Here is a walk that ranks high in my list of Peakland favourites. Probably because it was one of my very first as a boy scout camping at Mawstone Farm above Youlgreave, but it is a walk that to me, never tires. The two dales explored on the walk could not be more different; both are based on limestone and also have rivers full of trout, but whereas the babbling Lathkill stream coyly disappears underground from time to time, the Bradford at least in its upper reaches, is a series of clear pools created when its water was needed to drive a lead mill further downstream at Alport.
The walk starts and finishes at the roadside layby on the Youlgreave side of Alport village, then follows the Lathkill upstream by way of Conksbury Bridge and as far as the old sporting lodge below Over Haddon. Here the dale is left by way of a steep track up to the pastures of Meadow Place Grange and then on across its fields to Moor Lane where a right turn leads into the pretty village of Middleton. A winding track leads down into Bradford Dale and a left turn along its accompanying path is followed all the way back to the hamlet of Alport.
- From the roadside walk back towards the bridge beyond the cottage on your left.
- Turn left through a gate and follow the field path alongside a stone wall and bushes screening the River Lathkill. Stiles in walls along the way mark the route.
- Where the path crosses the end of a narrow lane below Raper Lodge, go through a stile on its far side and continue as far as the road.
A short diversion to the right and down the lane below Raper Lodge leads to an attractive packhorse bridge from which trout can often be seen lazing against the current.
- Turn right at the road and follow it across Conksbury Bridge.
- On the far side turn left to go through a kissing gate to follow the streamside path all the way to the tranquil setting of Lathkill Lodge.
- Turn left at the house and cross a stone clapper bridge.
In summer the river is frequently dry at this point, but still flows underground. The clapper bridge is probably medieval and allowed monks to cross dry-shod on their way to and from Meadow Place Grange.
- Climb the winding track bearing left then right away from the river and through mature trees as far as the fields above.
- Go through the gate at the top of the track and bearing slightly right aim across the pathless field to the group of farm buildings ahead.
Meadow Place Grange was once a monastic holding.
- Go directly through the farm yard and out through a gate on its far side where mud can be encountered in wet weather.
- Bear right beyond the gate to follow a stone wall and then by following waymarking posts strike out across three fields, climbing their boundary walls by stone stiles as far as a road.
- Cross the road by using stiles almost opposite each other and go down to a second road (Moor Lane).
- Following the boundary wall on your left cross the heads of a series of narrow strip fields and drop down to a third road.
- Cross this road and bear half left, steeply downhill beneath old trees and go through a stile to reach the road into Middleton by Youlgreave.
- Follow this road, past the entrance to Lomberdale Hall and round a sharp bend.
The sleepy village of Middleton is well worth a diversion even though there are no refreshments. Look out for the signpost to Bateman’s tomb which is behind an old chapel. As befits an early antiquarian, his tomb is topped by the reproduction of a Neolithic burial urn.
- At the far side of the sharp bend, leave the road and go through a stone stile to follow a steep path winding down into Bradford Dale. Go past the ruins of a small mill.
- Cross the wide stone bridge and turn left to follow the path along the dale.
Go past a series of ponds that once powered a lead grinding mill at Alport. The water still provides power, but now by operating an Archimedes Screw generating electricity.
- Turn left to cross a stone clapper bridge and then immediately right through a stile and continue to follow the River Bradford, passing the village swimming pond along the way. (Youlgreave village and refreshments is up above on your left).
- At the far end of the riverside meadow, go through a gate and bear right past the cottages and over the bridge. Turn left on its far side to go through a gate.
- Follow the wide farm track beside the meandering river, passing a packhorse bridge on your left beyond a seat sheltered by an overhanging cliff.
- Leave the track where it swings right and cross an open stretch of grass marked by the mound of an old lead mine.
- Continue down the dale, past the imposing rock called Rhienstor on your right.
- Go through a gate and past a house to reach the road by way of a second gate. The layby is to your left.
6 miles (9.7km) of easy dale bottom walking with one moderate climb across grazing meadows. NB: As cattle are likely to be encountered along this section, please ensure that dogs are kept on a lead. Mud can be expected near the exit from Meadow Place Grange farmyard.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Map: White Peak, Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock & Dove Dale.
Parking (free) in the roadside layby immediately above Alport village. Access by way of the minor road off the A6 between Rowsley and Bakewell.
Public transport: Hulley’s 171 Chesterfield to Hartington service via Bakewell running Monday to Saturday only.
Refreshments: Cafés and three pubs in Youlgreave (slightly off route).