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Mackworth and Markeaton: A Rural Idyll

Very different from the austere feeling Peak District, this slice of South Derbyshire belongs much more to the Midlands than the North.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 197ft (60m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Farm tracks and field paths. Can be muddy after rain, quite a few stiles

Landscape Pastoral

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 259 Derby

Start/finish SK 333379

Dog friendliness Dogs can run free in the park and along early stretches of riverside path

Parking Markeaton Park car park

Public toilets Markeaton Park

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1 Leave the car park at Markeaton Park and cross the road to follow a surfaced lane to Markeaton Stones Farm. When you're past the farm the track becomes a stony one, climbing gently up crop growing fields towards a stand of trees on the hilltop.

2 When you reach the stand of trees turn left at the T-junction and follow a crumbling tarmac lane alongside the trees until you get to the buildings of Upper Vicarwood Farm.

3 On reaching the farm buildings continue through a gate on the left-hand side of the stable block and follow a grassy hilltop track.

4 Through a gate the track reaches Lodge Lane. Turn left along the lane to the gardens of Meynell Langley, then left again into a field next to the drive. The path heads south east, following a hedge on the right. Through a small, wooded enclosure a lake appears in a hollow to the right. Beyond the next stile the route enters a large field and the hedge wanders off to the right.

5 Aim for a large lime tree at the far side of the field to locate the next stile. Cross the footbridge spanning Mackworth Brook. The path now goes parallel to a hedge on the right, aiming for a large barn on the hillside ahead.

6 On reaching a gateway the path divides. Take the one on the right, whose direction is highlighted by a waymarking arrow. Go through the next gate and follow the right field edge, passing to the left of the fine red-bricked Bowbridge Fields Farm. Now head south across fields following a hedge on the left.

7 After going over a stile in a tall hedge, turn left along the pavement of the busy A52 (take care), passing a garage and Little Chef. After 600yds (549m) go left along Jarveys Lane passing through Mackworth village.

8 Where the lane turns sharp right, leave it for a path passing in front of the church. Bonnie Prince Charlie waymarks show the well-defined route eastwards across fields to Markeaton.

9 On reaching the road you can either turn left back to the car park or go straight ahead through the Markeaton Park. For the latter go through the gateway, turn left over the twin-arched bridge spanning the lake, left by the children's playground, and left again past the boating lake.

Markeaton Park's a bustling place in summer, but as soon as you cross the road and take the lane up to Markeaton Stones Farm you leave that all behind to enter a new rural world. The farmhouse is pristine, made from that warm red local brick. The lawns, cottage gardens and stables show further that this place has been cared for.

It was summer when Nicola and I came here, and the track wended its way through fields of wheat that was swaying with the wind and crackling in the heat of the sun. The aura of the place brought Gray's Elegy to mind, though the ploughman didn't plod his weary way home, he chugged down the path in his shiny green tractor, just shipped in from Japan.

As you climb the hill towards a stand of trees you can look back and see Derby spread before you. Prominent in the view are the university with its rooftop masts and satellite dishes, and the Cathedral, which dwarfs everything around it. The beeches of Vicar Wood guide you past the farm of the same name to the other side of the hill, where you can see mile upon mile of rolling farmland. What you would like to see more of is Kedleston Hall, but some trees are in the way. Gates to the right say keep out. One double one doesn't, and you can go through it and look across the landscaped parklands of the estate, down to the hall and All Saints Church. Famous Scottish architect, Robert Adam, built the present hall for Nathanial Curzon in 1759.

A short stretch of road leads to the next cross-field section. Though the walking is a little rougher, it's still pleasantly pastoral. There's a lake in a shady hollow to the right and Bowbridge Fields Farm is a fine 19th-century, three-storey, red brick building. As you reach the busy A52 there's a brief return to the present day, and there's a Little Chef to remind you. Mackworth village is a surprise. It's only yards from the A52, but again, it's a world apart. A tidy row of 17th- and 18th-century cottages lines an undulating, slightly twisted lane. In the middle is a Gothic stone-built gatehouse, the remains of Mackworth Castle, which was built around 1495 for the de Mackworth family, and destroyed in the Civil War. At the end of the lane is the church of All Saints, a rather austere 14th-century building with a Perpendicular tower. The last mile of the route follows the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk across fields and back to the civilisation of Markeaton Park.

While you're there

You've seen Kedleston Hall through the trees, but it's worth seeing it properly, once you've taken off your boots. Designed by Robert Adam it's set in beautiful parklands with lakes, cascades and woodland. There's a marble hall; an Indian Museum with objects collected by Lord Curzon while he was Viceroy of India; and an exhibition of original Robert Adam drawings for the house and the grounds. The hall is open between April and October from noon to 4:30pm.

Where to eat and drink

The Little Chef on the outskirts of Mackworth might be popular with the children. Otherwise there's a choice of two places in Mackworth - the more upmarket Mackworth Hotel, which offers a fine selection of bar or restaurant meals, or the Mundy Arms Hotel.

What to look for

Have a look around Mackworth church. The exterior is quite plain and there have been tales that it had a defensive purpose. In contrast is the rather elaborate Victorian modification to the interior, including an elaborate, carved alabaster lectern and an alabaster slab commemorating Thomas Touchet.

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