“ Ashover is a village in the English county of Derbyshire. It is in the North East Derbyshire district of the county. It sits in a picturesque valley, not far from the town of Matlock and the Peak District national park. The centre of the village is a conservation area. The River Amber flows through the village. Although Ashover is a small settlement, the actual ward boundaries of the village extend for many miles, including the nearby settlements of Alton, Ashover Hay, Kelstedge, Littlemoor, Milltown, Spitewinter, Stone Edge and Uppertown. „
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There are so many pretty little villages in Derbyshire, and I am so lucky that I am close enough to be able to visit a fair few of them. One such place that we go to quite regularly is Ashover - a lovely and bustling little village.
~~~WHERE IS ASHOVER?
Ashover can be found in the Amber Valley area of Derbyshire, on the edge of the Peak District National Park. It is approximately 7 miles from Chesterfield and 4 miles from Matlock and is accessible via the Chesterfield to Matlock road (the B6036). We generally either get by minibus (on one of our beer ratings trips out) or on the service bus. The service buses to Ashover aren't that frequent and getting from Chesterfield does take a bit of planning and effort. Our way of doing it is to either get the number 17 (Stagecoach) from Chesterfield to Kelstedge and then walk from there to Ashover - this takes around 25 to 30 minutes to walk and is fine in good weather. If you don't want to walk (or the weather isn't suitable) what we do is get the 17 to Matlock and then change to the number 64 (Hulleys) which goes to Ashover, or get a bus to Clay Cross and then change to the number 63 (Hulleys) which also serves Ashover.
~~~A BIT OF HISTORY.
Ashover was first mentioned in the Domesday Book where it was named as Essovre, which means a village near an ash forest. There has been a settlement on the site for many years prior to that first mention and it has always been a hive of industry - since Roman times there has been lead mining and more recently shoe, lace basket, stocking and nail making in evidence.
In recent times all this industry has gone, but reminders remain - for example, one part of the village has always been nicknamed "The Rattle" because of the sound of the stocking makers' looms. During the 1920s a light railway was constructed - for the railway buff amongst you, this was the last ever narrow gauge passenger rail line built in Britain. The Ashover Light Railway closed down about 25 years later, after operating firstly as a local passenger service and then changing to a freight service. The only real reminder of the railway (apart from a few overgrown lines as you walk in the valley near the village) is a new beer produced by the brewery based in one of the village pubs - Ashover Brewery, housed in The Old Poets' Corner makes a light bitter called Ashover Light Rail!
~~~WHAT IS THERE TO SEE IN ASHOVER?
The Church of All Saints lies in the centre of the village along the road that runs from the top of the village to the bottom. It dominates the skyline and is a really nice and interesting building with a tower and steeple. The oldest bits are from the end of the thirteenth century (this is the south porch of the building) and the rest of the church varies in style and age.
Inside All Saints you will find some artifacts that are as varied as the actual structure itself. These include an alabaster tomb with statues of prominent local family (the Babingtons) on the side - Thomas Babington was an important local figure and the family had been resident in Ashover since the fourteenth century. Also inside you will find a twelfth century font - this is a lead lined font and is an example of only thirty remaining in Britain. As you leave the church via the south doorway pause in the doorway and take a look; here you will see a door built in 1275 by Margery Reresby. Moving outside you will see a pretty churchyard - search around and you will find not only some of my ancestors, but also memorials to the family of Florence Nightingale! (Another famous resident of the village is Elizabeth Bassett - a member of the family famous for their Liquorice Allsorts!)
There are lots of pretty cottages and houses around the village that are well worth pausing to look at. If you fancy walking a little out of the village you may want to wander about a mile away over to Overton Hall - the eighteenth century home of naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. If you want to walk a bit more you can go to another famous Ashover landmark - Fabrick Rock. Also known as Ashover Rock, this is a rocky outcrop sitting 299 metres above sea level. It's a bit of a trek but the views over nearby Chesterfield, some bits of Sheffield, the surrounding counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire are really worth the effort (if you like that sort of thing)!
We tend to stay in the village and alternate between the three very good pubs in the village! My favourite is the Old Poets' Corner (on Butts Road); a semi-timbered building which serves excellent Real Ale & Cider, very good food and offers accommodation (either self catering in their cottage next door or B&B in the pub itself). As I mentioned earlier the Old Poets' has recently become the location of a microbrewery, producing a range of beers that can be sampled in the pub.
As well as the Old Poets' I recommend a walk past the church up to the other two good pubs in the village. The Crispin (on Church Street) also serves some good Real Ale (no Real Cider this time), but is more well known locally for its restaurant, which serves an innovative (if a little pricy) menu. The Crispin stakes a claim to being one of the oldest Public houses in the Peak District - they say it was built in 1350 and got a its license in 1416! There is a plaque on the wall outside which tells the story of former Landlord Job Wall, who in 1646 tried to eject the Kings Troops. The sign says "But they turned him out and set watch at the door till all the ale was drunk or wasted". It is actually more realistic to say that the building is more from this period than any earlier. Also on Church Street is the Black Swan; another pub with a choice of Real Ales and a good history (this building dates from the eighteenth century - their claim to fame is to have been featured in the TV drama Peak Practice.
If you are in the area in August you may want to try and coincide your stay with the Ashover Show (see http://www.ashovershow.co.uk/2.html for details of prices and when it is each year) - this is a major event in the village, involving many of the residents, which takes place on the second Wednesday in August. This agricultural show is well worth a visit - there are some stalls, events and it is always a good day out.
Ashover is a lovely village in an excellent location. There are three really good pubs and the place is a great place for a wander around on a sunny day. Unfortunately (apart from inside the church and the pubs) there isn't a lot to do if the weather takes a turn for the worse. The only things that let Ashover down are the lack of accessibility via public transport, a serious lack of parking (which means that most people park on the roads, leading to blockages and annoyance of residents) and not much in the way of shops. It is also sad to see what Ashover did have that have since been lost - a once thriving industrial community has gone, the railway is no more and I bet you wouldn't have guessed that Ashover even used to have a zoo! Apparently this was called Pan's Garden - but not much more information remains other that that it was a zoological and botanical garden.
I would certainly recommend that if you are in the area you pop over and have a look around Ashover. It is a nice place that you would regret not visiting - the pubs do good food, you can visit a microbrewery and the buildings are beautiful. Ashover is also a nice place to get a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of some of the towns and villages in the Peak District and North Derbyshire.