GUIDE TO THE RIVER DERWENT
(Milford to Darley Abbey)
NAME OF RIVER: Derwent.
WHERE IS IT?: Derbyshire. 1 mile south of Belper, to 1 mile north of Derby. Generally follows the A6. OS Landranger 128.
The Derwent above here, all the way up to Ladybower Reservoir has apparently been paddled, but access is even worse than this bit. That is except for Darley Dale to Matlock Slalom course, and once a year (Boxing Day) down as far as Cromford Meadow, when the Matlock charity raft race is on.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS:
Put in: Glow Worm Factory (now closed and up for sale) car park Milford (SK348454), just off the A6, about 1 mile south of Belper. Seal launch off the wall above the weir, right next to the now defunct sluice gates. Alternatively launch from the concrete below this weir.
Take out: Darley Abbey, just below the weir at (SK 353384) anywhere river right. There is a car park here and a decent pub, The Abbey. Or you could continue all the way to the Trent if you wanted.
APPROX LENGTH: About 7 miles.
TIME NEEDED: About 2 hours (add time for playing, and less for higher river levels/ no playing).
ACCESS HASSLES: Pretty dire! Derby Library has a Charter from King John(?) dating from the 16th Century (?) declaring a navigation for all the Derbyshire Derwent. The fishermen tend not to agree, nor does the man at Milford Garden Centre.
From A38 roadbridge to Darley Abbey the access is fine, and you can continue all the way to the River Trent, a further 15 miles, but even this can often be contested by fishermen.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The river is runnable at any level, although can be a scrape at weirs - GlowWorm, Milford and Darley Abbey in drier periods. After heavy rain, the river runs fast and dirty brown. You need to be confident you can survive the weirs and look after yourself. If there is a wave at the Glow Worm weir at Milford (The "Elusive" Milford weir wave - see www.ben-white.com "Glow Worm the Myth!") then the river is high, the following wave train huge, and the weirs at the Milford Garden Centre will be lethal!
GRADING: Mostly Grade 1 with weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Fishermen!
Weirs in order:
1. Glow Worm Weir - inspect at medium/ high levels before launching. Good surf wave on river left, adjacent to the concrete in medium and high levels followed by an extensive wave train all the way down to the A6 bridge in high levels. In lower levels there is nothing there!
2. Horseshoe weir 100 yards south of A6 in Milford. Inspect before getting on from the road next to the garden centre - Makeney road. It should be obvious - when there is towback at higher levels it can be shot on the extreme right hand wall in medium high levels, or river left at lower levels. In an open, you may need to stand on the metal lip and lower the boat down, then get back in. The other hazard here is the Garden centre manager/owner who will shout at you if he sees you!
3. Immediately after this there is a 1 foot high weir, dropping onto a stone run off area, with a good wave train below in high water.
4. Broken weir at Peckwash Mill, just south of Duffield Church. A good playspot at medium/ high levels.
5. Darley Abbey. Immediately after the road bridge on river left there is a weir with an 8ft near vertical drop onto a concrete base - you need to be confident but it is quite a hoot! Next to this is another weir with a gentle slope which you can shoot anywhere. At high levels there can be a stopper on these weirs and the island behind them floods creating one big strainer! After the slopping weir is yet another weir with a footbridge over it - this holds debris and other hazards, but if clear can be taken on the left side. Take a good look first. Darley Abbey is quite popular with canoeists and can at certain levels offer plenty of playtime...
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: At lower levels, it is a good touring paddle, ideal for opens and novices, but spoilt by fishermen, farmers and other busy bodies who contest the access.
The weirs provide play potential, particularly GlowWorm, which currently has easy and largely open access, but may change as the old Glow Worm factory is now for sale. The river is quite pretty and flows through the Derwent Valley, a World Heritage site, on a par with the Pyramids, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the inside of Ken's wallet!
At medium and high levels it can be quite scary, but is a good blast for those with dirty underwear already. At any level, we tend to do it because; a. it's there, b. why not and c. to have a bit of sport with the gnomes.
OTHER NOTES: Because of the access problems near the start, we usually start in the dark(!), first thing in the morning to clear the most contentious bit first. Don't forget your headtorch, but be careful on the Horseshoe weir, which is only 10 minutes after the start. Midland Canoe Club is on river right about half a mile before the take out at Darley Abbey and are quite a friendly bunch of paddlers!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Jimmy 5 Bellys SlimBloke of Midland Canoe Club.