Return to the Home Page     Discover Belper/Amber Valley      Return to the Contents Page



Whatstandwell is located in a most picturesque and thickly wooded section of the Derwent Valley. But the traveller on the busy A6 only catches a brief glimpse of the village, probably seeing little more than the railway station, the hotel and the bridge over the River Derwent. Passengers on the train will almost certainly see even less as part of the route goes through a tunnel on the northern side of the village.   

In the past there have been several attempts to trace the origin of the name, Whatstandwell, but most now seem to agree that it was named after Walter Stonewall. At the time when the bridge was built in 1391, Walter (or Wat) Stonewall rented a cottage where the bridge was constructed, which was mentioned in the agreement with the landowner. Prior to the building of the bridge, a ford crossed the river at that point. 

According to historical notes published in 1956, it was said that, ‘Whatstandwell has no legal nor administrative existence. It was never a lordship nor a manor, neither is it a civil or ecclesiastical parish’. Officially it is part of Crich Carr, but the Midland Railway named their station Whatstandwell and the Ordnance Survey accepted the name. Local people also used the name and gradually with the passage of time and slight modifications, it became accepted. The village now extends well beyond the river bridge, its little grey stone cottages merging quietly into the background of wood and cliff along the Crich and Holloway Road.  

This is the road that Florence Nightingale used to take, on her two mile walk to her home at Lea Hurst, after alighting from the coach at Whatstandwell. She provided many of the books held in the village coffee and reading rooms, where there was also a billiard room. Members paid sixpence per quarter towards the reading room and nine pence per quarter for billiards.  

The construction of the Cromford Canal was completed in late 1794, to improve the movement of heavy goods in and out of Cromford.  Although it was opened after the death of Sir Richard Arkwright, he was a prime mover in the decision to construct the canal. It linked up with the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill, which ran into the River Trent. This provided a connection with Derby and Nottingham and beyond that with Liverpool and Manchester by the Trent and Mersey Canal.

In the mid 1800s, the railway era arrived, and gradually took most of the business away from the canal. It is claimed that nowhere in England do the four methods of transport, road, rail, river and canal run so closely together as they do here. Although the canal is now only used for leisure purposes, the railway line one of the most scenically attractive but runs no further than Matlock.   

The towpath is walkable from Cromford to Ambergate, a distance of five and a half miles, and the walk from Cromford Wharf to High Peak Junction is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is very rich with wildlife and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest with the southern end from Ambergate to Whatstandwell being managed as a local nature reserve by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Despite the fact that Whatstandwell is so far from the sea, it is the place where Ellen MacArthur the celebrated yachtswoman grew up. She shot to fame after finishing second in the gruelling Vendée Globe single-handed Round the World race. Then in early 2005, Ellen completed her bid to break the record for the fastest person to sail single-handedly around the world, beating the previous record set by Frenchman Francis Joyon of 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds.

Even more remarkable was Ellen’s achievement, when it is taken into account that Joyon had smashed the previous record by a staggering 20 days. Ellen finished the 27, 000 mile course in 71 days and under 15 hours in her 75 foot trimaran, B&Q. On her return, she was greeted by huge crowds and the news quickly followed that she had been made a Dame, the youngest person ever to receive the honour.

On the eastern side of the river stands the attractive ivy clad Derwent Hotel, formerly a coaching inn known as the Bull’s Head. Busy in the 21st century with petrol driven customers, walkers, fishermen and holiday makers from the nearby caravan parks.


1. Station Master’s House.
2. Railway Station.
3. Railway Bridge.
4. Tunnel House.
5. Canal Information Board.
6. Cromford Canal.
7. Primary School.
8. Former Smithy.
9. Derwent Hotel.
10. Derwent Bridge.


 Return to the Home Page       Back to the top of the Page          Return to the Contents Page is an independent, not for profit website.

No recommendation of any establishment is implied by inclusion on this website.




Crich Tramway Village (Tel. 01773 854321) boasts a large array of vintage trams from all over the world. Unlimited rides through a period street to stunning views over the Derwent Valley. Please telephone for details or visit website.

Lea Gardens: (Tel. 01629 534380) rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers in a lovely woodland setting. You can sit inside the attractive teashop or outside when the weather is suitable. Please telephone for details or visit website.

Arkwright’s Cromford Mill (Cromford Mill Tel. 01629 823256, Masson Mill Tel. 01629 760208) is the world’s first successful water powered cotton-spinning mill. It is now a World Heritage Site and guided tours are available. There is a whole food restaurant, a number of shops and free car park. Cromford Mill is a not to be missed attraction, along with Masson Mill situated about a quarter of a mile away on the A6, which has been converted into a shopping village and working textile museum. Open daily.


Derwent Hotel (Tel. 01773 856616) formerly called the Bull’s Head, there has been an inn here for over 300 years. Open lunchtimes and evenings and all day at weekends. Food served lunchtime and evenings Monday to Saturday, Sunday lunchtimes only. Play area. There is outside seating at the rear. Accommodation can be booked.   

Cromford Mill Tea Rooms (Tel. 01629 823256) delicious food is served in the Whole Food Tea Rooms situated in the yard of historic Cromford Mill. Outside seating is available. The complex is the home of the world’s first successful water powered cotton-spinning mill and is now a World Heritage Site.  

High Peak Junction (Tel. 01629 822831) where there is an Information Centre and shop and a Railway Heritage Museum.  Light refreshments available in holiday seson, picnic tables overlook Cromford Canal.




Provides a wide range of features  with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.


1.  To return to the main site click the link below.

Return to the Home Page

2.  To return to the contents page of the main website click the link below.

Return to the Contents Page





For anyone interested in wildlife and industrial history this is a walk not to be missed. Even if you are not interested in either subject, this is a great walk with plenty of variety. 

Completed in 1794, the Cromford Canal stretched 14.5 miles to Langley Mill, where it joined the Erewash Canal. Today it supports an abundance of wildlife and because of its value as a natural habitat, it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.



Whatstandwell Walk




All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.