Beyond the Mill Walls
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.
Clearly visible as you arrive is the picnic area between the Church and our car park; 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.
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.
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.)
Beyond the Mill Walls 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.
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!