6 scenic walks in the East Midlands to visit in 2021

Monday, 29 January 2024

We’ve chosen six walking destinations that are worth a visit this year, from nature reserves and ancient woods to dizzying cliffs and calming canals. Our picks are all within a stone’s throw of a train station, so it’s easy to explore more of this green and pleasant land.

Cromford Canal

An 8-mile walk through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site - Cromford Station is a 10-minute stroll from the start of this walk.

The village of Cromford is steeped in history and surrounded by glorious Derbyshire countryside. It was here that Sir Richard Arkwright built the world’s first water-powered cotton mills, which is where this walk begins.

After looking around the famous mill, follow the former railway track to High Peak Junction, where it meets the canal. You can then follow the canal path for about a mile to the entrance of a short tunnel, then through a gate into a deer park. The large house on the left is Lea Hurst, once the summer home of Florence Nightingale.

Through another metal gate, follow the wall down a path, through a kissing gate and across a field into Lea Wood. The woodland floor here is carpeted with bluebells in spring and home to nearly 100 species of fungi.

Keep to the wooded path until you reach a road that leads to Lea Bridge. From here, you can walk back to your starting point through several sloping fields, a small wood and a crossing over the River Derwent.

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Matlock to Matlock Bath

A 2.4-mile walk from Matlock Station via one of the highest inland cliffs in England

Thanks to its central location and rail connections, Matlock is the ideal base from which to explore the best of the Peak District and Derbyshire.

You can begin your exploration in the centre of Matlock, where you’ll find independent shops and cafés clustered around the Square and neat stone houses standing in rows on the hill.

From the tourist information centre, walk along the treelined footpath through Hall Leys Park, which has a boating lake, miniature railway and children’s play area.

After exiting onto Knowleston Place, head over a small bridge into Pic Tor Park, then onto The Promenade – a path that runs between the cliffs and river. From there, it’s onto High Tor via another bridge and uphill path.

At 300ft, High Tor is one of the highest inland cliffs in the country. Brave souls can grab the handrail and tread the more daunting of two paths along ‘Giddy Edge’, while others take the less treacherous route and rejoin the group a little later when the two paths merge.

Heading gradually downhill, follow the railway line to Matlock Bath Railway station and catch a train from there, or continue to the Footpath for Lovers. After an uphill climb, you’ll reach the summit viewpoint from which you can see Matlock Bath below.

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Chesterfield Canal

One of the most attractive waterways in the country – Chesterfield Canal is a relaxing pathway through a busy market town

The canal runs for 46 miles from the River Trent to the middle of Chesterfield and every bit of it can be walked on the towpath, which locals call The Cuckoo Way.

Starting at Tapton Lock, which has a visitor centre where you’ll find more information on walks and cycling routes, it’s a short walk along the towpath to the town’s famous Crooked Spire. From there, you can continue as far as you have the energy to go. It’s a varied and rewarding walk – Kiveton, Turnerwood and Shireoaks are regarded as having some of the finest canal walks in Britain. Keep your eyes peeled for Cuckoo Way signs, which let you know where you’re headed, and perhaps even an elusive water vole or the flash of a kingfisher as it darts by.

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Attenborough Nature Reserve, near Nottingham

A stunning mix of flooded former gravel pits and islands, home to winter wildfowl, diving ducks, waders and other wildlife just a 10-minute walk from the station

Attenborough Nature Reserve is an idyllic haven for wildlife and offers the perfect setting for a winter walk. There are nature trails across more than 200 hectares, with the longest (Kingfisher Trail) at 3.7 miles. Take a pair of binoculars with you to spy kingfishers, cormorants, otters and more. To see the shiest animals, there are hides throughout the complex that you can huddle in.

The return circuits of the three trails all lead back to the café and shop, which sit within a modern glass building on an island that extends into the water – the perfect spot for a panoramic picture.

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Abbey Park, Leicester

A wander through Leicester’s most scenic park on the banks of the River Soar

Roughly one mile north of the city centre hugging the banks of the River Soar is Abbey Park, a beautiful green space to explore on foot while admiring the scenery.

The longest route around the park is nearly two miles long and passes all of its main features, including the remains of the 12th century Leicester Abbey and the ruins of Cavendish House, a bridge over the river, a bowling green, a lavender maze and Pets Corner, where visitors can see exotic birds, rabbits, pygmy goats and more.

To the east of the river is a highly decorated Victorian part of the park, with evergreen shrubberies, a boating lake, miniature railway and flower displays.

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Nottingham Arboretum

A stroll through Nottingham’s oldest park among a collection of more than 800 trees about a mile from Nottingham Station

Nottingham Arboretum is the closest park to the city centre, but your mind won’t be on the hustle and bustle of the city’s streets as you stroll through its open spaces. It’s thought that when J.M. Barrie wandered the park in the late-1800s, it inspired his vision of Peter Pan’s Neverland.

You can retrace the author’s steps past the pond (Neverland’s Mermaid lagoon?) and the Bell Tower that’s surrounded by four Crimean cannons (perhaps a link to Captain Hook and his pirates?). Some of the park’s trees even date back to the 19th century. To see more than 30 historic and rare specimens, follow the Tree Trail, which takes about an hour to complete.

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Looking for more inspiration? Take a look at our popular destinations to see where we can take you.