'Lathkill is, by many degrees, the purest, the most transparent stream that I ever yet saw either at home or abroad...'
Charles Cotton, 1676.
Today, when you descend the winding lane into this beautiful limestone dale, you're confronted by a seemingly timeless scene of ash trees growing beneath tiered limestone crags, tumbling screes, multi-pastel-coloured grasslands swaying in the breeze and that same crystal clear stream, still full of darting trout.
Invasion of the lead miners
Yet it was not always so. In the 18th and 19th centuries lead miners came here and stripped the valley of its trees. They drilled shafts and adits into the white rock, built pump houses, elaborate aqueducts, waterwheels and tramways, and when the old schemes failed to realise profits they came up with new, even bigger ones. Inevitably nobody made any real money, and by 1870 the price of lead had slumped due to overseas competition and the pistons stopped. On this walk you will see the fading remnants of this past, juxtaposed with the natural world that is gradually reclaiming the land.
Your route starts on a narrow winding lane from Over Haddon to a clapper bridge by Lathkill Lodge. A lush tangle of semi-aquatic plants surrounds the river and the valley sides are thick with ash and sycamore. In spring you're likely to see nesting moorhens and mallards. In the midst of the trees are some mossy pillars, the remains of an aqueduct built to supply a head of water for the nearby Mandale Mine. Further on you can cross the river to visit the remains of Bateman's House, the former mining manager's dwelling, including an underground shaft to the pumping engine (engine no longer visible). The path leaves the woods and the character of the dale changes again. Here sparse ash trees grow out of the limestone screes, where herb Robert adds splashes of pink.
In the dry periods of summer the river may have disappeared completely beneath its permeable bed of limestone. The sun-dried soils on the southern slopes are too thin to support the humus-loving plants of the valley bottom. Instead, here you'll see the pretty early purple orchid, cowslips with their yellowy primrose-like flowers and clumps of yellow-flowered rock rose. Emerging at the top of Lathkill Dale you reach Monyash, the halfway point of the walk, where the miners once held their special Barmote Court in The Bulls Head. The return is along the high pasture south of Lathkill, with glimpses back down to the narrow and twisting dale.
Turn right out of the car park then descend a narrow tarmac dead-end lane, which winds down to Lathkill Dale.
As the lane bends left across the river, fork right and through a gate onto a broad track to enter Lathkill Dale NNR and the wooded dale bottom. At a footbridge it's worth crossing over to visit Bateman's House. Pass a couple of widenings of the river (millponds), then leave the dense woodland and traverse more open, rougher slopes.
Ignore a junction by a footbridge and continue up the main dale. Cross the valley bottom at the mouth of Lathkill Head Cave, then weave your way through the rocky debris below Ricklow Quarry. As you approach the head of the dale, the path crosses gentle grassy fields to a road.
Cross the road, and take its pavement leftwards into Monyash. Go along the main street to the green with its café and pub, and turn left at the crossroads onto Rakes Road. Continue straight ahead (turning onto the side road in each case) at two close together junctions to end up on Milkings Lane.
Follow this attractive walled track eastwards. Where it ends continue ahead to Fern Dale, then follow Limestone Way fingerposts across a field, then along field edges. Cross to the other side of a wall, and follow the continuing track on its far side. Eventually you drop down to join a farm track into One Ash Grange Farm.
Go past large farm sheds, then veer left at a track junction by the old camping barn (occasional ice cream sales in summer). Go past old pig sties then fork right to descend between more barns. Drop down through a field, then some natural limestone steps drop down below a crag. Fork right and down to a valley bottom junction. Cross over this and go up the other side of the narrow dale via a long and steep flight of steps to the top.
Go through a gate and head roughly south-eastwards across fields up to Calling Low, passing through a wood to the left of the buildings then across a field and a track. Follow a waymarker diagonally across a field, pass briefly through Low Moor wood, then across several more large fields to a lane.
Turn left and walk down the lane for 600yds (549m). Take a footpath left, slanting northeastwards across several huge fields, aiming for distant Over Haddon. At the large farm (Meadow Place Grange) follow yellow-topped waymarkers around a wall, then across the open farmyard, exiting via gates on the far side. Head slightly right over a field to a gated track that zig-zags down the wooded hillside to the river. Cross a footbridge over the Lathkill and go up the tarmac lane back to the start.
Generally well-defined paths, but limestone dale sides can be slippery after rain and there is one section of steep steps, several stiles
Partially wooded limestone dale and open pasture
Keep on lead unless threatened by cattle.
AA Walker's Map 1 Central Peak District
Over Haddon pay car park
At car park
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.
The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.
The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.