Derwent East Bank Route

Project Rationale

At present the only available route to walk or cycle between Matlock and Matlock Bath (& beyond) is via the busy A6 (other than a serious climb over the top of High Tor). For cyclists the A6 is congested and dangerous and for pedestrians it can get very crowded and polluted. In Victorian times a path led along the East Bank of the River Derwent to reach the “Pleasure Grounds” (a network of gently sloping paths) underneath High Tor. The account and map published by Historic England detail its use during the 17th to 19th centuries. Byron compared the area to Switzerland and the place now known as “Artists’ Corner” was frequented by notable artists such as JMW Turner, Joseph Wright of Derby and numerous others.

The aim of the project is to create a track as close to river level as possible along the east bank of the Derwent all the way from Matlock to Matlock Bath. It was originally suggested by Matlock Civic Association as a pedestrian trail but now (see below) the aim is to create a dual use off-road track available for both walkers and cyclists on the east bank of the Derwent.

Development of the Current Proposal

As described above, the project was initially suggested by MCA as an off-road walking route between Matlock and Matlock Bath. Exploratory walks during the summer months when the river level was low suggested that such a route might be technically possible. However MCA then became aware of a much larger, more ambitious and long standing proposal from Derwent Valley Trust (DVT) to build a cycleway (the Derwent Valley Cycleway) all the way from Derby to Baslow passing through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and linking a number of significant population centres including Derby, Duffield, Belper, Cromford, Matlock Bath and Matlock. At that stage, the cycleway project was based on the assumption that an off-road cycle track between Matlock Bath and Matlock was not possible and that, for that section, the cyclists would still have to use the busy and dangerous A6.

DVT had already achieved notable success in establishing a significant part of the southern section of the route from Derby. The 5-mile off-road cycleway from Matlock northwards to Rowsley has already been built as a Derbyshire Dales District Council project (part of the White Peak Loop).

Derbyshire already has an extensive cycleway network, but the section of the Derwent Valley between Little Eaton and Matlock is a notable and important gap in the network (see map) and in the wider Sustrans network.

The existing Derwent Valley Heritage Way (the walking route) extends all the way from Derby up, beyond Baslow, to Ladybower Reservoir. However the current route suffers the same problem as the cycle route in that one is forced to use the A6 between Matlock Bath and Matlock in the absence of an off-road route.

Following further talks and exploratory walks with DVT, it was decided that MCA would join forces with DVT to promote a joint walking / cycling route between Matlock Bath and Matlock as part of the much larger DVT project.

Lobbying by DVT has now borne fruit in that Derbyshire County Council have decided to fully fund a £100,000 feasibility study for the whole route. Although the Matlock Bath – Matlock section is but a small part of the overall scheme, it is the part that is probably the most challenging technically and therefore the most expensive. However it would also offer the greatest rewards in that it finally offers a complete off-road solution and a very attractive riverside route for both walkers and cyclists. Derbyshire County Council have appointed AECOM, who have extensive and local experience in this field, to carry out the work. MCA has sent them a briefing report detailing the exploratory work already carried out on the Matlock to Matlock Bath section.

Exploring the Route

Below is an account of the survey work carried out by MCA. In the following section are maps of the proposed route

Report on Exploration of the East Bank Path, Including Paced Survey and Photographs

MCA Submission to Consultants

The submission also suggests opening up of the classic viewpoints of High Tor that have become obscured in recent years and replacement of the 1903 suspension bridge.