COLUMN: Preparations for second walking festival begin

editorial image

By Adrian Farmer

Derwent Valley Mills Heritage Co-ordinator

At last, it’s Easter and longer days and better weather are hopefully encouraging people to get out more and enjoy the beautiful and fascinating valley we live in. To help you do that, pick up a booklet about next month’s World Heritage Site Discovery Walks Festival – there are copies in libraries, Strutt’s North Mill and community and commercial buildings along the valley. This is the second year for the festival, which this year runs from Saturday, May 17 to Bank Holiday Monday, May 26. Thanks to the support of our wonderful volunteers, there are more walks this time, giving even more choice for length, terrain and topics.Walks can be up to ten miles long, mixing a healthy ramble with the rich heritage of the valley. If you feel you can only manage something short, there are 100-yard ambles around Belper Market Place, or to stay on the flat, there’s a history of the River Gardens to be discovered on May 22, and a look at the mill water courses on May 20 and 26. We’ve even included a talk on Belper Celebrations at the Strutts Centre on Derby Road, half way through the week, for those who would prefer to do their discovering without a walk. Highlights, for me, include the Belperamble on the opening day – a collaboration with Belper Arts Festival to bring theatre, music and performance to a walk around the town. The following Saturday we’ll be ‘Walking with Shakespeare’ through Belper’s ancient deer park – accompanied by the always-imaginative 1623 Theatre Company.Other Belper walks include a chance to explore the town’s historic network of footpaths and channels, a visit to the ice house which survived the demolition of Bridge Hill House in the 1930s, a stroll along ancient roads on the top of the Chevin, and a new walk looking at the Dalley Lane area. Themes this year also include railways and tramways, Belper in wartime, the legacy of the Strutt family who built the mills and workers’ housing, and the town’s poetry trail. Of course, there’s not just Belper to discover during the week – we’ve walks to the south in Milford, Darley Abbey and Derby, as well as north in Ambergate, Whatstandwell, Wirksworth and Cromford.

Most walks have a small charge which will go back into supporting the work of the World Heritage Site and the organisations which make it such a great place to explore. So much to discover, so much to try. It’s going to be a great week – don’t miss out!