Oker is a small rural village, tucked away behind its own little hilltop, hiding from Matlock and the busy valley below.
Oker Hill is thought to be the site of an ancient untrenched hill fort or hill station built by the Romans Legions. They had ousted the Britons who previously lived there and worked the local lead mines. The hill was given the Latin title of Occursus or hill of conflict. Oker is obviously the shortened form or corruption of this name. It is also referred to sometimes as Oaker Hill
From the trig point at 643 feet there are far reaching views which encompass three hundred and sixty degrees.
The summit of Oker Hill is topped with a lone sycamore tree planted a couple of hundred years ago by Will Shore as one of a pair to commemorate the parting of two brothers who decided to go their separate ways in life, one to seek his fortune aboard, the other to stay locally. Wordsworth was so moved by this romantic gesture that he wrote the following sonnet:
“Tis said that to the brow of yon fair hill
Two brother clomb; and turning face from face
Nor one look more exchanging, grief to still
Or feed, each planted on that lofty place
A chosen tree. Then eager to fulfil
Their courses, like two new-born rivers, they
In opposite directions urged their way
Down from the far-seen mount. No blast might kill
Or blight that fond memorial. The trees grew
And now entwine, their arms’ but ne’er again
Embraced those brothers upon earth’s wide plain,
Nor aught of mutual joy or sorrow knew
Until their spirits mingled in the sea
That to itself takes all – Eternity”
One sycamore tree fell in the late 19th century and a replacement was planted in honour of King Edward VII’s coronation, but this has also now disappeared.
Across the fields from Oker stands Snitterton Hall which is a fabulous Elizabethan house with tall chimneys.
In a little walled enclosure at Oker is Grace’s Well.
Below Oker Hill lies Darley Bridge which has long since been an important crossing place on the River Derwent. Records of 1682 state that there were once seven arches to the bridge, although the two end arches have probably been lost or filled in when the bridge was widened. It is possible to see on the downstream side, the two original pointed gothic arches which are ribbed underneath. The semi-circular style arches and those on the upstream side date from the time that the bridge was widened. This was probably in the latter part of the 18th century when the road from Chesterfield which links up with the Nottingham to Newhaven road was turnpiked.