The River Derwent is the largest river in the Peak District and a major tributary of the River Trent, which it joins just South of Derby. The Derwent rises on the Eastern flank of Bleaklow and is approximately 80km (50 miles) long, draining a large proportion of the county of Derbyshire.
View down the Upper Derwent
The northern section of the river flows south from the flanks of Bleaklow down a steep-sided valley enclosed by gritstone moorland. Here it is crossed by the old 'Cut Gate' packhorse track, at a lonely spot known as 'Slippery Stones' - doubtless a spot where the packhorses were liable to come to grief. The scenery in this area is magnificent, but in bad weather this is a remote and bleak place and at one time it was not uncommon for people to die when caught in winters storms here.
Below Slippery Stones the Derwent flows into the first of the three great reservoirs in this section of its course. These Derwent Reservoirs - Howden, Derwent and Ladybower - are a major attraction of this region and the valley in which they lie is extremely beautiful. On fine summer days this area is packed with walkers, cyclists, fell-runners and tourists.
Chatsworth from the river
Below Ladybower the river flows past the viewpoint of Win Hill to Bamford where it encounters the first of its many mills and just below here it is joined by the Noe, which rises on Mam Tor and flows through the Hope Valley. The combined river flows on to Hathersage and then turns south again to flow in a wide valley flanked by gritstone edges through the villages of Grindleford, Froggatt and Calver before reaching Baslow. The river in this area has long been used as a source of water-power and the mill at Calver is still an impressive building.
After Baslow the Derwent flows through the grounds of Chatsworth Park, the home of the Dukes of Devonshire, in a beautifully landscaped setting, to be joined at Rowsley by the River Wye, coming in from the West.
High Tor View
Below Rowsley the river valley widens again and passes through the more industrialised area around Darley Dale, to reach Matlock. Here the character of the valley changes abruptly, for the river carves its way through a ridge of limestone just south of Matlock in order to reach the lower ground to the South. This part of the valley is spectacular, steep-sided, winding and wooded, with high cliffs such as High Tor towering above.
This area also has a history of using the river as a source of power, and Masson mill at Matlock Bath and Arkwright's Mill at Cromford both played a major part in the development of the cotton industry in this country.
Below Cromford the river turns away from the Peak District and flows in a beautiful valley towards Belper and Derby, approximately 30 km distant.
Silent Valley Vic Hallam (Sheaf Publishing)
Portrait of the River Derwent Walt Unsworth