Ticknall and Calke Abbey

Around the parkland of the "unstately" home


Calke Abbey


4.1 miles (6.7kms)

295ft (90m)

About the walk

Calke is not an abbey at all. The Augustinian order of monks did build one here in 1133 and dedicated it to St Giles, but since 1622 it has been the family home of the Harpurs and Harpur-Crewes. In 1703 Sir John Harpur had the present Baroque mansion built on the site of the abbey, keeping some of the old 6ft (1.8m) walls. This was a high-society family, but things started to go wrong in the 1790s when Sir Henry Harpur took a lady's maid as his bride. Society shunned the couple and they, in turn, shunned society, the beginning of a tale of eccentricity and reclusiveness that would span two centuries.

Calke was a grand house with many rooms, and here was a family with money. When they tired of one room, they would just leave it the way it stood and move to another. For instance, when Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe took a bride in 1876, he locked up his bachelor room, along with the heads of stuffed deer he had shot as a youth. When the National Trust bought the house in 1985 they found a dust-laden, neglected, but intriguing place, filled with treasures of centuries gone by.


Ticknall is an interesting village. Passing through it you see some pleasing timber-framed red-brick cottages. Near the abbey entrance driveway, you are confronted with a horseshoe-shaped bridge, arching over the road. Built in 1800, in a style typically used on canals, it was part of an old tramway system, which included a tunnel under the main drive to the abbey. Limestone from Ticknall's brickworks used to be carried by horse-drawn trams to the canal at Willesley. On the return journey the load would have been coal. The scheme was abandoned in 1915, now just the bridge remains.

The tree-lined drive sets the scene. There's fallow deer in the woods, as well as barn and tawny owls. Betty's Pond is the first of the several lakes passed on the route. The house, being in a dip, hides until the last moment. Its magnificent three-storey south front includes a four-column Ionic portico. If it's open, it is well worth a visit to see, among others, the Gold Drawing Room and the 18th-century Chinese silk state bed. A grand return The route heads north to Mere Pond, which is full of lilies and surrounded by attractive mature woods. It reaches its highest point on the fields of White Lees. Here you get glimpses of Staunton Harold Reservoir before you return to Ticknall.

Walk directions

Turn right out of the car park and down to the main road opposite The Wheel Inn. Cross the road then turn right to enter the magnificent Calke Abbey Estate. Go up a tarmac avenue lined with mature lime trees, then at the Middle Lodge Gates, you may have to pay an entrance charge. (There's an additional fee if you want to go inside the abbey itself, payable at the house). Continue southeast along the road, pass Betty's Pond on your left.

Eventually the road turns sharply left at a crossing of paths; leave it here, continuing along a grassy track to the south end of the park.

Fork left by a white gate, doubling back towards the abbey which appears in a dip ahead. After viewing the fine house, turn left at the railings. Cross over a junction and go through a pedestrian gate onto a gravel track beside the red-brick stableyards and offices. Cross over the main car park, taking a path on the far side. Fork sharp right onto a narrower path right and down some steps to the Mere Pond - a narrow strip of water surrounded by trees.

Turn right along a water's-edge path. At the far end of this mere, cross a bridge to the left then climb between a deer fence and woodland on the National Forest Way.

At the top edge of the woods, leave the National Forest Way and deer fence which forks right on a track through a gate. Instead turn left along a track past an information panel then next right through a gate into fields. Head left along the wall and over a stile. Now cross diagonally right over two fields, separated by a track and passing close to White Leys Farm. Bend right at the field end, continuing along its new left edge. After a stile, continue on the right edge of another field to the edge of some woods on the far side.

Turn left on to a winding track through an area of woodland and old gravel pits (now wildlife ponds). This passes several cottages and meets the A514 to the east of the village.

Turn left along the road and pass under the horseshoe-arched bridge. Go right at the junction by The Wheel, retracing your steps to the start of the walk.

Additional information

Estate roads and field paths, a few stiles

Parkland and crop fields

On lead through farmland and abbey grounds

OS Explorer 245 The National Forest

Village hall car park, Ticknall

At car park

Entrance charge payable at Calke Abbey's Middle Lodge Gates

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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.