Ashford in the Water
If you’re looking for a chocolate-box Peak District village to visit, you couldn’t possibly do better than spending a day in Ashford in the Water. It has everything that a perfect village needs: an idyllic riverside setting, complete with a medieval bridge, pretty limestone cottages, narrow lanes, a tearoom and cosy country pubs.
The Sheepwash Bridge across the River Wye is one of the most photographed bridges in England, and it’s not hard to see why. The river is broad and beautiful at this point and its grassy banks are lined with daffodils in the Spring. There are often ducks dozing here, and you might catch sight of a dipper landing on the rocks in the water, as well as rainbow trout lazily swimming in the river. The bridge has been named by the national tourist board as the best location in the country to play Poohsticks … and you can’t get a better reason to linger than that! As its name suggests, the Sheepwash Bridge was once used by farmers to drive their flocks into the water to be washed before shearing, and the small walled enclosure used to pen the sheep is still in situ. The bridge is now a Grade II listed structure, noted for its historic and architectural importance.
The records of the village date back to the 10th Century, and in the Domesday Book of 1086 it was referred to as Aisseford, the name deriving from Ash Tree Ford, or River. In contrast to its peaceful appearance today, Ashford in the Water was once home to a thriving quarrying and mining industry producing Ashford Black Marble, a form of limestone which turns black when polished. It was especially popular in Victorian times when it was used to decorate inlaid furniture and funerary items. You can still see examples of Ashford Black Marble in the pretty village church of Holy Trinity. The church is well worth a visit and has a 13th Century tower still intact, although most of it was rebuilt in the 19th Century.
After exploring the village, you should reward yourself with tea and home-made cake at the quaint Aisseford Tea Rooms, or enjoy a pint at one of the charming country pubs in the village.