The Derwent Valley in Derbyshire is a quiet, peaceful place where you will find the site of a historic castle in Duffield, some nice little pubs, and restaurants in the villages, plenty of iconic English stone walled farm fields and winding their way through the countryside, the beautiful Ecclesbourne and Derwent Rivers.
We started our walk from Duffield train station and took a scenic circuit around to Milford village by road and then alongside the weir after which the route along little country lanes has picturesque views over the valley, finally walking back over a bridge across the river on our way back into Duffield again.
The village of Duffield has two railway stations, one is the main line linking up to all main destinations and the other is the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.
The two stations are back-to-back with each other. They share the station with main line rail services on the Midland Mainline between Sheffield and London St Pancras International, with local services between Newark Castle, Nottingham, Derby, and Matlock calling at Platforms 1 and 2. The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway trains going to Wirksworth, use Platform 3.
The site of the historic castle is owned and taken care of by the National Trust, it is just an outline of where the castle once stood with just a few pieces of history remaining here.
The NT sign beside the main steps says it all, bring along your imagination to bring the castle to life.
William The Conqueror granted the estate of Duffield Frith to Henry De Ferrers in 1071 and a stone keep was constructed on this strategic and elevated position.
The walls were 5ft thick and almost 100ft square, being one of England’s largest castle keeps. In 1173 William De Ferrers joined a rebellion against King Henry ll.
Subsequently the King won, and he had the keep destroyed in punishment for William’s involvement in the rebellion.
The Ferrers fortunes ended finally through the rebellious Robert, who lost a rebellion against King Henry lll in 1266 at which point the king destroyed one of England’s largest medieval castles.
Today, all that remains of Duffield Castle are the foundations, but the view and its stories make this place a special place to visit, nonetheless.
It is peaceful and thought provoking. It is only a small 1-hectare site and has houses and roads surrounding it, there are no toilet facilities or parking available at the castle.
This is a remnant of England’s rich historic past that needs looking after, and the heritage should be remembered. The site is now a scheduled monument.
The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
The full line between Duffield and Wirksworth has been open and thriving since April 2011 and focus has now turned to developing services and facilities to support the operation after much work and graft to establish this wonderful rail line.
Tickets range in price from a single ticket, a day rover where you can hop on and off as often as you like so that you can explore the local areas, or you can buy special event tickets.
There is even a theatrical experience of a Faulty Towers tribute act to be experienced, or a Murder Mystery. I remember taking my kids on the Santa Special from Wirksworth many moons ago, a lovely family experience.
There is a special footplate experience that would be great for a train enthusiast.
The station at Wirksworth has a bar, The Apollo Bar, and a there is a museum here too. There are dining experiences on offer too. So, there is something for everyone to enjoy. (Dogs are not allowed in the dining areas.)
Single tickets: Adults – £11.00; Concessions – £10.00; Children – £9.00; Family (two adults and up to three children) – £24.00
Dogs go free!
Day rover tickets: Adults – £20.00; Concessions – £18.00; Children – £10.00; Family (two adults and up to three free children) – £40.00
For more information or to book a special ticket, go to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway website.
Postcode for arriving at the Eccelsbourne Valley Railway station is DE56 4EQ please note that this is a small car park and is not suitable for larger vans and campers.
The next part of our circular walk took us along the main road and over the railway bridge towards Milford. The countryside views continued to please as we spotted pheasants, sheep, and fields of bright yellow rapeseed crops.
Milford was once a small hamlet in a part of a large deer forest that spread from Duffield to Wirksworth, up until Jedediah Strutt set up a water powered cotton mill there and built housing for his workforce.
There is some remaining housing that strutt had built for his workers in Hopping Hill, but a lot of the mill building was demolished between 1952 and 1964, including the cruciform warehouse of 1793, the second of Strutt’s fireproof buildings with brick arch floors, timber beams and iron pillars.
The bridge, with two segmental arches was built around about 1790 but widened in 1906 and is still carrying heavy traffic. The area is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
There is a chance to get refreshments here with pubs and restaurants directly on route.
The views of the river Derwent and weir are beautiful and relaxing here. We paused for a while just to take in the tranquillity and views.
You can see why Jedediah harnessed the natural power of the river here at Milford when you see the river rushing over the weir.
On walking back around the country lanes, we can see across the valley towards Duffield where we began our walk and where we were to return to the train station to take the ride home again.
The views were idyllic and being springtime when we took this walk, there were sweet little new-born lambs in the fields with their mothers.
The lanes are easy to follow back around and over another bridge and back into the village where we started, on Town Street.
There are enough shops here to pick up a packed lunch or a cream cake at Birds bakery or there is an option of choosing a pub or restaurant for your day trip meal.
We brought our own packed lunch and flask of coffee with us, and we stopped at the little nature reserve, called Duffield Millennium Meadow, it is located next to the Eyes Meadow Park and cricket pavilion, it is a 48-acre sports and recreational site.
There is also a commemorative beacon on the park where we walked Bandit beside the river Derwent after our picnic. Located on the site are six football pitches, two cricket pitches and the award-winning Millennium Meadow nature reserve.
All just around the corner from the railway station.
A little bit of history. Duffield is in the Derwent Valley and is at the confluence of the Derwent and Ecclesbourne Rivers, Duffield and the surrounding areas have attracted settlers for a long time.
The old Duffield village was founded on the ridge of higher ground between the two rivers. Iron Age Celtic settlements dating from around 400BC are suggested by some physical evidence and local place names.
‘Chevin,’ meaning ’High bare ridge’ dominating the north of the village, stems from the Celtic language as does the name ‘Derwent,’ meaning ‘River abounding with oak trees.’
After the Roman invasion, in AD43 the Romans established a military presence and are known to have mined lead in the hills to the north-west of the village.
The Roman Road that was constructed to transport the ore can still be seen crossing the Chevin on its way to join the famous Roman thoroughfare of Ryknield Street near Breadsall.
However, the first written record is in the Domesday survey of 1085, commissioned by William the Conqueror to catalogue his new realm. Duffield (under the name ‘Duvelle’) is mentioned as having been confiscated from the Danish Earl Siward who was probably the same man who fought the Normans alongside Hereward the Wake.
It had become an estate of the de Ferrers family and would have housed a priest, a church and two mills. There were then estimated to be around 250 people living in the village, this was quite a substantial number compared with about 1,000 in the town of Derby.
This is a beautiful area that has more history than you might at first realise, we had driven though the villages on the A6 road many times before over the years and passed by the train station on lots of train journeys but had never before stopped to explore the area or discover more about its history.
We had a lovely day exploring and a relaxed train ride home again. The circular walk we took is by road only and so Bandit, our dog had to stay on the lead for the most part of the walk.
I am glad we took the decision to discover more about Duffield and surrounding area, it was a real pleasure.
Car Parking in Duffield
There is a free car park at Eyes Meadow and the post code is DE56 4GE