Though little of its mining heritage remains evident today, the economy of Chesterfield was once greatly dependent on the coalfield on which the town stands. The Five Pits Trail is an off-road pathway combining classic Derbyshire scenery with Chesterfields mining past, running along the route of the old Great Central Railway which once connected the areas five collieries. For lovers of wildlife, picturesque views and a little touch of history, the trail offers the perfect afternoon outing, whether venturing on foot, bicycle or horseback.
The Five Pits Trail begins just 3 miles from the town of Chesterfield at Grassmoor Country Park. Here, at the northern end of the trail, wide open grasslands provide the perfect picnic area to fuel the family before setting off on the 5.5 mile pathway. The area, which operated as Grassmoor Colliery until 1967, is also a haven for wildlife with butterflies inhabiting the green meadows and birdlife taking to the skies above. Also known to be seen, though somewhat rarely thanks to their elusive nature, water voles reside in the parks ponds, along with small, harmless grass snakes. From Grassmoor Country Park, the route heads south to Tibshelf Ponds, passing through Williamthorpe, Holmewood and Pilsley en route.
By adding an extra 2 miles onto the original trail route, you can take in the beauty of Williamthorpe Local Nature Reserve and Holmewood Woodlands. Tucked away in blissful seclusion, Williamthorpe Local Nature Reserve is a hot spot for birdlife, with over 200 species recorded on site. Meanwhile, Holmewood Woodlands stands as a regeneration of the original Holme Wood, an area destroyed for the development of Holmewood Colliery. Again, the woodland and grassland areas provide a welcome home for a plethora of wildlife.
The Five Pits Trail is accessible to all ages and abilities. With car parks situated at many places along the route, your journey can start at any point and take in as much, or as little of the trail as you wish. The pathway is dotted with rest areas for you to take in the beautiful Derbyshire scenery, of particular note are the views of the Peak District from Tibshelf Ponds. There are also a number of public houses along the route for those who fancy an extended rest. Each small town on the trail has excellent links with Chesterfield, either by car or public transport. If an afternoons meandering is not enough for the adventurer in you, there are also four circular walks that depart from locations along the way. More information, including maps of all trails and pathways, is available from the Clay Cross Countryside Centre, ideally situated near the Days in Chesterfield.