Ever on the lookout for a new challenge to add a bit of spice to our walks, Helen and I set out in October to complete the first leg of the Midshires Way as it traverses Derbyshire.

The Midshires Way is a 230 mile long distance path, running from the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire to Stockport, passing through Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The Derbyshire section runs from Long Eaton to Buxton and then onto Stockport, and has been written up in three handy guides published by Derbyshire County Council. It was the first guide- the 17 ½ section from Long Eaton to Duffield- that we decided to tackle.

The walk actually starts from Sawley Bridge Marina, just outside Long Eaton, so we parked up in the Marina and set off along the River Trent, soon leaving it in favour of the Trent and Mersey canal. We know this area very well, having walked this route several times, most recently when we walked home from work.

Sawley Marina

The Midshires Way only follows the canal for a few miles before leaving it for the village of Great Wilne, turning off the road onto grassy tracks that soon became rather muddy. The route is way marked by a black and white M and a W forming two acorns but signage is rather hit and miss… we hit our first snag when our path was closed, but luckily a detour had been set up which was only slightly further.

We passed through Draycott, by the attractive Victoria Mills- built in the late 1880s as a lace factory but nowadays used for rather less prosaic electrical component manufacturing. After the suburbs of Draycott the Midshires Way rises along a country lane before snaking its way through fields. Crossing a cycle path, we stopped for lunch with views back to Victoria Mills.

Victoria Mills

Setting off again we hit another slight snag- a field of frisky looking horses… Helen was understandably nervous about taking Spud through so we walked down a track and climbed over a gate onto the road that the path would shortly join instead- and judging by the mud on the gate we weren’t the first!

Walking through fields

The next stretch towards Risley was very pleasant- open countryside, rolling hills and extensive views. The guide leaflet states that on a clear day five counties can be seen and we could spot the M1 snaking beneath the smoking towers of the power station.

Extensive views

After passing near to an old Abbey- the remains of a stone arch standing forlornly in a field- we walked through some woodland, sandy tracks enticingly disappearing in all directions. This would have been much more pleasant if it wasn’t for a sign warning of the possibility of dogs ingesting a poisonous substance so we kept a very close eye on Spud and kept going even though we were ready for a snack and a cuppa.

The old Abbey

We found a spot for a picnic on the tree-lined lane from Locko Grange Farm, just as it started to rain… we sat on the ground, periodically pelted by falling acorns, but true to form passed a tree trunk shortly after we finished that would have made a great bench… the route was a little ambiguous here and we spent some time wandering around fields before finding our way out onto the road at Stanley.

We were confused at Morley (although this is not difficult for us) as the Midshires Way signs appeared to go a different way to that indicated by our guide and the map- we followed the guide and later discovered it had obviously been re-routed to avoid a busy road.

This happened further one as well- unbeknown to us it had been re-routed to avoid a golf course so we had to watch our heads… it started to rain again as we entered very muddy woodland which saw us slithering and sliding. I was glad to leave the woods, slithering downhill to pass under the A38. We made friends with a horse who appreciated my offer of sharing some Kendal Mint Cake with him.

Information board near Risley

The rain had properly set in by now and it was starting to get dark as we marched along the Packhorse Trail- a rather muddy path through trees and across fields, any views we may have had dimmed by cloud. We were both wet, tired and cold, and I felt at a rather low ebb, which wasn’t helped by trying to help Helen unscrew her walking pole and unscrewing the wrong piece, which saw it break into two. We were more than ready to see the outskirts of Duffield, and crossed the final fields near the railway line as darkness properly fell.

Finding the railway station we realised we had around half an hour to wait for a train back to Long Eaton, so I made us a cuppa with the last of the hot water from our flasks whilst we tried to warm a shivering and miserable Spud. GPS Doris clocked the walk at 21 miles rather than 17 ½ and as we clambered onto the train we certainly felt more than a little worse for wear… at one point I looked at Helen in her walking boots, puffa jacket and buff and thought that if I was a stranger on the train and she came and sat next to me I’d think ‘Oh god, here we go…’

Cold Spud!

Alighting at Long Eaton we decided to walk along the pavement back to the Marina as it was only a mile or so and would warm us up… however fate had one little adventure left in store for us… the gates to the car park were firmly locked! There was a note attached to them advising of the car park closure times, but we wouldn’t have seen this when they were open. Luckily someone returned who had a boat there and a key to the gate, so they kindly waited until I retrieved the car.

A Chinese takeaway warmed us up nicely once back at Helen’s- we will attempt the rest of the Midshires Way though Derbyshire but will maybe take the mileage with a pinch of salt!

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