I have spent summer days around the lower reaches of Lathkill and Bradford with the family but I had never explored them on a circular walk before. a walk that would take in the delights of two of the finest dales in the Derbyshire Peak District in their entirety.
At a time of the year, totally devoid of the summer hordes; actually the week before Christmas, I park the car at Alport very close to where the rivers Lathkill and Bradford meet. For this walk I start by following the the river Lathkill and within a short distance the path is blocked (see video), completely under water for some 150 yards. After attempting to wade, the water soon found its way over my boots leaving me to turn tail and find an alternative path via a little fence hopping.
Clear of the flood the path weaves its way, some distance from the river actually; before joining the road at Consbury Bridge. Stopping briefly on the bridge to view the river in both directions, and plenty of water flowing through at this time of year. Leaving the bridge, and now on the opposite bank we leave Conksbury village through Haddon Bank Plantation and the Lathkill Nature Reserve passing numerous picturesque weirs and small waterfalls on the way.
Always one for a little industrial heritage and history I am not averse to a little ruin building exploration, especially when one presents itself so open and inviting as the Bateman’s House. Built, it seems, directly over a large mineshaft to house a pump to combat flooding within the mine, a problem common in Derbyshire lead-mines! There is however doubt whether it worked or not. Two years later it was replaced by a water-wheel a massive 52ft in diameter. Named after the mining agent at the time, after the failure of the pump, Bateman converted the house into a dwelling for his family. Take time to pause here and explore the ruins it’s fascinating!
The river levels were high and as I moved further up the dale, this became more and more evident with trackway and pathways completely submerged in places. The path, on one side the river and on the other side a track, gave the impression of a pathway leading down the middle of the river itself.
After about 4 miles we arrive at the junction with Cales Dales. Looking back at this point reveals views of the limestones sides of Lathkill Dale, shrouded on one side in woodland, but on the other exposed, towering and majestic. Crossing the river via the footbridge, this place also offers the ideal half way compulsory brew-stop. Pick a high perch and enjoy the view whilst filling up on tea and cake.
After a cuppa we continue along Cales Dale for a short distance before ascending some steps more or less vertically, up the side of the dale. On cresting the top, puffing and panting I might add; you can view the gorge of Lathkill Dale as it gouges its way towards Alport back in the the direction you just come from, and it is a great sight!
Now out of Cales Dale we pick the path that forms part of the Limestone Way, Infact, we stay on the Limestone Way for the rest of the walk, and head towards Youlgreave across open fields criss-crossed by that ever recognised symbol of the the White Peak; the dry-stone wall. A farm track gives way to single track path as we descend towards Bradford Dale by way of a little tarmac slog and a brief visit through the grounds of Lomberdale Hall. The path descends precariously to the ravine floor to run alongside the river Bradford below the village of Youlgreave. It was here that my camera battery died, so I apologize for lack of photos!
Bradford Dale is very much like Lathkill but on a smaller scale. The river is interspersed with weirs as it too served industry like its bigger neighbor, but the river tends to run with a little less force as it winds its way past the likes of the Rheinstor Rock and on towards its meeting with the Lathkill at Alport, our finale for this walk, and with the amount of flow on the Lathkill it was indeed an impressive finale! All that remains is a short walk back to the car, aswift cuppa from the flask before the drive home.
You can see my route on the map below.