Holloway Walks



DISTANCE:  Approximately 6 miles

(It is recommended that an Ordnance Survey OL24 White Peak Area map be used in association with these instructions)


The united parish of Dethick, Lea and Holloway lies to the east of the river Derwent and varies between wooded slopes and fields of rich pasture. Each village has its claim to fame through heroism, enterprise or loyalty, details of which will be elaborated upon during the walk.

This walk follows well used paths and tracks including an ancient track which was probably in use when the Anglo-Saxon settlers arrived in this area, hence the settlement of Holloway.

1. Park your car somewhere on Holloway’s main street, making sure that you do not use spaces designated for residents and make your way to a junction of roads at The Green from where you will head down Bracken Lane. Just before a left-hand bend go through a stile on your right and head towards high fencing and well-secured gates. This leads into parkland where deer roam freely and there are notices regarding the risk of danger during the rutting season which is generally around October and November.

2. However, you do not go through the high gates but follow the hedge off to the right towards a large house set in trees. Lea Hurst is now a home for the elderly but was at one time home to Florence Nightingale known as The Lady of the Lamp. She was born of middle class English parents in 1820 and named after the place of her birth as her parents were staying at the time in Italy. However, Lea Hurst was the first English home where Florence played around Holloway with her sister Parthenope. Although she lived a very privileged life, the conditions of the lower working classes concerned Florence, especially illnesses relating to their environment and working conditions. Florence took an interest in nursing the sick and caring for the needy around Holloway and in 1853 got her parents permission to spend some weeks training at the Institute of Deaconesses at Kaiserworth in Europe where pioneering nursing techniques were used.

In November 1854 Florence headed a team of nurses and travelled to Scutari on the Bosphorus to tend to casualties of the Crimean War. Her training and dedication drastically reduced the death rate and brought her fame as the ‘Angel of the Crimea’. Nurses to this day are still known as ‘Angels’ and follow the basic principles established by Florence Nightingale. She returned to London a heroine which she actually disliked, and retreated to Lea Hurst for obscurity. Florence died in London in 1910 and was buried in Hampshire.

3. Go over the driveway to Lea Hurst and continue around the outside of the walled grounds to the left. You will cross a stile and follow a path around the high fencing where it may be possible to catch a glimpse of fallow deer which live in the park.

4. Follow the footpath down until you emerge onto the road above a beautiful house with landscaped gardens. Continue down the hill right to the bridge at the bottom and then turn right. See the early mill workers cottages. Walk towards the enclosed walkway over the road which joins two sets of offices and note the sign for ‘John Smedley 1929’ with what looks like an entwined snake and jay. The mill here was originally built by Peter Nightingale who was a rival of Sir Richard Arkwright. It was a somewhat failing family hosiery business in 1840 when John Smedley stepped in and boosted sales. He had other interests though. His own health had been restored after an illness using hydropathic treatment and he was so impressed that he studied the practice and set himself up as an unqualified advisor. Within a couple of years John Smedley had opened a Hydro on Matlock Bank that proved to be so successful that it expanded to the huge building complex we now know as County Hall. Many other hydros also sprung up around Matlock using hydropathic treatments. Smedley became exceedingly rich and built Riber Castle between 1862 and 1868. Sat atop the hill it is said that he could oversee his creation on the opposite hillside.

5. Follow the road which gently climbs the hill passing a millpond and then houses for about half a mile. Follow a walled pathway on your right which heads straight uphill and emerges onto a road some distance left of Holloway’s Church. Cross over going slightly left and then head up a path which is at the bottom of the drive to The Old Chapel House. You will now climb up through coniferous woodland interspersed with rhododendrons. On your right are Lea Rhododendron Gardens which were originally established as grounds to Lea Green where. John Marsden Smedley planted over five hundred varieties of these shrubs to camouflage an old quarry site.

6. When you emerge onto a lane turn right and walk past the nurseries. After the playing fields on your left you will go around a slight left-hand bend. Follow a pathway on your left which takes you to the village of Lea. Go left down towards the cottages on Holt Lane and then straight ahead. Go through the playing area below the swings and head to the road in the right-hand corner. Cross the road and take a path just over to the right which is signposted Dethick. This will take you through a wood after which you cross fields to the ancient Church and small hamlet made up of Babington Farm, Manor Farm and Church Farm. They are full of character and drenched with history that you can almost feel as you sit on a seat in the churchyard which contains no headstones as it was not consecrated for burials.

7. Although you must keep to the designated footpath, it is possible to see early fabric and stonework features incorporated in later buildings. Manor Farm is the most fascinating building as within is said to be the original fireplace and kitchen of an early Hall which was home to the Babington family. The rest of the house was demolished in the reign of William III. The Church of St. John the Baptist was granted a licence for worship in 1229 and constructed over the next fifty years for private use by the Dethick family who lived there for three hundred years. The estate then went to the Babington family upon the marriage of Isobel Dethick to Thomas Babington who fought at Agincourt. The Church tower was added in 1530. In October 1561 Anthony Babington was born of staunch Roman Catholic parents. His father died when he was 10 and he became head of the family in the care of his mother and guardians. It was not safe at that time to practice the Roman Catholic faith so for security reasons they appeared outwardly protestant. At the age of 16 Anthony became a page for the Earl of Shrewsbury at Sheffield Castle where he met and became entranced by Mary Queen of Scots.

8. Mary became Queen of Scotland when only a week old. At 24 she was forced to abdicate and travelled south to England. Although she had an entourage of servants and many personal possessions, Mary was still in effect a captive and not allowed to lead a normal society lifestyle. She was held at Carlisle, Bolton, Tutbury, Wingfield Manor, Chatsworth, Coventry and Sheffield where she met Anthony Babington before being transferred to Chartley Hall near Uttoxeter, Tixall near Stafford and finally Fotheringhay State Prison. Babington became obsessed with his plans to free Mary and establish her as Queen of England and in 1581 he helped in the Rolleston plot which failed. In 1586 he had plans again, details of which he put in a letter that was smuggled to Mary. Her reply was intercepted by Sir Francis Walsingham the then Secretary of State and their fates were secured. Babington tried to flee by staining his face with walnut juice and dressing like a gypsy but he was caught at St Johns Wood in London and tortured. He was dragged through the streets before being hung, drawn and quartered at Lincoln’s Inn Field. Mary was beheaded five months later and it is said that her executioner needed a second ‘chop’ at the block as his first blow was slightly off target and only injured her!

9. Retrace your steps across the fields but then go to the left to a second stile leading into the woods. The path descends and crosses a brook before heading up to the road. Turn right and walk to the corner and then go up a lane behind the chapel. At the end of the lane go over and stile and follow the path for Upper Holloway and Wakebridge. After crossing a field you will drop down into a dark tree lined track which is the packhorse route mentioned in my description. See the stile inscribed IC 1789. Imagine years ago when a procession of maybe fifty or sixty little ponies laden down with their packs would regularly use this route which is the reason why it is hollowed away!

10. At the end of the track go through a stile and follow a path over the hillside from where there are the most wondrous views. On the cliff to your left is Crich Stand. Atop the hillside opposite is Alport Heights whilst over to your right lies the Derwent Valley heading north in the distance. Go to the right of Upper Holloway Farm to a stile leading onto a lane. Turn left and at the junction turn right and walk down the steep hill back into Holloway, passing some of the earliest houses in the village.