Melbourne is one of Derbyshire’s hidden gems, a small town steeped in history with a wide range of elegant period buildings. The Georgian town houses surrounding the Market Place are handsome enough, but many of the older properties are to be found along Church Street, which you visit at the end of the walk.
The original Melbourne Hall was built by the Bishops of Carlisle as their rectory, since during the 13th and 14th centuries they periodically fled south to Derbyshire to escape the attentions of the marauding Scots. It was given a Georgian make-over in the 1700s, and in 1828 the house and estate were inherited by Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s first prime minister, and after whom the Australian capital of Victoria is named. The Derbyshire Melbourne and its counterpart Down Under still enjoy a good relationship, and an Australian flag flies in the Parish Church next to the Hall. Indeed, the church is another of the town’s treasures, an imposing and unspoilt Norman building whose grandeur reflected the presence of the Bishops who used it as a substitute cathedral when they were staying in Melbourne. The town’s Norman castle was pulled down in the 1600s, but Melbourne Pool can still be visited behind the Hall. This large lake was probably first created in medieval times to provide a head of water for Melbourne Mill. Melbourne Hall is open daily in August and its gardens are open between April and September (Wednesdays and weekends only).
A Travel Agent’s Legacy
Thomas Cook was born in Melbourne in 1808 and grew up in the town. Although he left at the age of 20 and went on to establish the famous travel agency empire, he retained a soft spot for his home town, and in 1890, a couple of years before he died, funded the building of 14 cottages. Included in the complex was a bake house, wash house and mission hall, and it was administered (as it still is) by a local trust for the benefit of elderly residents who were originally charged a rent of a penny per week.
Growing the National Forest
This walk also takes in a number of sites that have been planted as part of the emerging National Forest. A 200-square-mile (518sq km) area stretching across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire has been planted with over 8 million trees, many in small woods and plantations like those you pass on this walk. New attractions, walks and nature habitats have been created, slowly transforming the landscape of this part of the Midlands.
From the covered monument in the Market Place walk up the High Street, past the Thomas Cook Memorial Cottages on the left. Just after the Melbourne Arms turn right, up Robinson’s Hill, and walk the pavement all the way to the end where there’s a junction on a bend.
Go straight over and leave the road on a track marked ‘Bridle Path to Milton’. Go past the recently planted Stafford’s Wood and St Brides Woodland, where the route veers left to pass St Brides Farm (over to your right). Cross the end of a driveway and continue ahead along the left edge of a field to reach the A514.
Go straight over and continue on the bridleway, past a trig point and plaque in the hedge on the right. Just beyond a barrier turn left for a sometimes muddy path along the edge of Robin Wood. Leave the wood at the southern corner for a waymarked path that goes straight on across an arable field, past a young wood, and over three grassy fields. The path turns left to cross the last one and beyond a gate reaches the main road opposite the entrance of Calke Abbey.
Go left, under the bridge of the former Ticknall Tramway, and walk along the pavement of the main road for about 500yds (457m). Cross over for the footpath on the right which follows a winding track past cottages and through an area of woodland and ponds (old gravel pits). On the far side of the woods follow the track around to the left, then branch right on a path along a field edge. Go into another field until you come to a path junction by a large ash tree.
Turn left for a path down across the field. Go over a footbridge and diagonally right up the hillside, across a lane, then maintain your direction through several fields to the right of Derby Hills House Farm. Continue past the young Broadstone Holt Wood and on across a field to reach the visitor centre at Staunton Harold Reservoir, with its prominent old tower.
Continue along the narrow, field edge path and at the road turn right. Go left at the Melbourne Arms and 100yds (91m) further on go right on a public footpath through two fields, then swing left between houses to reach Penn Lane. Turn right and follow this to the very far end, almost opposite The Blue Bell Inn. Turn right for Melbourne Hall and church; or turn left up Church Street to return to the Market Place.
Field paths and woodland tracks, pavements, 10 stiles
Fields and woods
On lead around livestock
OS Explorer 245 The National Forest
High Street/Derby Road car park, Melbourne
Melbourne High Street, Ticknall and Staunton Harold visitor centre
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.
The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.
The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.