Friday, September 29, 2023

Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days for Half Term

Variety and significance – key to festival’s 14th year

Over the long summer of 2018, researchers, event organisers and volunteers across the Derwent Valley have been developing new experiences for visitors to Derbyshire’s biggest heritage festival.

The Discovery Days Festival celebrates the varied offer and global significance of the Derwent Valley Mills, the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands and birthplace of the factory system. The festival runs throughout the half-term holidays, from Saturday 27 October to Sunday 4 November. With over 130 events planned, there’ll be something for everyone!

The festival starts with a focus on the southern part of the World Heritage Site, at Derby, Darley Abbey and Milford on October 27, with a busy day of activities in Belper on the Sunday. After five varied days of activities across the valley the final weekend focuses on Cromford and Holloway in the north on the final weekend.

Highlights this year include opportunities to see into spaces rarely open to the public. Visitors will be able to take a glimpse into the John Smedley Archive, exploring the modern artwork commissioned by this famous luxury knitwear brand – a must for anyone interested in fashion. The hydro facilities at the Milford and Belper mill sites will also be open, as well as other properties which only open during this festival.

New exhibitions will better explain and celebrate our world-renowned heritage, in unique venues like Sir Richard Arkwright’s Greyhound Inn at Cromford, using information and photographs never presented to the public before.

The Derwent Valley is developing as a producer of artisan spirits and craft beers and there’ll be a chance to see both the White Peak Distillery in Ambergate and the Derventio Brewery in Darley Abbey – although it’ll be some time yet before White Peak’s whisky is ready for tasting!

There are brand new walks, many taking in the beautiful landscape setting of the World Heritage Site. Walks include Little Eaton, heritage at risk in Darley Abbey and Little Chester, the churches and chapels of Belper and the ever-popular Milford Village Walk. There’s even an exploration of rebellion in the valley!

The busy talks programme features fairground enthusiast Neil Calladine, celebrating 250 years of the circus and its links to Belper, whilst World Heritage Site Coordinator Adrian Farmer reveals some photographic gems from Derbyshire Record Office. Other subjects include the Aqueduct Cottage on the Cromford Canal, Richard Arkwright Junior, the new Wirksworth Heritage Centre and Tony Wood will explore the local mines and soughs of Cromford.

For families there’s the Mini Maker Faire in Derby, showcasing invention, creativity and resourcefulness with the opportunity to “Have a Go”; a ‘World Heritage Engineers’ drop-in, all about water-power; a circus skills workshop hosted by the University of Derby and Déda; and make-and-take sessions in Strutt’s North Mill during the week. At Cromford Mill there’s a chance for children to discover their role in the mills and there’ll be Hallowe’en Trails at Derby’s museums.

Look out for “Secret Pop Up Gigs” too, where musicians and performers will be shining a light on more unusual spaces along the World Heritage Site on the final weekend!

It’s a fantastic programme this year, all thanks to the wonderful volunteers, sites, attractions and community groups along the World Heritage Site. We’re really proud of the festival and looking forward to sharing and celebrating this remarkable part of Derbyshire with visitors,” said Councillor Barry Lewis, who chairs the World Heritage Site Steering Group.

For details, look for the Discovery Days booklet in the mills, museums and visitor centres around Derbyshire. Visit for the most up to date information.

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Twitter @DVMillsWHS



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