First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Peerless, unbroken blue sky and a brisk northeast wind over the Trent Valley. A black bull in a field at Ingleby roared without hope of recompense at the cows lined up along the hedge across the road.
The fields along the flood shelf above the river shimmered with well-grown grasses, among which a holly blue butterfly went skittering. Gold of buttercups and fox-red of wild rocket enhanced the sunlit green of the meadows. A narrow path high over the Trent led down to the shore of a backwater and an extraordinary nest of caves known as the Anchor Church.
The river burrowed out these hollows in its pebbly cliffs, then changed course to leave them high and dry. Floored and roofed with solid sandstone, supported by natural pillars of rock, they made a safe retreat for Eardwulf, deposed King of Northumbria, when he sought refuge here early in the 9th century AD as an anchorite or hermit.
The path ran through buttercup fields and on to Foremarke Hall with its Palladian frontage and pepperpot domes. The house is a school these days. We passed through the grounds, a dusty track leading us on among the pink rhododendron blooms of Heath Wood. Here invading Vikings buried dozens of their comrades slain in battle – the only known Viking cremation site in Britain.
At Seven Spouts Farm beyond, water trickled and fish rose in a reedy pond, making concentric rings on the surface as they gobbled the afternoon hatch of midges. Woodland tracks beyond snaked among the pines, oaks and hazels of Robin Wood.
In the early 19th century Sir Francis Burdett of Foremarke Hall was a Member of Parliament and a noted champion of votes for every man, at a time when such a stance was thought close to treason. It earned him a fine of £40,000, obliging him to fell the fine old oaks of Robin Wood and sell them off for timber. He’d be pleased to see his wood as we saw it this evening, once again a living network of tall trees and flowery undergrowth where a greater whitethroat enchanted us with its mellifluous dribbles of song.
How hard is it? 6 miles; easy; field and woodland paths.
Start: John Thompson Inn, Ingleby, Derby DE73 7HW (OS ref SK 354269)
Getting there: Ingleby is signed from A514 (Derby-Swadlincote)
Walk (OS Explorer 245): Right along road (take care!). In ½ mile round left bend; right (347270, ‘Anchor Church’). In 100m right (stile; yellow arrow/YA; ‘Trent Valley Way’/TVW). Narrow path (take care!) above river passes Anchor Church caves (339272); ahead to cross road (331269; ‘Repton Prep’). On down drive; in 350m left (331266, yellow topped post/YTP, ‘Repton Prep’). Opposite Foremarke Hall, ahead (333266, ‘Kitchen Yard’); follow drive, then track through Heath Wood to cross road (346257). At Seven Spouts Farm, left (348255, YTP, blue arrow/BA); in 300m, right (350257, YTP) across top of pond. In 150m through gate; ahead. In ⅓ mile through gate (351254, BA); left, keeping fence on left; in 250m left (354253, gate, BA); cross field and on into Robin Wood (356253). In ¼ mile at T-junction, right (360252); in 100m, before striped barrier, left (361251) on path at edge of wood. In ⅓ mile at post with YA, right (364254) across footbridge; turn left along outside of woods for ⅔ mile to lane (364263). Left past house and on; in ½ mile, right along road (356264); in 200m, left (356265, TVW) to road (352268); right to inn.
Lunch/Accommodation: John Thompson Inn (01332-862469, johnthompsoninn.com)