Hundreds step out to learn about heritage

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A new type of festival for the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands saw more than 600 people pulling on their walking boots to find out what makes the Derwent Valley such an important part of global history.

The Derwent Valley Mills saw the birth of the factory system – a key step in the Industrial Revolution. Last week a host of volunteers from across the 15-mile site took people on 60 walks to help them understand the story behind that achievement, see what has survived in the landscape from that time and enjoy some exercise at the same time.

Councillor Ellie Wilcox is the new Chair of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Board. She said: “This brand new initiative for the World Heritage Site has encouraged lots of people – not only locals but visitors from as far away as Cornwall, St Albans and even Australia – to find out more about Derbyshire’s place in world history, and get some exercise at the same time.

“The Walking Festival now joins the Discovery Days as an important part in the World Heritage Site calendar, as a healthy, informative and enjoyable option for everyone.”

Walks ranged from ten miles to 200 yards in length, and from energetic hikes to gradient-free ambles. The festival raised nearly £1,700 for the World Heritage Site and the local organisations which support it.

“We’ve already had lots of very positive feedback from participants,” said Councillor Wilcox. “That’s tribute to the knowledge and enthusiasm of our fantastic volunteers, who do a brilliant job, and were happy to step out and pass on that information in a different way for this event.”

Among the walks taken on by ramblers were Cliff Woods in Ambergate; a walk aroundBelper River Gardens, in memory of Sheila Amer, an active supporter and historian for the gardens for many years; a tour of the workers’ housing built by the Strutt family for their workersin Belper; the 1623 Theatre Company joined organisers for an entertaining stroll through Belper’s ancient deer park; a circular, full day’s walk, to explore the routes of the two mineral railways in Crich and Bullbridge; a stroll along the Chevin, looking at the recently recognised remains of the Roman Road;a walk to Rock House Cromford Rock House, where Richard Arkwright lived for many years; A circular walk looking at how the Strutts shaped Belper,including schools, chapels, swimming pools, gardens and houses; A walk from Cromford Mill visiting sites associated with Florence Nightingale and her family and a walk to discover the sourc e of Coppice Brook.