Osmaston and Shirley Parks
Route type: Other
Distance: 8.87km, 5.51 miles. Like (8)
Distance (kms) 7.2km Minimum Time: 3hrs 30mins 'Ascent: 295ft Difficulty Level: 1 - Easy Paths: Estate tracks and field paths, quite a few stiles Landscape: Park, woodland and farm pasture 'Dog Friendliness: Dogs should be on lead Parking: Osmaston village hall car park Public Toilets: None en route Description: Osmaston is barely a few winding country lanes away from the buzzing traffic of Ashbourne, but itâs just the unspoiled tranquil village youâd hope to find on a country walk. The moment you leave the car you will experience the slow tick-over of the place. Mock Tudor. St Martinâs Church was built in 1845 to replace a much earlier one. The parish register goes back to 1606. Itâs full of references to the Wright family, who for a long time were the local gentry and benefactors to the village. Francis Wright, the owner of the Butterley Iron Works, had Osmaston Hall built here in 1849. The hall itself was a mock-Tudor mansion and the gardens were landscaped. Thereâs a memorial to him found in Ashbourneâs Market Place. In 1964 the hallâs owner, Sir John Walker, decided to demolish the place when he moved to Okeover and took the Okeover family name. However, the grounds, Osmaston Park, are criss-crossed by rights of way, which make a pleasing itinerary for the walker. Across the road from the car park is a terrace of four thatched cottages, built to celebrate the coronation of King George VI. As you walk down the lane you pass the Shoulder of Mutton, a fine village pub with much promise for the end of the day, then some more of those thatched cottages, this time built with rustic tawny-coloured local bricks. These cottages are much older than the ones seen earlier and theyâre timber framed. At the end of the lane thereâs a duck pond. Even the ducks seem less noisy in Osmaston. The walk enters the woodlands of Osmaston Park and threads between two of the estateâs many lakes. On the other side thereâs an old mill, built in the style of an Austrian chalet and complete with a waterwheel. The path climbs though more woodland. Shirleyâs another pretty village with its own aristocracy - Earl Ferrers and the Shirley family. Viscount Tamworth, the heir to Earl Ferrers, still lives in the village. From Shirley the walk turns back across fields and woods to Osmaston Park, reaching another of the estateâs lakes. This one has the best setting, with a lush meadow surround and the occasional heron. Towering in the Woods As you continue along the track, heading north and back into the woods now, youâll see a peculiar-looking tower peeping out from the canopy of trees. Itâs 150ft (45m) tall and all that remains of Osmaston Hall. The tower was designed to accommodate all the hallâs various chimneys in one single stack. With this odd sight still lingering in your thoughts the walk ends in fine âlord of the manorâ style as you walk down the hallâs main drive, saluted by a fine avenue of lime trees. While you're there: Ashbourne proclaims itself to be the gateway to Dovedale. It has some fine old coaching inns. St Oswaldâs Church, with its 200ft (61m) plus spire and early 13thcentury chancel, was described by George Eliot as âthe finest mere parish church in the kingdomâ. What to look out for: The lakes are frequented by many birds, including grey heron, mallards, moorhens and many migratory wildfowl. The annual show of the Ashbourne Shire Horse Society is held in Osmaston Park in August. where to eat and drink: If youâre after a traditional Sunday lunch try the Shoulder of Mutton at Osmaston, a free house with real ales. The Saracenâs Head at Shirley serves excellent food if youâre partial to a refreshment break in the middle of your walk. Directions: Turn right out of the Osmanton Village Hall car park and follow the road past the Shoulder of Mutton pub to the village green and duck pond. Turn left and then take the middle of three rights of way - marked âBridleway to Shirleyâ. The track descends among fields and through attractive woodland. Continue on the track past Home Farm, which lies to the left. Follow the track it as it separates the two narrow lakes, to walk between them. After passing an old watermill keep to the track ahead, which climbs up through the woodlands of Shirley Park. The track eventually becomes a tarmac lane, continuing towards Shirley. The return path to Osmaston, highlighted by a Centenary Way (CW) waymarker, begins on the right, just before the village, but most walkers will want to take a look around the centre, if only for refreshment at the Saracenâs Head. Return to the previously mentioned footpath, which begins with some steps. Beyond a stile it crosses a fenced-off section of lawn, previously part of a garden belonging to the cottage on the left. Beyond a second stile the path follows a hedge on the left round the edge of three fields. It cuts diagonally across a fourth field to a stile, beyond which you turn left to descend towards a wood, which is the southern extremity of Shirley Park. Go over the footbridge to cross Shirley Brook and then follow a muddy streamside path to another footbridge. Go over this and then turn right into the woods on a path, which has another CW marker. Beyond a gate at the edge of the woods, ignore the CW path on the right. Instead, leave the woods and continue along a grassy sunken track heading across the pasture ahead and alongside a pleasant lake, the southernmost of the Osmaston Park lakes. Where the track fades, maintain direction alongside the lake and then a narrow strip of woodland. You are walking through the valley of Wyaston Brook and, although the path is invisible on the ground, the stiles in the cross-fences are all in place. The bridleway from Wyaston Grove joins the route just beyond one of these stiles (grid ref 196423). Double-back right along it, passing some railings on the right. The bridleway track now climbs north-east out of the valley and back into the estate of Osmaston Park. It becomes a tarmac drive and eventually turns left on to an avenue of lime trees, emerging by the village green. Turn left, by the duck pond, then right, back to the car park.