The garden centre section of the Derwent is one of my favourite spots on the river. Not just because it’s picturesque, has a variety of water conditions to deal with and clear open stretches with wooded sections between, it’s also the nearest part of the Derwent to me. I can be on the river, tackled up and casting my first fly within 20 minutes of leaving work on those warm sunny summers evenings (whatever they are).
Directions & parking
It’s a piece of cake to find this stretch. Head west out of Rowlands Gill on the A694, keep going until you get to the signs for Lintzford. The A694 bears left around some very nice houses, with the turning to Lintzord on the right on the outside of the bend. Don’t turn right, follow the road round and there is a long straight in front of you. Resist the temptation to speed up as you need to take the lay-by type road on the left.
This lay-by is actually the old A694, it runs parallel to the new road for a few hundred yards. Follow the old road along, go over the stone bridge and park up. On your left you’ll see the Lintzford Garden Center. There’s often the odd car here, sometimes they’re fellow anglers, other times its a dog walker or overspill from the garden centre car park.
Finding the river
The road bridge marks the end of the Derwent Angling Association water. Everything downstream from here is either private or Axwell Park Angling Association controlled. To get to the DAA controlled water, you’ve two options:
Option 1 – take on the devil horse and his mate
Get your gear on, but leave tackling your rod up until you get to the river. Head from your car towards the road bridge. You want to cross the road (but be careful, most cars are trying to break the land speed record down this bit of the A694) and aim for the left side of the bridge as you look at it.
You’ll not notice it at first, but as you cross the road and get nearer to the end of the bridge there is a small path/walk through the bushes with a stile at the end. It’s pretty overgrown and a bit of a squeeze, especially in the summer. It’s due to this I always save putting my rod together until I’m through this and at the river.
Once you’re through, the river is down on your right. There are a couple of spots within the first few yards that’re worth dropping a fly into – I’ve had some pretty decent brownies from here, especially right over under the far bank.
From here there are a few other likely pools to try as you walk along and before you get to another stile. At this point you need to make sure you’ve filled out your Will, and left your affairs in good order. You’re about to step into satan’s lair.
To follow the river any further you need to go over the stile. This will give you access to the pasture that runs along the river right the way up to Craghead Wood. It’s a beautiful walk along the river bank, oak trees providing shade and meadow flowers providing a blanket of colour. All very serene and peaceful? It is until you run into the two horses that call this field their home.
It’s the black one you’ve got to watch. The white horse seems a little bit timid, but the black one is a hard core head banging nut job. I’ve seen him come flying up to people, snorting and thrashing about. If you’ve got the bottle (and perhaps a long enough net handle or stout wading staff) to stand up to him, you should be ok, but he scares the s**t out of me! If you are lucky, they’ll be off in the top corner of the pasture, the farthest part of the field away from the river. Don’t be fooled though, keep looking over your shoulder, he’s a nasty habit of advancing when you’re not looking (bit like those angle statues in Dr Who).
It seems as though he’s been around for a while, back in 1932 they made a documentary about him – ‘The Devil Horse‘
The river has some great pools in it all the way up to the left bend (where Pallis Burn flows into it) and round under the trees at the start of Chopwell Wood. As you follow the river round you’ll eventually come to a fence that marks the start of Galley burn Wood. The fence has a sign on it saying ‘Private DAA anglers only’.
This is where option 2 would get you if you went that way…
Option 2 – the horse free route
To avoid any chance of mixing it up with a 19 hand high mass of black horse shaped evil, but sadly avoid any of the first half mile of the river, you need to take option 2. When you leave your car, carry on walking up the old road to the entrance of the Garden Centre, keep going a little further (at this point you’ll be walking along the footpath, beside the A694, green railings on your left side) until you see a gate on other side of the road, trees either side of it.
Cross the road and go through/over/round the gate. Carry on walking along this path as far as you can until you get to the fence with ‘Private DAA anglers only’ on it. If you go any further you’ll fall down the bank and into the river. Don’t do it.
At this point, you can either hop over the fence and take you chances in the pasture section (by this time you’ll hopefully have seen where Lucifers soot coloured stallion is hiding, hopefully in the top corner out of the way) or turn left and follow the path through the wood.
There really is a whole range of water available to fish in on this stretch. We’ve already talked about the relatively open water in the pasture. Some anglers only ever fish this part, never venturing into the wooded section and beyond.
Even if you don’t take your rod (though that’d just be silly) it’s still well worth following the path through the wood to enjoy the amazing scenery.
“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”*
As you walk through the the wood, the river is initially quite wide but relatively shallow. It’s possible to wade right across pretty much throughout the year. Once you move further up stream you find it narrows in a couple of areas and provides some really fast water, and excellent pools.
You’ll then come to a section that, on the left (the side you’re on) has an natural wall of rock (slate?) and what looks like a very deep glide of water running past it. The wall has a ledge you can use to walk along. At one point you have to make use of a semi submerged stone to traverse a gap. Sounds bad, but it’s not, though it does make you feel like Indiana Jones for a very brief moment!
As you keep going, dropping into the many pools available to you on the way, you eventually see the end of the wooded section opening up before you. To date, I’ve found no way of getting through this last section and into the open fields except for getting into the water and wading the last bit.
Wade to get further
There is a pretty steep cliff on the left side that, if you’re on top of it doesn’t seem to have any way past the nasty looking barb wire fence and steep drop. Taking to the river isn’t so bad though – it’s quite shallow if you stick to the edge, with most of it having a stone/slate bottom to it.
Once you’re out into the open the river takes on a calmer persona, with a few less turbulent sections and longer runs of unrifled water. It must be noted that for the whole of the wooded section the DAA has the rights to fish from both banks, once you’re in the open sections either side of the woods we’re only allowed to fish on the left side (as you’re looking upstream).
There is one faster section midway between the wood you’ve just left, and the one you’re walking towards – Hagg Banks Wood. As the river turns to the left in front of you it narrows forcing all it to speed up and give you an excellent pool to try.
You’re pretty much at the end of this section now, walking a little further on, past another long, straight and relatively slow section sees the bank rising up on the left towards the wood. There is a fence, and if I recall, barbed wire at the top with a steep drop off the other side. If you’re feeling brave you may be able to take to the river and wade past this, I’ve not tried it so can’t say how easy or not it’d be.
The end, but not really
However, you can access the next section by parking in the Derwentcote Steel Furnace car park and walking down Forge Lane on the other side of the road. More about this another time.
I hope that is helpful to someone. I know when I first started I had no idea there was this much river available through that little tree line gap I had to squeeze though next to the road bridge. I also didn’t know I’d be having nightmares about black, fire snorting devil horses either…
*Thats a quote from Indiana Jones, in case you didn’t know.