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Lathkill Dale - one of the finest Limestone Dales in the Peak District

The Peak District covers much of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. There are many interesting features, such as wild flowers, well dressing, lead mining etc

Lathkill Dale

The river Lathkill rises just below Monyash and flows down to meet the Wye just below Haddon Hall. The valley it forms is one of the finest of the limestone dales and the upper part is a National Nature Reserve, in the care of English Nature. It is a famous trout-fishing river, and Izaak Walton declared it to be the 'purest and most transparent stream' he had seen.

Upper Lathkill Dale
Upper Lathkill Dale
The valley is dry where it crosses the Monyash to Bakewell road, just below Monyash, and it continues dry for about a kilometre until it reaches Lathkill House Cave, where the water which has flowed underground from the Flagg area resurges from the cave - or at least it does when the weather is wet - in times of drought there may be no water in the stream for another kilometre.

In places the top part of the dale is quite narrow and part-filled with spoil from Ricklow Quarry, just on the north side. The quarry was worked for a stone called '
Lathkill Dale with purple orchids
Lathkill Dale with purple orchids
Derbyshire marble' and is long abandoned, but has been colonised by Jacob's Ladder, a rare plant which flowers in June and July.

Below Lathkill House Cave the valley widens out into a grand, deep valley with steep, rocky sides. This becomes even grander when it is joined from the south by Cales Dale, where a footbridge spans the stream and there is the remains of an old sheepwash which was used until the 1940s. This area of the dale is rich in wild flowers, and in spring the sides of the dale can be covered with orchids and cowslips.

Below Cales Dale the sides of the Lathkill are partly wooded, an area known as Low Wood. The first of many weirs appears and there was once a mill near here. Low Wood merges into Meadow Wood and in places the river is dammed to form ponds for the fish. There are many water-based birds too - wagtails, dippers, waterhens and coots for instance.

River Lathkill
River Lathkill
The section of the dale between here and Over Haddon was once home to several very profitable lead mines, of which the most important was the Mandale Mine, situated near where the Mandale valley joins Lathkill Dale from the north, about a kilometre upstream of Over Haddon. This mine was worked from the 13th century until operations finally ceased in 1851, defeated by water problems. Sections of the workings may still be seen, especially the aqueduct which carried water to a large water wheel which was once used to pump water from the mine.

Conksbury bridge
Conksbury bridge
One consequence of the mines was that the water table was lowered considerably, and in a drought the river may run almost dry - indeed in the average summer there may be little more than a trickle here. The water resurges from the 'Bubble Springs' just below Over Haddon, and from the nearby exits to the 'soughs' or drainage tunnels which the miners dug.

After passing Over Haddon the river continues in a heavily wooded, steep-sided valley to emerge at Conksbury bridge, where the mediaeval bridge carries the Youlgreave road across the river. Here there are numerous fish-ponds and the character of the river softens, flowing in a gentler, less steep-sided valley to meet the Bradford at Alport and then continue another 3 kilometres to the Wye.

Lathkill Dale - upper section under snow
0 - Lathkill Dale - upper section under snow
Lathkill Dale
1 - Lathkill Dale
Lathkill Dale - view from Haddon Grove with spring flowers
2 - Lathkill Dale - view from Haddon Grove with spring flowers
Lathkill Dale view
3 - Lathkill Dale view
Lathkill River
4 - Lathkill River
Lathkill Dale - the remains of the aqueduct from Mandale Mine
5 - Lathkill Dale - the remains of the aqueduct from Mandale Mine
Conksbury Bridge
6 - Conksbury Bridge