5 miles (8km): easy riverside walking along two attractive dales, linked by an interesting village street.
RECOMMENDED MAP: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Outdoor Leisure Series; Sheet 24, The Peak District, White Peak Area.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Hulley’s 171 hourly service from Bakewell (no Sunday service).
CAR PARKING: laybys at roadside beyond River Lathkill bridge outside Alport.
REFRESHMENTS: three walker friendly pubs in Youlgreave village.
Here is a lovely walk following dales on either side of Youlgreave, one of the largest yet unspoilt village in the Peak. To its north is Lathkill Dale which is the first dale to be followed; a short stroll along the village street leads to a woodland path into Bradford Dale which is followed back to the starting point of the walk, and also the point where streams flowing down the twin dales, meet.
Although the Ordnance Survey and the County Council use the first letter ‘e’ in the ‘greave’ part of Youlgreave, the locals usually spell the name Youlgrave, but in any case prefer to call it ‘Pommy’ just to confuse visitors! The village proudly maintains its independent water supply brought by pipeline from a source beneath gritstone moorland to the south. Before this came about Youlgreave had a severe water problem, especially in dry summers when many of the village wells dried up. The circular stone tank opposite the one-time co-op shop, now a youth hostel, was used to store piped water which first came to the village in 1829. Now every house has piped water like the rest of us. Although the custom is possibly much older, the five village wells have been dressed in floral motives since 1829 during the week following the Saturday nearest to St John the Baptist’s Day.
Youlgreave has several buildings worth more than a passing glance, from farmhouses within the immediate confines of the village to its two-storied hall, the garden of which is occasionally open to the public, especially during well dressing week. The church is a delight and contains the tombs of several medieval knights alongside its Norman font. Unusual in its design, the font bowl is supported by a central column together with four small shafts. An upside down dragon on the main bowl holds a smaller bowl in its mouth, thought to have been made to hold consecrated oil. The font has a curious history, having once stood in Elton church. The east window was designed by William Morris and Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Church records from 1609 tom1715 record fees paid to the official dog-whipper.
Deep pools in the River Lathkill are stocked with trout below Conksbury Bridge and monster-sized fish can sometimes be spotted lazing beneath the narrow pack-horse bridge below Raper Lodge, making a popular spot for children. Fishing and the immediately riverside meadow is strictly private, but you will get an excellent view as you follow the path beyond Alport, the starting point of the walk.
The two dales meet and their waters mingle at Alport. The quiet hamlet is a little way from the road, a pleasant group of stone cottages with attractive gardens; a hump-backed bridge carries the side road and downstream, the remains of a grinding mill is where lead ore was prepared for smelting. Observant passers-by will see a curious notice on the gable-wall of a farm on the Youlgreave road, warning vagrants to keep away.
The Walk :
1. From the road go through the gate on your left beyond the farm house. Follow the field path with the River Lathkill on your right, up-stream until it reaches a path and track junction.
It is worth making a short diversion at this point by going to your right, down a short path as far as an ancient pack-horse bridge over the River Lathkill. Children especially will enjoy looking out for trout lazing beneath the bridge. Return to the path/track junction.
2. Walk uphill past Raper Lodge, (the cottage on your left). Follow the surfaced track, uphill until it reaches a minor road. Turn left and walk into Youlgreave village.
3. At the staggered cross roads in front of the church, turn right and walk through the village for about half a mile. Ignore the footpath sign on the left between two rows of cottages. Continue along the road as far as the end of the village.
Look out for the water tank that once supplied the village with pure water. Nowadays Youlgreave enjoys piped water like the rest of us, but their’s still comes from a spring on Stanton Moor.
4. A little way beyond the last house in the village, go through a kissing gate set back on your left.
5. Follow the woodland path, steeply in parts, downhill into the dale. N.b. the path can be slippery in wet weather.
6. Turn left on to a wider path descending from your right.
7. Cross the stone bridge and go left along the riverside track.
Small ponds along the dale were created to conserve water for the wheel driving the ore-mill in Alport. One of them, closer to Youlgreave, has been converted into the village swimming pool. (But don’t expect the water to be warm!).
8. Reaching a stone clapper bridge, cross and go through a stile on your right. Continue to follow the River Bradford, downstream until it reaches the outskirts of the lower part of Youlgreave.
9. Cross the side road and go through the gate opposite.
10. Continue to follow the river, still downstream, past an attractive packhorse bridge (but do not cross).
11. Walk on past the dramatic rock face of Rheinstor Crag until the track reaches the road. Turn left for your parked car.