Lathkill Dale is one of my favourite walking areas of the Peak. I don’t know how many times I have walked beside what Izaac Walton called ‘the purest of streams’. I have walked there and enjoyed it in all weathers and in every season of the year. There are almost unlimited variations of footpath routes on either side of the dale, north, south, east and west.
This walk was taken in early autumn when the leaves were just beginning to turn and the damp air had just a little hint of the winter still to come. The dale’s steep sides are now densely crowded with all manner of trees and shrubs, a haven for wildlife and the area below farmland on either side of the dale is classed as a National Nature Reserve. It is hard to realise that the trees are a comparatively modern addition to Lathkil Dale. Not so very long ago, a mere century past, this was an industrial zone with lead mines and a flour mill; and even a short-lived gold rush that cost its investors a fortune, but all that is long gone. Nothing remains but the ruins of Mandale Mine, one of the largest lead mines in the Peak, together with the pathetic attempts to dig into the hillside for what turned out to be fool’s gold. Probably the only place where a small but steady profit was made for its owners was the flour mill at the end of the forested section of the dale, but even that is dead and gone. Nowadays the only income from Lathkil Dale is the result of fees paid by anglers and shooting parties who come in search of trout, or to catch the raucous pheasants heard calling amongst the shrubbery.
The walk begins and ends in Over Haddon, the little village south of Bakewell that perches on a limestone ledge high above the northern bank of the River Lathkil. It has a single pub and a tearoom waiting to slake the thirsts or fill the stomachs of all who follow this walk. Parking is in the small pay and display car park at the start of the lane down to the valley bottom where the main footpath begins. An easy to navigate walk, it follows the dale upstream, through a mature wild wood to its upper boundary. This is the site of the ruined and long abandoned flour mill where a right turn joins a winding path up to the lower of Haddon Grove Farms. From here the way back to Over Haddon is along a quiet high level by-road.
Please note: the path along the dale bottom is concessionary and is occasionally closed during the shooting season.
From the car park, follow the steep, winding lane down to the lodge in the dale bottom. A slight diversion for a few yards continuing beyond the lodge reaches an ancient stone-slabbed clapper bridge. A rarity in the Peak, there are however, three within a radius of a little over a mile from this one.
Returning to the lane, turn left and go through a wooden gate, (or go straight on if you are not going to look at the clapper bridge). Follow the riverside path along the valley. Look out for two trial holes carved into the outcropping rock on the right of the path. These are the remains of an attempt to mine gold in Lathkil Dale. Investors lost fortunes in what soon became a mine excavating nothing but fool’s gold – iron pyrites.
At the start of the wooded section of the walk you will have reached the remains of Mandale Mine to your right. Water to drive a pumping engine was brought from further up the dale along an aqueduct; all that remains are three or four ruined stone pillars that once carried a water trough from one side of the river over to the mine.
Look out for two fenced hollows at the right of the path. They are sink holes and are a natural way for water to drain away underground. A small plaque on the fence explains how they work.
Continuing along the woodland track, pause and cross over the wooden ‘willow pattern’ bridge on your left a little way beyond the aqueduct’s pillars. It leads to the ruins of a cottage where the mine manager and his wife lived in the 1800s. The kitchen was built over an entrance to a side mine. Within it a newly developed pump was hidden from competitors’ eyes. Unfortunately the floor was not strong enough and the poor lady once disappeared into the depths, fortunately without too many cuts and bruises. A metal ladder now descends safely into what was the cellar and a hand cranked dynamo lights up the depths below.
Returning over the bridge cross over and turn left to re-join the woodland track. Follow it for about three-quarters of a mile to the woodland boundary.
Go through a gate in the boundary fence and turn right, going past the scant remains of the local flour mill. Apart from a few stones remaining from the outer walls, you might spot the millstones lying mute in amongst the weeds.
Follow the track going right as it winds steeply zig-zagging uphill for about half a mile until it reaches the lower of Haddon Grove Farms.
Keeping to the right of the farm buildings, join the access drive and follow it for a little over a hundred yards until it reaches the Monyash Over Haddon road.
Turn right along this scenic by-road and follow it for about a couple of miles, back into Over Haddon.
Continue past the car park if in search of refreshment. Both the tea room and the pub are on this street; the tea room is half way along and the pub at the far end, beyond where the road makes a left-hand turn in the direction of Bakewell.
DISTANCE: 4 miles (6.4km) of easy to moderate walking. One 226 foot (69metres) climb.
RECOMMENDED MAP: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Outdoor Leisure Series Sheet 24, White Peak area.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Hulleys 177 limited service throughout the week.
CAR PARKING: Pay and Display at the western (Monyash) end of the village.
REFRESHMENT: The Lathkill Inn is at the eastern end of the village street, or tea room village centre.