Our cafes are open for takeaways and all of our fabulous independent shops are open! From Monday 17 May we are offering guided tours, including the Arkwright Experience, and you can sit inside our cafes again! Click Book Tickets for our guided tours.

Beyond the Mill Walls.

Beyond the Mill Walls: Rejuvenating Smelting Mill Green

As part of the Beyond the Mill Walls: Rejuvenating Smelting Mill Green Project, funded by the Postcode Local Trust, the Arkwright Society is developing the area alongside the river area with people, wildlife, and history in mind. Pick up a leaflet when you are at Cromford Mills.

Leaflet Map

    For everyone:

    Clearly visible as you arrive is the picnic area between the Church and our carpark; with fantastic views over to Willersley Castle and St Mary's Church. There are now benches and picnic tables around the site to let you relax and enjoy the riverside views and wildflower meadow.  

    For families:

    • Scavengers’ Scramble. A series of interactive sculptures, with chainsaw carved wildlife, and mill machinery inspired chunky wooden sculptures.   Did you know 'Scavengers' is the name given to the children who had to crawl under the moving mill machinery to scavenge the waste cotton.
    • Doffer’s Den Building. Try your hand at creating your own den.  'Doffers' were the children who worked in the early factories changing the bobbins on the mill looms.
    • Between the carpark and the path, we have woven a tunnel into the dogwood – it gives a nod to the stream that once powered the smelting mills and is now culverted to the river, through a tunnel under the meadow.  
    • See if you can discover the secret Story-telling Glade!
    • And don't miss living willow cottage in the main picnic area.

    The History:

    Long before Richard Arkwright came to Cromford to build his cotton mills, this area was known as Smelting Mill Green. Lead smelting mills were sited here from around 1575 and these were converted into “Callimy Works” (producing calamine for brass making) in about 1761. Still shown on this 1786 watercolour, Richard Arkwright began to build Willersley Castle soon afterwards, and the cottages and smelting mills were cleared as part of the landscaping. 

    View towards Cromford Bridge from Mill Lane 1786
    Cromford, Derbyshire, painted in 1786 

    Many things have changed since 1786, but if you stand in the picnic area, you can still see the Lodge House at the entrance to Willersley Castle, the Bridge over the River Derwent, and the distinctive rockface on the other side of the road. (Our  picnic area chainsaw sculptures are based on this watercolour.)

    The Wildlife:

    BtMW is a fantastic place to get up close to nature.  Whether it is sitting in the meadow surrounded by the wildflowers, or watching the river, or tuning in on the birdsong all around you, you can see the wildlife changing throughout the seasons. The meadow is full of flowers, bees and butterflies throughout the spring and summer.  We mow it in late summer to ensure more flowers each year, and this then allows you to easily see different types of fungi that are fruiting in the autumn.

    Church Meadow in Spring

    Unusual birds include dipper and grey wagtail by the river in the summer months, and hawfinch high in the trees in wintertime.  Keep an eye on the river for a high whistle and flash of blue as the kingfishers fly past.

    Other notable wildlife are the small-leafed lime trees, and in the spring you can find stinking hellebores on the top of Scarthin Rock. Seeds from these were taken to Kew Gardens as part of their Millennium seed bank project.  The way up to the top of Scarthin Rock is steep, but the views of Cromford Mills Yard and Willersley Castle are well worth the effort!

    Thanks to:

    • Andrew Frost, who has carved all our fantastic wildlife sculptures and the smelting mills and cottages in the picnic area.
    • The amazing Bolsover Woodland Enterprise (a social enterprise group working with people with learning disabilities), who have made and installed benches, picnic tables and Scavengers' Scramble stations.
    • Alistair Hayhurst (Underwood Crafts), who wove a living willow cottage with the help of Cromford School.
    • JonesySketches for donating the leaflet artwork and graphics.
    • Our wonderful volunteers, who have given us their time to weave tunnels, clear brambles, repair steps, build dead hedges and to mow & rake the meadow. 
    • Chainsaw sculpturesWillow WeavingBolsover Woodland Enterprise installing their picnic tables.

      Creating the Story Telling Area

    And without doubt, huge thanks to the Postcode Local Trust (supported by players of the People's Postcode Lottery). Without their incredible funding and support this project would not have been possible.

    Postcode Local Trust Logos