The ‘Navel of England’

above the Via Gellia

I thought I would take a look at D H Lawrence’s Derbyshire cottage last week.

It’s fairly well known that the author lived in four different houses in Eastwood, just across the Nottinghamshire border,  but not so well known that he rented Mountain Cottage, just outside Middleton- by-Wirksworth,  for a year during the First World War.

It was here that he wrote ‘The Wintry Peacock’ , a series of stories  based on the effects of the war.

The cottage is in a magnificent position overlooking the wooded valley of the Via Gellia,  the road between Grangemill and Cromford  named after its 18th century builder,  Philip Eyre Gell.

You can still rent Mountain Cottage  as a holiday home today.

Lawrence described its position as being ‘ in the darkish Midlands, on the rim of a steep deep valley, looking over darkish, folded hills – exactly the navel of England and feels exactly that.’

A harsh view of an attractive area – but for the walker, the Via Gellia really is a ‘via hellia’.  It was last year named as the second most dangerous road in the UK.

I took the most direct waymarked route down the steep wooded hillside by Mountain Cottage, heavily overgrown after this summer’s rain.  It led to a lay-by in the valley below.  From there, whence ?  The map shows a path leading from the other side of the road up into Bonsall Woods, but do you venture left or right to find it ?

It turned out to be 50 yards to the right, through a nightmarish bend in the road without the benefit of any footway.

I don’t ask that the Via Gellia, or any other rural road, be covered in footways. But where a footpath ‘crosses’ a dangerous road like this you would think it a good idea to incorporate a  footway if at all possible – which could also point the direction of travel for the unknowing walker.

Let’s have some joined up thinking and turn our individual footpaths into a proper network…. and perhaps save lives in the process.

One response to “The ‘Navel of England’

  1. I remember this walk. The descent from the cottage was difficult made worse by the wet summer and vegetation.
    Like all walks you learn things along the way. Previously I’ve only driven along Via Gellia and can readily confirm it’s not pedestrian friendly having more in common with a speed test circuit particularly favoured by motorcyclists.

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