Linacre's Wood and Reservoir

Ancient tracks, pleasant reservoirs and a clock with extra minutes to the hour!




5.5 miles (8.9kms)

785ft (239m)

About the walk

It’s easy to forget, as you look across Linacre and the valley of Holme Brook today, that Chesterfield is only a few miles away. This tranquil combe is sheltered from the west winds by the high Pennine heather moors. Three reservoirs are surrounded by attractive woodland. Linacre means arable land where flax is grown and, as early as the 13th century, linen from that flax was manufactured in the valley. But until the mid-19th century this was no more than an agricultural backwater of northeast Derbyshire.

Good supply

It was the growth of Chesterfield and the Derbyshire coalfields, and the need for water, that brought the valley to notice. Here was a good supply, well fed by those moors to the east. The reservoirs were built one by one between 1855 and 1904 in an attempt to supply these ever-growing requirements. Until 1909, when they built the filter beds, water was pumped direct from the reservoirs to consumers’ homes. According to the information sign at Linacre Reservoir the ‘water supply was such that the poor used it as soup, the middle class for washing their clothes and the elite for watering their gardens’.

If you’ve parked in the middle car park, you’re standing above the ruins of two great buildings. Not much is known about the older Linacre Hall other than its mention in old charters, but the three-storey mansion of Linacre House was once home to Dr Thomas Linacre (1460–1524), who was president of the Royal College of Surgeons and physician to both Henry VIII and the young Mary, Queen of Scots.

Some steps take you down to the dam of the middle reservoir, and through peaceful Linacre Wood. Although many conifers have been planted for the protection of the reservoirs, about two-thirds of the trees are broadleaved, mainly sycamore, beech, oak and ash. The remaining third are larch, pine and spruce. Hidden in the woods you may discover the remains of some old Q-holes. These were crudely dug pits of about 5ft (1.5m) diameter where timber was once burnt for use in the smelting of lead ore. This was a widespread practice in the 17th century.

Beyond the reservoirs the route climbs out through a wooded clough, passing the hillside hamlet of Wigley before descending into the next valley by the ancient track of Bagthorpe Lane. Frith Hall near the valley bottom has a large medieval cruck-framed barn. The route climbs back out of the valley to Old Brampton. This straggling village is dominated by the broad-spired tower of the 14th-century parish church of St Peter and St Paul. The oak doors came from the chapel of Derwent Hall before it was submerged beneath Ladybower Reservoir. Take a look at the clock. Can you notice the mistake? It has 63 minutes painted on its face. That gives you a bit more time to stroll down a walled lane to get back to Linacre Wood.

Walk directions

From the information board in the lower car park, take a path that descends into the woods. At the bottom, go right on a broad bridleway. Approaching the dam of the middle reservoir, keep right to pass a small picnic area and wind on above the lake.

Several paths converge near the top dam; continue slightly right then ahead on a broad track through the trees above the shore. At a side stream cross the lower of the two bridges and carry on to the head of the reservoir.

Ignore the bridge over Birley Brook and instead follow the stream up the narrowing valley. Towards the edge of woodland, take the upper of two gates (the one marked as a public footpath) into scrubby woodland below a field. Descend through scrub on to a small grassy meadow. Stepping stones take the path over a side stream into another broad grassy swathe footing a slope.

Disregard a footbridge on the left but soon after take another bridge across the brook, then climb a stile and cross a slab bridge in quick succession. The path fords another stream then winds it way up through the trees. Leaving the trees, walk past a barn behind Wigley Hall Farm and keep going to join a lane. Follow this out to the main road.

Cross the road and go left towards Old Brampton. Just beyond The Royal Oak turn right down an initially metalled bridleway, Bagthorpe Lane, following it past a farm (Bagthorpe). Swing right before the gates of a large farm and stables (The Birches). Continue down into the valley of the River Hipper, passing through a farmyard either side of the river and climbing to a country lane.

Turn left along the lane, passing ‘the church with extra minutes on its clock’. At the far end of the village, turn right by Hill Crest on to a bridleway track. Fork right and diagonally across an arable field as the track bends right and into trees.

Re-enter woodland through a wall gap. At a junction of paths turn left through the gate before descending to the dam. Beyond, walk up a stepped path. Fork right opposite a gate to reach the main park drive by the Ranger’s Office. Go left, on the main tarmac driveway back to the car park.

Additional information

Generally good paths and tracks, field and woodland paths can be muddy at times of high rainfall, a couple of sections of pavement

Wooded valley and pastured hillsides

Keep dogs on lead in Linacre and farmland; under close control everywhere else

OS Explorer OL24 Peak District – White Peak Area

Linacre Wood car park, reached from B6050 west of Cutthorpe

Southeast of car park by Ranger's Office

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About the area

Discover Derbyshire

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.

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