the main mill building comes into sight with short section walking beside the road until reaching The Bridge Inn at Calver.
One of the free parking locations can be found using this postcode S32 3XA there is free road-side parking spots available opposite The Bridge Inn if you arrive early enough.
The Inn makes a great spot to start or finish a walk, the food is great, and they cater for vegetarian or vegan and they are family friendly.