The weather forecast for today, Tuesday 4th August 2020, called for a warm and sunny day. A perfect day for me to complete the Derwent Valley line and cross Duffield and Belper off the list of East Midlands Ranger Area stations to visit.
And so, on a drizzly and cold Tuesday, 4th August 2020, I headed up north from my home in Burton on Trent. The journey began, as usual, from Burton on Trent station. The front entrance is finally getting repaired after being damaged in March, but it still isn’t in use. I entered through the side door and made my way on to the platform to wait for my train to Derby. After a quick change at Derby for a train up to Duffield, I arrived in the Derbyshire village, just a few miles north of Derby.
The current Duffield station was built in 1867, replacing an old one from 1841 which was located a few yards north. It is an island platform station, with tracks either side. The station has no buildings, those having been demolished in 1969. There is a footbridge linking the platforms to the exit and also the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, a heritage railway which runs services to Ravenstor in Derbyshire. At the moment, it only runs services at weekends, due to the you-know-what pandemic.
After I left the station, it began to rain lightly. Undeterred, I headed north up the A6 road for a walk towards Belper, via the village of Milford. Derbyshire’s countryside normally looks stunning, but the cloudy skies and rain dulled its appeal a little bit today. I reached Milford about half an hour later. It’s a pretty little village, with terraces of lovely cottages presumably built to house mill workers employed nearby.
After crossing the River Derwent via the Milford Bridge, I carried on up the road to Belper. It was still raining a little, but not too much. I passed by some industrial estates and Belper’s hospital before making it to the town centre.
Belper is a town which rapidly expanded during the Industrial Revolution, with several textile mills being built in the area. It is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Jedediah Strutt, a business partner of Richard Arkwright (who built the mill at Cromford), built a mill in Belper which still stands today.
Part of the mill plays host to the Strutt’s North Mill museum, which I’m sure is well worth a visit. I didn’t have time to go there today. I visited the War Memorial Gardens in the town centre, a beautiful and pleasant garden to have a walk around in, or just sit and relax on one of the many benches provided. One of the most striking features of the gardens is a sculpture called Sacrifice. It features the face of a local soldier called Jim Green, who was one of fourteen local men from Belper who died at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
I then visited the Belper River Gardens near the Mill. It’s a nice riverside garden, with an old bandstand and plenty of benches to sit on and enjoy the view of the river. Across a nearby bridge is a wonderful little park called Beaurepaire Garden. It was the garden of a former hospital, now a private house. In 2003, a local photographer was asked to reproduce a 1905 photo of a man sitting in the garden when it was part of the hospital. He was intrigued by the garden, which by then had become neglected and overgrown. He bought the land and, with help from the local council and volunteers, restored the land to its former glory in 2004. There are many little curiosities to be seen in the garden, and it’s also a pleasant and peaceful place to have a sit down. If you’re ever in Belper, I highly recommend it.
After I left the garden, I headed back to the town centre. I was feeling hungry, so I stopped off at the Co-op for a sandwich. Belper’s town centre is very nice indeed, with hardly any empty shops and plenty of local businesses. It was soon time to head to the station to eat my sandwich and catch my train back to Derby.
Belper railway station was originally opened in 1840 by the North Midland Railway company. It’s just a few minutes walk from the town centre and consists of two platforms, with the usual features like waiting shelters, help points and dot matrix displays. The northbound platform has a mosaic and artwork by local children, which is always a nice thing to see at at station. It was originally a stop on the London St. Pancras to Manchester line, but the line to Manchester was cut in the 1960s, and now trains north of Belper terminate at Matlock.
I enjoyed my trip to Derbyshire, in spite of the weather. Belper is a really beautiful place to visit, and somewhere I hope to visit again in the future for a proper look around. Thanks for reading the blog, and you can keep in touch with the blog on Instagram, Twitter and now, on Facebook!