Corbar is one of the most peaceful parts of Buxton. The roads are long and wide and the leafy tranquillity is a natural harbour for retirement homes, hotels and hospitals. The cross on the hill and the former reservoir at Lightwood make ideal destinations for a stroll. As well as taking in the peace and quiet and the fresh air, you can explore some of the town’s more unusual history and ecology.
The area is light on pubs, cafes and shops so the intrepid rambler is advised to accompany their walk with some refreshment. Alternatively, you could start or end the trail at The Dome, formerly The Devonshire Royal Hospital and now part of the University of Derby, which is open to the public and has its own café/restaurant. The Dome is arguably the most magnificent building in Buxton and arguably one of the most magnificent in the country.Not even gaggles of excitable students can spoil the jaw-dropping sight of the interior. In fact, the cacophony of youth echoing around the ceiling seems to breathe some life into it. You can’t fail to find The Dome, it’s that big domey thing.
From there, you have a choice of intriguing destinations. Wandering uphill away from the town centre, via either Devonshire Road or Marlborough Road, will put you on Corbar Road, where you can climb through the woods to Corbar Cross or stay level to the far end and take a left for Lightwood. A third far gentler option is the pedestrianised circle of Park Road which has some eccentric heritage of its own, including the former home of the man who directed Mary Poppins.
At the west end of Corbar Road, adjacent to the path up to the cross is the imposing edifice of Northwood House. Now used as an annexe by the University of Derby, Northwood is Grade II listed, built by famous architect Henry Currey in 1862. Some Buxton residents may remember the place as being the John Duncan School.
If you entertain the notion of such things: Northwood House is one of the most haunted places in Buxton. Many former employees and students have peculiar experiences to recount and if you gaze up at the lofty exterior of the house by the woods, it is easy to imagine that it might be keeping a secret or two.
Down the road was once another bastion of education that had a reputation for being slightly creepy; Cavendish Girl’s School. The faculty was built as Wyehead Asylum; “an establishment for the care and treatment of the insane of the higher and middle classes.” Bars were left on some of the windows which probably gave rise to sinister playground tales. Unfortunately, this intriguing heritage was bulldozed in the 1990s and swiftly replaced with a housing estate, which is a bit of a shame. I’ve not heard anything about the occupants being woken in the night by tormented screams and rattling bars.
Phantoms aside, the ascent to Corbar Cross is a network of woodland paths free of over-development or too many tourists, who often tend to gravitate towards Grinlow Woods or Buxton Country Park as it sometimes known. You can marvel at the abundance of Bluebells in Corbar Woods during the month of May.
Beyond the shadow of the trees, you will be greeted by the sight of a large wooden cross. Raised in 1950 to commemorate Holy Year, the significance of the landmark will be lost on many non-Roman Catholics. The cross has done well to survive over the years; it was painted pink by pranksters in the 1990s and cut down completely in 2010 as part of a protest. It serves as the purpose of the walk, if nothing else, and the summit offers one of the best views of the town, although only the warmest of days will encourage you to linger for long.
Less than a mile to the north is a more sheltered dip of popular wilderness called Lightwood. Dog walkers of Buxton escort their pooches around the reservoir that is no longer a reservoir. Captured in monochrome by local photographer J.D. Meddins in the 1940s, the reservoir only served for around 60 years although the water is still used as a source by Nestle.
Lightwood is one of Buxton’s best kept secrets; a pretty place with a lonely serenity reinforced by the seemingly endless stretch of moorland that lies beyond it. Some generations may recall using Lightwood as a teenage hangout but the secluded spot now entertains stranger wildlife including herons, lizards and frogs; an abundance of Common Blue Damselflies can be spotted during summer months dancing and hovering above the pond.
If anyone has more facts or stories about this area of town, please feel free to comment.
Darcus Wolfson for Explore Buxton.