A bright Sunday afternoon, visiting the 9-mile Ecclesbourne Valley Railway just a few miles north of Derby centre. This restored branch line from Duffield to Wirksworth once carried local quarry traffic, and visitors can now travel on heritage trains along the pretty river valley.

Given that we moved into our home in the Derbyshire countryside a couple of years ago, I’m surprised that we had not already visited this attraction which is only a few miles away from home. But with a nice sunny day forecast towards the end of February, I decided to head out and explore.

Diesel Multiple Unit waiting at Duffield Station
Diesel Multiple Unit waiting at Duffield Station

The branch line once served the local limestone quarries in the Wirksworth area, and was connected to the Midland main line between Derby and Leeds at Duffield Station, where I began my journey. An adult day-rover ticket cost me £14.50, allowing unlimited travel on the day of purchase. Journey time end-to-end between Duffield and Wirksworth is approximately 40 minutes.

The train stops at two intermediate stations, Shottle and Idridgehay. The former station buildings are now both in private ownership, with no access to rail users. But both stations are popular with walkers alighting for the Ecclesbourne Way, and both have a traditional pub nearby for refreshment!

The former station building at Shottle, now privately owned
The former station building at Shottle, now privately owned

My train terminated at Wirksworth station, high in the White Peak area of the Derbyshire Dales, and near to the source of the River Ecclesbourne. There’s a further short section of line which can be travelled separately on busy weekends or special event days, ascending the steep 1 in 27 Ravenstor Incline connecting the village of Wirksworth to Ravenstor, a former quarrying location higher into the Peaks. Further fares apply to this section of line.

Diesel Multiple Unit and a Railcar waiting at Wirksworth Station
Diesel Multiple Unit and a Railcar waiting at Wirksworth Station

The termini stations at Duffield and Wirksworth are still fairly basic, comprising a ticket office and a small gift shop. Additionally, there’s a small museum of railwayana to explore at Wirksworth station, a cafe and a rather short miniature railway adjacent to the platforms.

Enjoyable day? – Yes, certainly. The Ecclesbourne Valley is a picturesque and pastoral location, which connects into the more well-known Derwent Valley at the southern (Duffield) end of the line. Services don’t run every day though, so you need to check the timetable in advance on their website if you are planning a visit.

Value for money? – Maybe not, at £14.50. For comparison, a full day on the Severn Valley or the Worth Valley heritage railways can still be had for less than £20, and generally features steam services, along with several intermediate stations which can be fully explored. Steam does make an appearance at Ecclesbourne, but seemingly only on bank holiday weekends or special event days. Nevertheless, a pleasant afternoon out for anyone with an interest in preserved diesels or indeed the beautiful Derbyshire countryside!