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Walks In Ashover

ASHOVER – MARSH GREEN – OVERTON HALL – MILLTOWN – ASHOVER

DISTANCE:
Approximately 5 ½ miles

The land around Ashover has long since been mined for its mineral content and quarried for sandstone. Local places of interest have unusual names such as Ravensnest, Cocking Tor, The Rattle and Fabric Hill, the latter obtaining its title from the stone it yielded, used for the constructed of churches including the fine example at Ashover. It is also said that land left in trust for church purposes were often called Fabriclands because they provided material or revenue ‘ad fabricam reparandam’.

Start your walk from Ashover Village Hall, turning left on leaving the entrance and walking back down towards the village centre, taking a road on the right just after the Black Swan and to the right of the cottage dated 1671. This road eventually leads to the area of Ashover known as The Rattle, so called from the days when cottagers worked at their noisy stock-making machinery.

Pass the public toilets and continue. Ashover was at one time fashionable as a health resort, its pure air considered health-giving, hence the handful of guest houses and hotels which appeared around the early part of this century including the Ashover House Hydro.

At a crossroads with Ashover school down to your left and Pudding Bag Lane on your right, continue straight on. At the next junction you turn left opposite Chapel Hill and go down towards Marsh Green. Just after a cottage on your right take a stile on your left which drops down slightly into a field. Follow the hedge on your left straight down to a little stream at the bottom of the field which you will have to jump over to gain access to a wooden stile. You should emerge at the side of a modernised cottage on a sharp bend.

Cross over and go through a gap at the side of the substantial gates and head down towards the river. This is Butts Pasture used for motocross racing – beware if races are in progress! Follow the river Amber upstream and cross over the race track towards a stile and footbridge over the river (after the disused quarry up to your left). Walk straight up the hillside towards the wood in the distance, in front of which is Goss Hall. You should come to a windbreak of trees with the Hall just over to your right, head straight up this field to the lane at the top, from where there are lovely views across Ashover.

At the lane turn left. After about ½-mile continue down the drive to Overton Hall which dates from the 18th century and was at one time the home of Sir Joseph Banks who went around the world with Captain Cook and persuaded Australia to become a Nation. Up to your right are the wooded slopes of Cocking Tor, also known as High Ordish, followed by an area known as The Ravensnest, whilst in the distance is the rounded hill of Ashover Hay.

Follow the drive past Overton Hall and continue as it becomes a track leading down to Milltown. Up to your right is a chimney and scarred landscape now healed over with trees. These are remnants of the lead mining industry which at one time dominated the area around Ashover. One of the first reverberatory furnaces or cupolas in the district was erected at Ashover in 1747. This then revolutionary new system involved a furnace separated from the ore by a brick wall over which the flame was drawn. Often these smelters were positioned near to streams which enabled waterwheels to operate the bellows.

A fascinating Ashover legend connected to the lead mining industry is that of Dorothy Matley who died in 1660. She was employed as an ore washer but had a reputation as an unscrupulous liar. Her favourite saying was “I would that if I might sink into the earth if it be not so”. This proved to be her downfall on March 23rd 1660 when accused of stealing two pence from a young lad she strongly denied it and was witnessed to be seen sinking into the ground together with her wash tub. When her body was retrieved the two pence was found in her pocket!

Follow the track down to a junction and turn left, continue on this lane until a further narrow junction at the back of a cottage, go left again and you should emerge at the side of The Miners Arms at Milltown.

Turn left and walk to the junction then left again with the river on your left and walk past a beautiful cottage on your right dated 1670 which has a green ‘fire’ badge on the front gable.

At the next cluster of buildings turn left into the former depot and yard area of the Ashover Light Railway which was constructed around 1920 and closed around 1959. It carried passengers in the early days although was used mainly for the transportation of spar and limestone from Ashover quarries to Clay Cross. Turn right passing the weighbridge and cottages and continue along the track and up the hill with the river meandering in the meadows down to your right. This is another tree lined drive to Overton Hall.

At the top of the hill with a wall of tombstone-like stones on your right, go through a stile and descend a field onto a narrow bridleway. Descend to the river then follow this old stone flagged path back up into Ashover.

Head towards Ashover Church which is dedicated to All Saints and whose delicate tall spire rising to 128 feet is reminiscent of Ashbourne. Within the church are many features of interest including a lead font, one of only a handful in the country. It has twenty figures of men set around it in flowing drapery and holding books, and is thought to have been made around 1130.

Walk past the Church to the Crispin Inn upon which is an interesting plaque giving details of the Ashover Uprising in 1646 during the Civil War when the soldiers to the King turned the landlord out and drank the inn dry, forgetting the King and Cromwell too! The opposing army were not much better – in a letter written on August 28th 1646 by Emmanuel Bourn, rector of the parish of Ashover to a distant relative, he gave account of how the Roundheads stationed at Eddlestow Hall demolished nearby Eastwood Hall then marched to the church whilst singing hymns. The rector followed to discover Scoutmaster Smedley preaching to the soldiers from the pulpit. His two-hour sermon against Popery, priestcraft and the King incited the soldiers to ransack Ashover church, smashing the beautiful stained glass window which portrayed the crucifixion. They made a bonfire in the market place of the parish registers and prayer books before riding off. The aforesaid font survived due to the foresight of the rector who had buried it in his garden to avoid it being stolen.

Now head towards the Black Swan to return to the Village Hall.