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Linacre's Peaceful Retreat from Chesterfield

Three reservoirs nestle in a gentle valley between the Chatsworth moors and Chesterfield.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 820ft (250m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Generally good paths and farm lanes. Field paths can be muddy at times of high rainfall

Landscape Wooded valley and pastured hillsides

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 336727

Dog friendliness Farmland: dogs should be kept under close control

Parking Linacre Woods car park

Public toilets At car park

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1 From the bottom of the lowest car park go down the steps into the woods. After about 100yds (91m) turn right along a waymarked bridleway heading westwards, high above the lower reservoir. Ignore the path going off to the left, which goes to the dam of the middle reservoir, but continue on the wide bridleway along the north shore of the middle reservoir.

2 Take the right fork on a footpath raking up to the top end of the woods, high above the upper reservoir's dam. The path continues westwards, dipping to one of the reservoir's inlets. Cross the bridge and follow a well-defined concessionary footpath along
the shoreline.

3 On reaching the end of the reservoir ignore the left turn over the Birley Brook footbridge, but head west on the waymarked footpath. This soon leaves the woods via a ladder stile to enter, first scrub woodland, then fields with woods to the left of a wall and gorse bushes to the right.

4 Cross the stone slab across the brook (grid ref 317727), then the stile beyond it. A muddy path now climbs through more woods before emerging in fields north of Wigley Hall Farm. It passes to the right of the farm to a tarmac lane in the small hamlet of Wigley. Follow the lane to crossroads.

5 Turn left towards Old Brampton. Just beyond the Royal Oak pub turn right down a tarmac bridleway, Bagthorpe Lane, following it past Bagthorpe Farm. The lane, now unsurfaced, descends into the valley of the River Hipper, passing through the farmyard of Frith Hall, down to the river bridge. A winding surfaced track climbs to Westwick Lane, where you should turn left.

6 Just before Broomhall Farm, descend left on another track down to the river, then up the other side of the valley into Old Brampton.

7 Turn left along the lane, passing the George and Dragon public house and the church, before turning right by a telephone kiosk. The cart track descends to the top edge of Linacre Wood, then swings to the right.

8 At a junction of paths turn left through the gate before descending to the dam. At the far side of the dam turn left on the metalled lane, passing the public conveniences and ranger's office and climb back to the car park.

It's easy to forget, as you look across Linacre and the valley of Holme Brook today, that Chesterfield is only a few miles away. This tranquil combe is sheltered from the west winds by the high Pennine heather moors. Three reservoirs are surrounded by attractive woodland. Linacre means arable land where flax is grown and, as early as the 13th century, linen from that flax was manufactured in the valley. But until the mid-19th century this was no more than an agricultural backwater of north east Derbyshire.

It was the growth of Chesterfield and the Derbyshire coalfields, and the need for water, that brought the valley to notice. Here was a good supply, well fed by those moors to the east. The reservoirs were built one by one between 1855 and 1904 in an attempt to supply these ever-growing requirements. Until 1909, when they built the filter beds, water was pumped direct from the reservoirs to consumers' homes. 'The appearance of the water supply was such that the poor used it as soup, the middle class for washing their clothes and the elite for watering their gardens.'

If you've parked on the middle car park, you're standing above the ruins of two great buildings. Not much is known about the older Linacre Hall other than its mention in old charters, but the three-storey mansion of Linacre House was once home to Dr Thomas Linacre (1460-1524), who was president of the Royal College of Surgeons and physician to both Henry VIII and the young Mary Queen of Scots.

Some steps take you down to the dam of the middle reservoir, and through Linacre Wood. Although many conifers have been planted for the protection of the reservoirs, about two thirds of the trees are broad-leaved, mainly sycamore, beech, oak and ash. The remaining third are larch, pine and spruce. Hidden in the woods you may discover the remains of some old Q-holes. These were crudely dug pits of about 5ft (1.5m) diameter where timber was once burnt for use in the smelting of lead ore. This was a widespread practice in the 17th century.

Beyond the reservoirs the route climbs out through a wooded clough passing the hillside hamlet of Wigley before descending into the next valley by the ancient track of Bagthorpe Lane. Frith Hall near the valley bottom has a large medieval cruck-framed barn.

The route climbs back out of the valley to Old Brampton. This straggling village is dominated by the broad-spired tower of the 14th-century parish Church of St Peter and St Paul. The oak doors came from the chapel of Derwent Hall before it was submerged beneath Ladybower Reservoir. Take a look at the clock. Can you notice the mistake? It has 63 minutes painted on its face. That gives you a bit more time to stroll down a walled lane to get back to Linacre Wood.

While you're there

Chesterfield is well worth a visit. It's an historic town dating back to Roman times. The parish church has a curious crooked spire. One of the more credible theories for the leaning is that the Black Death killed off many of the craftsmen of the time, and those left used unseasoned timber that buckled with the weight of the leading.

What to look for

In spring the woodland floor is covered with bluebells and wild garlic. On the water you'll probably see moorhens and mallards and maybe some of the migrating wildfowl that frequently visit.

Where to eat and drink

Pubmaster's Royal Oak Inn at Riddings would make an ideal halfway lunch or refreshment stop before the descent of Bagthorpe Lane.

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