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Climbing up to Crich in Search of Cardale

On the old hunting grounds of Crich Chase through TV-land to the monument of Crich Stand.

Distance 7.4 miles (12km)

Minimum time 5hrs

Ascent/gradient 721ft (220m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Woodland and field paths and canal towpath, many stiles

Landscape Woods and pastured hills

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 349517

Dog friendliness Keep on leads across farmland, also by canal to protect the wildlife of nature reserve

Parking Ambergate, car park by station

Public toilets None on route

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1 Leave the car park at Ambergate Station and walk down the zig-zag lane before turning right along the busy A6. Turn right down Chase Lane, which cuts under the railway bridge to the Cromford Canal. Follow the towpath northwards to the next bridge.

2 Go over the bridge before following a footpath climbing into the woodland of Crich Chase. In the upper reaches of the wood the waymarked path swings left; follow it to pass through some small clearings. It then follows a wall on the right at the top edge of the wood. Turn right over a stile, then climb across two fields to reach Chadwick Nick Road.

3 Turn right along the road. After 300yds (274m) a path on the left begins with some steps and a stile, and continues the climb northwards across numerous fields with stiles and gates - and by the rock outcrops of the Tors.

4 The path becomes an enclosed ginnel, which emerges on Sandy Lane. Follow this to the Market Square, where you turn left, then right along Coasthill. Coasthill leads to an unsurfaced lane. Where the lane ends, follow a path in the same direction across fields to join another lane by some houses. Follow this to Carr Lane, then turn right passing the entrance to the National Tramway Museum.

5 Continue along the road to a sharp right-hand bend, then turn left along the approach road to Crich Stand, topped by the Sherwood Foresters Monument. There's a small fee if you want to go up to the viewing platform on the monument, but otherwise continue along the public right of way on the right. The footpath, signed to Wakebridge and Plaistow, veers half right through shrubs and bramble, before circumnavigating Cliff Quarry.

6 The path then crosses the museum's tram track near its terminus, before winding down the hillside through scrub woodland. It joins a wide track descending past Wakebridge and Cliff farms before coming to a road.

7 Turn right along the road for a few paces, then turn left on a footpath signposted 'To the Cromford Canal'. This descends south across fields before swinging right to enter a wood. A well-defined path passes beneath quarried rockfaces, and crosses a minor road before reaching the canal at Whatstandwell.

8 Turn left and follow a most delightful towpath for 2 miles (3.2km) through the shade of tree boughs. At Chase Bridge you meet the outward route and retrace your steps back to the car park.

The first five minutes of the walk are as uneventful as the rest is fascinating, and include such delights as a modern railway station, a road with heavy traffic and a Little Chef. But as soon as you've turned the corner and crossed Chase Bridge you're in a different world. An ivy clad wall blocks sight and sound of the road, the railway and the canal, tangled with irises and pondweed ambles by slowly through the trees. Watch out for the bright yellow and black spotted longhorn beetle feeding on the meadowsweet and the holly blue butterflies, which I saw fluttering around the bridge in springtime.

On this journey you save the greater part of the canal walking to the end, in order to climb through the woodland of Crich Chase, once part of a hunting forest owned by the 13th-century Norman baron, Hubert FitzRalph. After climbing high fields and along a gritstone edge, known as the Tors, you come upon Crich (pronounced so the i ryhmes with eye). If you get that deja-vu feeling it's because Crich is Peak Practice's Cardale. Past the market cross and across more fields you come to the National Tramway Museum, which is well worth a visit. For your money you get an all-day ticket to ride.

But you can't stay all day: there is a walk to be done! It continues to its high point on Crich Stand, a limestone crag isolated by an area of gritstone. Capping the Stand is a 60ft (19m) beacon tower, rebuilt in 1921 to commemorate the Sherwood Foresters killed in the two World Wars. On a clear day you can pick out Lincoln and its cathedral. Often you'll see kestrels hovering around the cliff edge, searching for their prey.

The path descends through more woodland, beneath the shady gritstone cliffs of the old Dukes Quarry and down to the canal at Whatstandwell. The canal here has been allowed to silt up, and has become a haven for wildlife. It's well known for its many varieties of hoverfly, its azure damselflies and brown chinamark moths.

Yellow irises and flowering rush, which has pink flowers, can be seen on the water's edge, while broad-leaved pondweed clogs the middle of the canal. That doesn't seem to impede the moorhens or mallards though. By the time you get back to Ambergate you will have seen a wealth of wildlife, but you can rest assured that much more wildlife will have seen you. There was that kingfisher that scuttled across the water while you were looking at the map, and then there was?

While you're there

Take time to see the National Tramway Museum at Crich, where you can travel all day on vintage trams from all over the world. There's a period townscape, including the Georgian façade of Derby's old Market Place, which was relocated in 1972, after the Derby building was damaged by fire. There's also an all-day picture show. Staff are trained to help the disabled, and those with hearing or visual difficulties. Dogs are welcome. It's open April to October 10am to 5:30pm.

Where to eat and drink

The children may look no further than the ever-popular Little Chef at Ambergate, but for those with more sophisticated tastes, try the Black Swan by the Market Place in Crich.

What to look for

The Gables, the Peak Practice surgery, lies in Crich as do many of the places used in the popular TV show. St Mary's Church was consecrated in 1135. It has a Perpendicular spired west tower with a Norman north arcade and a 14th-century chancel. Inside there is a circular Norman font, which is unusually large, and many tombs, including the one of Sir William de Wakebridge, whose family were wiped out by the Plague.

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