HVL Walk 3.                New Mills Central to Chinley

The Route:    New Mills Central station, Millennium walkway, The Tors, Beard Hall Farm, Ballbeard Farm, Laneside Road, New Allotments, Chinley Churn quarries, Dryclough, Chinley Park, Chinley station.

Starting point:        New Mills Central station.
                              (G.R. SJ 996853)

Distance:     5 miles (8 km)

Ascent:        1386 feet (422 metres)

Map:   OS outdoor Leisure No. 1, The Dark Peak

How to get there:  Daily train service to New Mills Central from Manchester and Sheffield.  Check train times as there are some 2-hour gaps in the service from Sheffield on weekdays.

The Walk:  From New Mills Central station turn right, down the lane and almost immediately go left, down a steep footpath signed to the Millennium Walkway.The path descends to join the riverside route and here you turn left for the Millennium Walkway.

In front of you is a derelict mill, squeezed into the valley bottom between the sheer gritstone crags on the right and the river and railway to the left.  There have been numerous attempts to find a reuse for this mill but to no avail as yet, which is great shame.  The bridge across the river is of no help to you, it merely being a short cut from Central station to the houses on the far bank. The Millennium Walkway was the brainchild of the late Martin Doughty, at the time the County Councillor for New Mills and the Leader of Derbyshire County Council.  The walkway was designed in part by Stan Brewster, who became one of the victims of the London tube bombings.  It is a fitting memorial to both men. 

The Millennium Walkway

Continue along the walkway, which is cantilevered out from the imposing retaining wall that carries the Manchester-Sheffield railway.

You can just make out the top of the tunnel arch over the top of the retaining wall.  The tunnel carries the line under the gritstone crag on which New Mills town centre sits. 

Follow the walkway round the bend in the river and past the weir.  Steps lead down to the weir if you want to get closer to the river itself.  Continue round the next bend in the river and you are confronted by a massive viaduct spanning the gorge.

Unusually, this is not a railway viaduct, though it has all the appearance of one.  Instead it carries the main road linking the two parts of New Mills.  It was built in 1884 and carries the appropriately named Union Road.  On either side of the gorge there are sheer gritstone cliffs and these are well used by climbers, who also try their luck on the viaduct itself.

Just beyond the viaduct there is a ruined building.  This is all that remains of Torr Mill or Schofield’s Mill as it was once known.  It was originally built in 1790 and harnessed the abundant water power of the Goyt and Sett rivers through a series of weirs and waterwheels.  The mill was largely destroyed by fire in 1838, but was rebuilt and steam power introduced.  The chimney stack against the northern wall of the gorge is all that remains of this phase of the mill, because a further disastrous fire in 1912 destroyed the building completely and the remains were largely demolished.  However, the story doesn’t end there, because the main weir has been brought back into use for the purpose for which it was originally intended and now provides the necessary head of water to power a small hydro-electric installation.  This can be viewed just a little further on, beside the weir itself. 

Torr / Schofield’s Mill

Go past the hydro-electric plant and follow the riverside path signed to the Peak Forest Canal.  You go under the curious bridge with its double arches and inverted arches – a most odd design. Here the path is following the old mill leat and you’ll see the remains of the sluice gate on your left.  A little further on you pass underneath yet another viaduct, this one carrying the Main line from Manchester to Sheffield.  The track continues to Goytside Farm and here you turn left, leaving the valley bottom path and going uphill.  This is the start of the long climb up to Chinley Churn.

After about 150 yards the track passes under the railway line. 

The bridge shows at least three phases of building and widening, the result of new routes and sidings being added over the 140+ years that the railway has been here.

Peak Forest Canal. Bugsworth basin
Photo by Martin Smith

On the other side of the bridge, the path soon climbs up to the New Mills-Furness Vale road.  Go straight across the road and through a gate opposite, taking care to close it.  The track skirts round to the left of some garages, most of which seem at least semi derelict.  Beyond the garages, the path is not at all distinct, but you will see Beard Hall Farm ahead.  Make for this and soon pick up a more obvious green track.  This skirts round below the farm closely following a ruined wall, before turning left and reaching a gate just to the right of the main farm building. 

The farmhouse has a date stone that proclaims 1850, but the place looks much older. There’s a good view up the valley from here and it’s time to take stock and examine the map closely, because the next section is very little walked.

Go through the gate and then immediately right, through another gate into a field.  A track heads down the field to a gate in the bottom, but a glance at the map will show that this is not the right of way.  Rather the footpath heads to the left of the gate at the bottom of the field and follows the fence line uphill.  You will be able to make out the path further up the hillside in what looks like a very overgrown field.  How right you are!

Go down the field, following the track and then bear left towards the point where the fence lines join.  There you will discover the remains of a stile, defended by a strand of electric fence and some well placed hawthorn bushes.

Beard Hall Farm

On the other side of this “stile” a variety of sketchy paths weave their way through thigh high grass, reeds and young trees to another fence, where again there is what passes for a stile.  Go over this, noting with some annoyance that there is a gate in the wall on the right and that, had you simply gone all the way down the field from Beard Hall Farm and through the gate at the bottom, you could have reached this point without needing a machete.  However, you would have been trespassing and this second gate is firmly padlocked!

A further stretch of indeterminate path now follows, weaving its way through more reeds and high grass beside the wall/fence, until, as the ground steepens, a reasonably well defined route develops.  At the top of the field there is a real stile and a footpath sign, so you were right all along.  Turn left here, along a pleasant green track between walls and follow this path towards Ballbeard Farm. 

A glance at the map will show that there is an alternative route from Beard Hall Farm to this point, but when you get to the next footpath sign you will probably agree that it looks no better than the route you have just used. 

At Ballbeard Farm you join a narrow lane and go right, soon reaching Brownhill Farm and a T junction.  Here turn right and go up Laneside Road.

It’s a steady plod up this little used road, with views opening up to the north and, once you are clear of the trees, there are views back towards New Mills.  Ahead, the land rises inexorably, but you’ll notice some curious structures in the fields ahead.  Closer acquaintance doesn’t give any more obvious explanation as to their purpose and you are left wondering why any one should construct these features and, what’s more, surround one by a fence with a suburban garden gate in it.

Still musing on this you reach a cross “roads”.  Only the road to the left is tarred.  The road to the right is a rough track and the “road” straight ahead is even rougher.  Guess which is your route?

(If time is pressing or you’ve had enough climbing for one day, the road to the right (Over Hill Road) offers an alternative route to Chinley avoiding the final climb onto Chinley Churn and saving about a mile in distance).

Carry straight on up the track, which runs between walls most of the way.  It comes briefly into open fields, before passing a stand of trees and then climbing in earnest. 

As you climb, the views widen, but your eye will be caught by what appears to be a cross on the horizon ahead.  This seems both appropriate and ominous, but the cross soon resolves itself into a finger post at a major crossing of paths and bridleways. It’s worth stopping here and surveying the view westwards.  This is very extensive and on the day of the recce’ you could see the Clwydian Hills in North Wales and right across the Cheshire Plain, Greater Manchester and to the hills at the back of Horwich.

Go straight on (again) and still climb, though now you are on open moorland.  The path is obvious underfoot, but doesn’t quite do what is shown on the map.  No matter; you are on access land anyway.

Suddenly, there is a view ahead.  The whole of the western edge of Kinder comes into view and you are looking straight up the Kinder River to the Downfall.  You are nearly at the top. 

A slight dip in the path and Kinder vanishes, only to reappear again in a couple of minutes when you emerge on the rocky crest of Chinley Churn.

This is a tremendous view; all the better for the effort required to gain it.  It is a full 360 degree panorama, with even a glimpse of Minninglow to the south, but with Kinder Scout and its acolytes, Brown Knoll, Mt. Famine and South Head dominating the scene.  The curious little square building on Colborne Moor is the air-shaft for Cowburn tunnel on the Hope Valley line.  Just as fascinating is the immediate scene, because to the south the edge has been extensively quarried for gritstone roofing slates and the whole area is littered with the remains of this long gone industry. 

Turn right and follow the path along the edge of the crags, noting the various ruined buildings on the quarry floor below.  Although it is possible to follow the top edge of the crags, the way down from the southern end is very steep and rough and not recommended, so take the opportunity to descend to the quarry floor and have a look at some of the remains. 

You should spot one building unlike the rest.  It is perched on the edge of the steep drop down towards Otter Brook in the valley bottom and sports some odd looking ironmongery.  Such a structure would be commonplace in a Welsh slate quarry, but is highly unusual in Derbyshire.  It is the remains of a winding drum, which lowered waggons down the hillside to the road in the bottom.  Worth having a closer look and the path passes close to it.

You may also wonder at the amount of tipped material on this site, which seems out of all proportion to the size of the quarry faces.  It turns out that the hillside was not just quarried.  It was mined as well and there are at least 9 levels cut into the hillside from which stone was extracted.  Although some of these are accessible you are strongly advised not to go in.  One description of the interior refers to “plentiful hanging death”.  You have been warned.

Winding Drum

Follow the path along the quarry floor, ignoring paths diverging left down the hillside.  The route is delightfully easy to follow, for the most part alongside a deep V shaped cart way all the way down to Over Hill Road.

At Over Hill Road go left and canter down the hill passing Dryclough Farm and soon reaching the entrance to Chinley Park.  Go right here, following the footpath down through the Park to the bridge over the railway line and thus onto the B6062.  Turn left and in about 250 yards (230 metres) go left again, into Station Road and thus to Chinley station.