On a previous Ring and Ramble, some years ago, we had linked the two towers of Brassington and Bradbourne, but had found the door at Brassington locked.
This year we wanted to try again. The linked tower this year would be Wirksworth, about 4 miles away. There was no problem getting permission to ring at Wirksworth, but Brassington took a little more effort. However we eventually succeeded in getting permission there too.
The weather over the previous two weeks had been particularly wet and windy, we were hoping that was behind us. The day dawned cold, but sunny. The forecast was not too promising later in the day, but that wasn’t going to put us off.
Eighteen walkers met at 11am in the country car park down Wirskworth Dale, five minutes walk from Brassington church. After dressing appropriately for the walk we made our way to St. James’ church for the first ring. The church was open, but no one to meet us. However, we were able to locate the chiming wires, to lift the clock hammers from the bells, and have access to the ringing chamber, on a balcony, overlooking the body of the church. The six bells, tenor 8cwt, are very nice, easy to ring and sound well.
We had a packed lunch before leaving the church, setting off down the main road to locate the start of the path to Carsington, through the inevitable muddy farm yard. Up a field, through a few stiles, over a couple of hills to link in with the makings of a track leading down to Carsington village. There were good views of the surrounding hillsides with limestone outcrops, the telltale marks of earlier lead mining, and Roman activity. The view south opened up a view down the length of the more modern Carsington Reservoir.
We joined the road at the village and had an easy walk through Hopton village, past Hopton Hall, of snowdrop fame, to link with the ‘new’ road to Ashbourne. We needed a little care along this almost busy road until, 200 yards further, we could turn down a lane. Another 100 yards brought us to the start of a track, which would became Summer Lane, leading directly to Wirksworth. There was a little mud here, but nothing like that expected after all the rain of the last few days.
Wirksworth is an old market town and well worth a more detailed look around than we were able to do. St. Mary’s church is tucked away behind the houses and accessed through narrow streets and passages. The tower is build over the crossing and has a small incongruous steeple on top. Inside, the church is amazingly spacious. The base of the tower supported on four great pillars. The congregation sit to the west of the crossing. Just east of the crossing are the choir stalls, than a long Chancel leading to the alter and a fine east window,
Access to the ringing chamber is from the outside. A short spiral stairway linking to a straight stair and a passage to the centre of the church. There are eight bells, tenor 14cwt. Again, these were easy to ring and sounded splendid.
We left the church at 3pm as planned, this should just about give us enough time to get back to the car park before the light failed. Wirksworth is at a very much lower elevation than Brassington, hence most of the walk back would be uphill. We stayed on the minor roads to make the going a bit easier than the possible alternative of a track through an old quarry. Up at the 1000 foot level we had the option of using the High Peak Trail where it ran parallel to the road.
With about half an hour to go, our luck with the weather ran out. Up until then we had had a really good sunny day, now the threatening clouds rolled in from the west. We were hoping to locate the upper end of Wirksworth Dale, but this had been closed off for quarrying. However there was a path alternative which we found as darkness fell and the rain, and hail arrived with a vengeance.
We changed out of our walking gear and headed towards Rowsley and the Grouse and Claret Inn for our evening meal. The high road from Brassington was covered in hail and required some care, but this cleared as we dropped down to Cromford and Matlock.
The pleasant meal in the warmth of the inn made for a good end to what had been a very pleasant walk in good company, with two fine rings of bells.