Eight The Green: experience Derbyshire from the heart of the village

Derbyshire Dales

Middleton by Wirksworth is situated on the edge of the Peak District and makes an excellent base to explore both White and Dark Peak. The A6 and Via Gellia roads allow easy access by car, public transport or bike to destinations in the north and west of the national park, but with Wirksworth, Cromford, The Matlocks and the Derwent Valley all within walking distance of the cottage, there is plenty to see and do on your doorstep in the Derbyshire Dales.

Wirksworth lies just a mile downhill from Middleton, and is an enchanting market town full of winding lanes and historic buildings. Visit T'Owd Man in St Mary's Church, and learn more about the town and area at the nearby Heritage Centre. After investigating the shops (a Co-op will keep the cottage well stocked, plus there's also a weekly market every Tuesday morning, and a farmers' market on the first Saturday of every month), pick one of the numerous cafes for lunch. If you feel the need to burn off some calories then plenty of walks surround the town; one favourite is the steep climb up Greenhill to the StarDisc, a 21st century stone circle and celestial amphitheatre with sweeping views over the Ecclesbourne Valley.

There are several pubs and restaurants to choose from for a drink and evening meal; alternatively, you could catch a movie at The Northern Light Cinema. The town boasts a busy events calendar with book and arts festivals, and for rail fans the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway starts/finishes here. 

Cromford is known for its historical connection with Richard Arkwright, with Cromford Mill being the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill. He built this in 1771 and it's considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The village is located at the northern end of Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, which follows the River Derwent south to Derby from Masson Mill at Matlock Bath.

After touring Cromford Mill and learning more about the area at its Visitor Centre, you'll find the village also offers several pubs and cafes, along with numerous shops and galleries. Behind The Greyhound Hotel lies the tranquil mill pond, overlooked by Scarthin Books, which made The Guardian's list of 'World’s 10 Best Bookshops'; here you can while away several hours perusing the new and second-hand books, or visit their vegan and vegetarian cafe. Afterwards, take in some art at The Old Lock Up Gallery, situated within an 18th century stone building which was once the village jail. Continuing up The Hill you pass rows of workers' cottages, with the best example probably to be found on North Street, which features the earliest piece of planned industrial housing in the world.

There are many excellent walks around Cromford. No visit should be complete without a hike up to Black Rocks, which sit high above the village and provide stunning views to Middleton Moor, Bonsall and The Matlocks. You can also access the High Peak Trail from here, or head to Bolehill for impressive views over Wirksworth.

If you're after a low-level option, then the peace and calm on the Cromford Canal towpath is hard to beat. The 14.5-mile waterway joined Cromford with the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill to transport limestone, coal, lead and iron ore but is now a haven for wildlife, including water voles. The stretch from Cromford to Whatstandwell and onto Ambergate offers wonderful walking in all seasons and can easily be incorporated into many circular walks, or hop on the Derwent Valley Line to return to your starting point. If you wish to experience the canal in a more relaxed fashion, then climb on board 'Birdswood' at Cromford Wharf and cruise along to High Peak Junction.

You can travel on another bygone transport at Crich Tramway Museum. Over 60 trams built between 1873 and 1982 run through a recreated period village containing a working pub, cafe, old-style sweetshop and tram depots, with visitors transported out into the local countryside and back. Crich is an attractive village boasting magnificent views across the Derwent Valley, with Crich Stand being the high point. Situated over 340 metres above sea level, The Stand is the memorial of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment; climb the fifty-eight steps to the viewing gallery from where, on clear days, 7 counties and various landmarks are visible in the surrounding countryside.

Matlock Bath is just over a mile upstream of Cromford in the beautiful River Derwent gorge, hemmed in by wooded hillsides and rocky limestone crags. The village was nicknamed 'Little Switzerland' by Lord Byron due to its Alpine features, and since his days the addition of cable cars carrying visitors to the Heights Of Abraham high above the hustle and bustle of one of the country's first tourist destinations only adds to this characterisation.

Matlock Bath has the feel of a seaside town due to its amusement arcades and fish and chip shops, but there's a lot more to discover in the Georgian and Victorian buildings lining the main street. Pop into the aquarium to see one of the Victorian swimming pools fed by the thermal springs that used to draw so many tourists, now brimming with carp. If you fancy a swim these days try the New Bath Hotel's lido, recently restored to its 1930's glory and also fed by the town's warm healing springs.

For the younger thrill-seekers Gulliver's Kingdom might tick a few boxes; for those preferring more conventional height-based excitement, head up High Tor to Giddy Edge and Lovers Walk. In September and October the Matlock Bath Illuminations are held, when the riverside is decorated and the cliffs floodlit to create a magical scene of colour. At weekends there are parades of decorated boats, entertainments and firework displays.

Carrying on northwards and an easy walk from Matlock Bath you'll soon reach Matlock. Derbyshire's county town is a little more sedate than Matlock Bath, with Hall Leys Park having a boating lake, riverside walks and tennis courts. There are plenty of shopping and dining options in town, and antique hunters should keep their eyes peeled on Dale Road for any bargains. 

Again, several interesting walks can be started here. Head up to the brooding Riber Castle that sits guarding Matlock for excellent views of the town and surrounding hills, or explore the Lumsdale Valley where overgrown ruins stand beside cascading waterfalls tumbling through a wooded valley full of industrial history. As a reward for your efforts pop into the Bentley Brook Brewing Company for liquid refreshment, or push on towards Tansley for a longer circuit before heading back to town.

There are many other villages within easy walking or cycling distance from Eight The Green. Bonsall, Carsington, Brassington and Winster can all be incorporated on your route, and also have country pubs serving excellent food. Try and tick off a few Ethels in the area: Harboro' Rocks, Bolehill, Blakelow Hill and Minninglow are only a few miles from Middleton. The Ethels are 95 hills in and around the Peak District over 400m high or with significant prominence, named after Ethel Haythornthwaite, founder of the CPRE countryside charity; find out more on their website and download the Ethel Ready app to track your progress (#EthelReady).

Carsington Water is a large reservoir surrounded by wildflower meadows and native woodlands, and lies 3 miles to the south-east of Middleton. It offers easy cycling and walking routes (including the 8 mile full circuit), plus outdoor activities including fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding, with equipment hire and courses for all abilities. 

The reservoir provides an attractive habitat for many bird species, as does Middleton Moor, so make sure you pack the binoculars and log any special sightings with Derbyshire Ornithological Society. For those who like a more formal outlook the area is also home to several gardens well worth a visit: Bonsall's Cascades Gardens, Hopton Hall's snowdrop and rose displays, and Lea's Rhododendron Garden all offer something different throughout the seasons.

You won't need to travel too far afield with so much to see and do on Eight The Green's doorstep. However, if the heart is set on a certain route or historic house, then the cottage is within easy reach of most Peak District destinations.