Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Exploring Wirksworth

Our regular route out into the Derbyhsire countryside takes us along the B5023 and through the small market town of Wirksworth. Even on a busy day it only takes a couple of minutes to pass through the town, but I've often been intrigued by the glimpse of small side streets and interesting-looking shops so this weekend we went back for a proper look around.

We started off just wandering casually down backstreets but stumbled across Wirksworth Heritage Museum in its temporary home on Coldwell Street (while renovations are completed to its permanent housing) and picked up a leaflet highlighting the architectural highlights of the town.

St Mary's Church

Old Grammar School

With its map to guide us, we headed round St Mary's Church, past the old Grammar School and almshouses, then headed out of town past the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, and for a short walk over fields with views to Black Rocks, before looping back and actually seeing one of the trains at a crossing.

When writing Adam Bede, George Eliot used Wirksworth as a model for the town of Snowfield, and she didn't give it a very pleasing description, calling it dreary, bleak and stony. Maybe in the days when quarrying was taking place right on the edge of town it was, but these days it's a quaint place with a higgledy piggledy roofline, a mix-up of buildings from various dates, and plenty to interest the casual visitor or the social historian.

Part of the reason for picking this particular Saturday was to take in the monthly farmers' market and maybe pick up lunch there, but our unexpected detour into the countryside had taken too long, and stall holders were packing up by the time we reached it. It was now past 2 o'clock, a time when cafes sometimes stop serving 'lunch' but fortunately Chaplins restaurant had bacon and brie sandwiches, and the all-important pot of tea, to keep us going.
The Red Lion Hotel

Not that far from home!

Symonds House

The narrow turn into Greenhill
We were by now starting to run out of time - with both our dog left sitting lonely at home, and the fact that we had family plans for later that afternoon - so after a quick look at the buildings around the Market Place decided to pick one more street to explore - Greenhill, and yes, it was the steepest! As we've whizzed through on our way elsewhere, I've often noticed the really tight corner leading to it, and wanted to find out more. Apparently the guy who owned Symonds House on the corner decided he wanted an extension - and just built out into the road!
So up Greenhill we went ... 


and up ...


not to the top, that would have brought us to Stony Wood, a former quarry now turned into a mix of green wildlife haven and open air art installation, but to a point where we had a wonderful view back down over the town.

The footpath we followed back down took us via another Wirksworth feature which has always piqued my curiosity - a footbridge over the main road. Now at last I know where it leads to - a secret walled nursery selling plants and damsons, and yet another narrow picturesque street, Chapel Lane.

Chapel Lane

I definitely didn't get to see all I wanted to - we missed the farmers' market, I didn't get to browse around the shops or visit the galleries - so it's somewhere I'll be re-visiting before long. Definitely another addition to my list of fascinating local places.

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