Matlock Bath and the High Tor

Tuesday 15th August 2017

By this time, I’d already packed away my tent and had left Chelmorton with the knowledge that I would soon be on the long drive home and the inevitable return to w**k the following day.

In order to break up the long drive and make something of my morning, I’d decided to explore Matlock Bath. I had a free parking space in mind and and hoped the experience might be as pleasant as my brief trip to Bakewell in 2015.

Instead of following signs for one of the several pay and display car parks, I’d done my research ahead of time and took advantage of a free parking bay above the Derwent Valley on a road near Starkholmes.

Close to this was a memorial that didn’t appear to feature on my OS map but, I could see the pub (The White Lion) just a little bit further along the road.

I didn’t want to spend my time here with one eye pinned towards following an exact route and so, I followed the first footpath sign on the left, which would lead me along a knee-straining descent in to Matlock Bath.

Before nearing the valley bottom and its river, I could look across to the cable cars descending from the other side.

I was set to continue deep in to the tourist-filled town, when I spotted a set of steps to my right, with a sign for the High Tor.

I had planned to save this hike until the return journey to my car. But, here in this moment, it seemed daft to wander past.

Almost expectedly, The Walking Englishman offers a short walking route that passes through and explores this area. I was loosely following it on my time here and remember his remarks on the presence of these warning signs.

Every now and again, climbing higher in the heat, a path would offer a break out on to the cliff edge for a view of the town below and far beyond.

I was quite determined not to spend any time or money on the Heights of Abraham cable car tour. Had I been visiting with company, I might have reconsidered. But, this was a sunny day in August, when the kids were off school.

This was one example of a confusing sign. I mean, here, at Giddy Edge, there’s no fence to prevent further access and a path of sorts has been worn in to the ground over time…Is it private? Dangerous? Or reserved only for a team of experienced climbers? Maybe even cavers?

I wasn’t brave enough to fall head-first over the edge and instead, took a photo of this mushroom – early, I thought and one of the first I’d seen in 2017.

I don’t know… I can only think of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer fails to be a daredevil and falls down the cliff face twice.

From the heights of High Tor, you can barely see the tourists far below.

At what seemed to be the highest point, I set my camera on top of a wooden post and took an over-exposed selfie. After three days and over thirty miles of hiking around the Peak District, I was feeling fit and anything but ready to return to normal life.

There is Matlock Bath and there is Matlock… Despite what I had first understood, they are not one and the same and, instead, neighbour each other.

There’s also Old Matlock and, before descending towards Matlock Green, I could see Riber Castle sitting on top of another local hill.

There’s another war memorial near here. I forget the name [Pic Tor] but I also manage to pass it by.

I’d now joined a trail running alongside the River Derwent – I believe it’s the Derwent Valley Heritage Way. But initially, I was queued behind a small crowd of elderly bimblers, before calmly crossing the river.

Still following the River Derwent, I was walking alongside a large park with busy roads running through Matlock on the far side. Down to my left was a miniature railway…

But I fear it would’ve been a disappointing ride, one-way and barely 100m in length.

This was a nice space. Quite heavily populated but pleasant, all the same.

Beyond this bridge, the A615 would meet with the A6. I don’t like to turn around and so tried to appreciate the water while I was there.

Before reaching the roads, I’d been intending to wander around Matlock, briefly. But, as soon as I reached the pavement, the noise hit me… Passing cars, engines, music, people chattering, traffic lights, footsteps… Hard tarmac beneath me; concrete all around.

Now, I was walking south along the A6, almost hurrying in to Matlock Bath with thoughts of stopping somewhere for lunch.

Soon enough, I could at least see the River Derwent again. I imagine the suspended rods and there to indicate a rise in the water level. But I’d not seen anything like this in person before.

Along this road, every other shop front offers either a café or fish and chips. At first, I had thoughts of grabbing a sandwich and cup of tea, if only I could find a café that didn’t look busy… In the end, I went for fish and chips from the Riverside Bar. I had to come back ten minutes after ordering and they weren’t the cheapest but, the quality was good.

I even found somewhere quiet to sit, down from the roadside and near the river. These two claimed my seat the moment I had finished my meal and walked off.

With company and a commitment to spend more time here, I might’ve looked at hiring a boat. It’s not something I do very often at all but I find the idea more appealing than being suspended in a slow-moving, glass-fronted vessel.

I wasn’t entirely sure of where I was on the map by this point. But, crossing over to the east side of the river and walking north, I soon found myself back at the familiar entrance to High Tor – via the railway and huge pay and display car park – from which, I could retrace my steps steeply towards Starkholmes.

My day was far from over and I wouldn’t be returning to the motorways just yet… To see what I had planned for my afternoon, keep an eye open for my next post! 😉

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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