Accessible Hidden “Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire” Gems: Exploration and less known hidden places.

6 min readOct 23, 2022


Looking at a map of both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire you get a sense of just how big these two counties actually are, and whilst The Peak District and The Derbyshire Dales, often attract tourists by the droves, outside of The Peak District and The Derbyshire Dales is the rest of Derbyshire, a county of contrasts — just over the border is Nottinghamshire, another county that has a lot to offer that has some equally stunning contrasts to seek out. But best of all these two counties offer something else and different when you scratch below the surface. It was on a walk the other week when I met 3wheeledrambler, who is from Matlock; who was out with her boyfriend Jonno and Murphy the Dog. 3wheeledrambler aka Naomi, when she was 23 she was diagnosed with Ataxia — a neurological condition that affects balance, coordination, reflexes and speech — but despite this Naomi (3wheeledrambler) was out on a mission seeking out some accessible walking areas at the delightful Shining Cliff Woods, a location that is located in the Derwent Valley; next to Ambergate, and was Ataxia putting her off from exploration? Not it most certainly was not. But meeting Naomi (3wheeledrambler) inspired me to write this article/post of some Hidden Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire gems that are accessible to visit and are perhaps less known and hidden. But of course the main question is “just where are these places?”

1/. Shipley Country Park.

Ask someone if they know where “Shipley Country Park” is and the chances are you might get a strange look. However it is indeed located within Derbyshire, albeit on the outskirts of both The Peak District and The Derbyshire Dales. On one side of the park is Ilkeston, the other side of the park is Heanor, but it also stretches towards Smalley, think of it as somewhat Triangular in shape and that is what it is. However though Shipley Country Park offers some fantastic views of the surrounding areas, plus some fantastic well kept pathways which are accessible and level. Shipley Hill is another hidden gem and one that you can see the remains of the old Shipley Hall, an old building that played a part and has links to the coal mining industries that once dominated the local area; and it is also on Shipley Hill that Green Woodpeckers can be seen and heard. The whole park as well is a haven for Wildlife, and throughout the seasons colour can be found everywhere; water can be found here as well and Osbournes Pond offers somewhere quiet, whilst Mapperley Reservoir on the other side of the park is dramatic, and when the conditions are right it is a fantastic photogenic place to see.

1.1/. Young People’s Forest at Mead.

An “unusual namesake” to say the least. But Young People’s Forest at Mead, just happens to be something of a delight. Whilst it overlooks Shipley Country Park; this area of Young Forest just so happens to be completely independent from it’s neighbour and yet somehow the link from Shipley Country Park towards Young People’s Forest at Mead feels like you are entering a completely different world. Whilst the trees that make up the forest are young, small saplings (which by now have more than likely grown), it still offers some fantastic opportunities to spot a plethora of Wildlife. But then there are the views over Shipley Park, which are equally photogenic.

2/. Belper River Gardens.

The town of Belper sits at the lower end of the Derwent Valley and whilst the town of Belper offers a collection of independent and interesting quirky shops and places to eat/drink, at the bottom of the town is where it meets the River Derwent. An old brick building greets the skyline of Belper and this is the old “Derwent Valley Mills.” But next to the mills is an accessible car park that offers a flat and level route to walk directly into Belper River Gardens. But just what are the River Gardens? The simple answer is they are a piece of reclaimed land that have been turned into something of a park by the river, not the biggest park by any means of the imagination, but they are a landscaped park area which have an abundance of bird life and a certain sense of calm, a recently refurbished tea/coffee shop can be found with outside and indoor seating that is also accessible, along with glorious views of the river and the hidden delights that the river gardens has to offer. Again it is a place that changes with the seasons, and the Bandstand is a definite delight.

3/. Ilkeston Victoria Park.

Located on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border is the town of Ilkeston, a former spa town that offers quite a lot, only it is somewhere that you have to scratch the surface in order to find what else it has to offer. Here a completely independent tram network existed within the town, that was separate to the extensive tram network of neighbouring Nottingham in yesteryear. However within the urban setting of Ilkeston, it is possible to find a park that when viewed from above is “triangular” in shape, and it dates back to the late 18th century. History can be found here, along with a plethora of plants, and interesting trees which are beautifully looked after and curated no matter what time of the year it is. The bandstand is photogenic and whilst it is the original structure — has had some work done to it; but then what about refreshments? Well a small but perfectly formed café can also be found within the park called “Bare Feet in The Park” which offers a nice selection of snacks, drinks and other locally made delights.

4/. Attenborough Nature Reserve.

What happens when a load of old gravel pits contain water? Well the answer is that you get a lot of beauty and of course Wildlife. Attenborough Nature Reserve is located a short distance between Nottingham and Long Eaton (over the border in Derbyshire.) And a plethora of footpaths can be easily navigated along; exploration routes can be made along with adventure and the views of Attenborough Village are delightfully photogenic Towards the south side of the nature reserve is a large flat footpath that leads towards Beeston Ryelands (another interesting place to visit) that can be reached along the footpath that skirts the River Trent.

5/. Highfields Park (University of Nottingham.)

The University of Nottingham over the years has given the world some impressive features of everyday life, from Science to Medical knowledge and much more in between. Yet it is also here that Highfields Park can be found, a small but perfectly formed area of parkland located around a lake, in the summer boats can be hired, yet the footpaths around Highfields offer the chance to slow down and take nature in. From Herons, Cormorants and other interesting wildlife to spot, nature can also be found here with some interesting tree species. But it is Autumn and Spring when the colour can be found here. But just remember this place is a metaphorical stone throw away from the centre of Nottingham.

6/. The Erewash Canal and Valley.

The Erewash Canal is something of a delight and it is a canal that has a contrast, whilst Langley Mill Basin, is the end point of the infamous Cromford Canal, from Langley Mill Basin, is also where The Erewash Canal — starts from, making its way towards The River Trent at the aptly known Trent Lock. Yet the Erewash Canal has many picturesque points to ponder and explore, plus wildlife and nature, from Kingfishers that can be seen, to picturesque canal locks with stories to be told, it really is a place of escapism by the water. Of course another unique part of The Erewash Canal/Erewash Valley is the spectacular Bennerley Viaduct, a former railway viaduct that has recently been restored and reopened, from the Erewash Canal, at Cotmanhay it is possible to find an accessible way onto the viaduct, and in the future at the other side of the viaduct another accessible way will be opened as well. Yet the views from the top are quite spectacular as well. But all throughout the valley quirky things can be discovered which are worth exploring.