Walk 1: Bowmans Lane,
Heavygate Lane, Chequer Lane
Distance: Approx. 1.2 miles.
Time: Approx. ½ hour.
Description: Easy, dry walk along the lanes, ideal for walking with children and pushchairs, or for a quick stroll. There is one short steep section near the end. There are plenty of varied things to see along the way, described in the below notes.
Turn left out of the drive, heading down the lane.
At the entrance to the drive, on the left, are blackthorn bushes. These have white blossoms in March –April and purple fruits in September (sloes, used in sloe gin). You will see blackberries on the right in September. The tall white frothy plants that fill the verge in May-June are cow-parsley, also known as Queen Anne’s lace.
Note the stone walls as you go round (they will be easier to see in the winter). Each region has its own style of dry-stone wall using local materials, in Shottle this is Millstone Grit (Derbyshire sandstone). Note the different coloured lichens growing on the stones.
The trees along this stretch are old hawthorns and elder and holly. The hawthorn has glorious creamy white blossom in May and red berries called haws in autumn. These form an important winter food source for wild birds. The Elder flowers in June, the fragrant blooms are traditionally made into wines and cordial, as are the black berries that follow in autumn.
In April-May you will see bluebells in the ditches along with starry white stitchwort. In high summer the bracken takes over the banks, turning a russet colour in autumn.
Look out for bilberries on the right. In August-September they may have some blue-black berries.
Birds to look out for are yellowhammer, red-legged partridge, lap-wing, pheasant and wren. Listen for the skylark and curlew.
At the first right, turn onto
Here the banks are higher and in summer are clothed with many species of wild flowers including vetches, buttercups, campion and wood sage.
As you reach a gateway on the left you will have a good view of the Ecclesbourne valley to the right and Belper to the left. If you look behind you can see Dannah Farm and in the distance
Further on you will pass by a wood. The trees are mainly Scots’ pine and sycamore. A pair of buzzard nest here and you may see them wheeling around the trees and hear their mewling calls. In April-May the woodland floor is carpeted in bluebells, on a warm day their scent can be very heavy. On the other side of the wood is Sycamores farm. In the spring the field by the lane is usually home to ewes and their young lambs.
Soon you will pass between tall walls clad in mature ivy. In winter, balls of yellow flowers are followed by hard black fruits.
Turning round the corner you will have views down to Shottle village and on the right a wide verge, which is filled with wild flowers in summer including rosebay willowherb. On the left of the crossroads is an old chapel, now converted to a workshop for a cabinet-maker. In the verge opposite the chapel are various garden escapes such as purple hardy geranium and red-hot pokers round the corner.
Turn right at the crossroads and climb up the hill.
Behind the last pair of cottages on the left is an old disused quarry, this was the source of the stone for building Dannah Farm. Amongst the trees here you will see and hear many small birds such as great-tits, blue-tits and chaffinches. On the right look out for primroses, celandine and snowdrops in early spring, and foxgloves in early summer.
As you reach the top of the hill you will see dramatic views on the left across the valley. On the right are prickly gorse bushes. They always have some yellow blossom but flower in abundance in April.
Turn right back onto Bowman’s Lane following the lane back round to the yard.
On the right is an old barn, there is a local tale that at one time a woman lived there with a large brood of children. Now, in summer, it is a home for swallows and you will see them swooping in and out. Overhead you may hear the skylark singing his aerial song high above the farm.
You could if you wish conclude your walk with a stroll round the front garden. In spring and summer the borders are filled with flowers. Robin, wren, song thrush, blackbird, starling, dunnock, chaffinch and pied wagtail all live in and around the garden, we are regularly visited by goldfinches and chif-chafs. In high summer look out for a variety of butterflies on the buddleia bushes.