Saturday, 29 August 2015

Lathkill Dale, Cales Dale & Bradford Dale

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Route: Youlgreave, Coldwell End, Limestone Way, Low Moor Plantation, Calling Low, Cales Dale, Lathkill Dale, Palmerston Wood, Conksbury Bridge, Raper Close, Alport, Bradford Dale, Youlgreave

Date: 29/08/2015
From: Youlgreave

Parking: Car park in Youlgreave
Start Point: Youlgreave
Region: Peak District White Peak

Route length: 7.3 miles (11.7 km)
Time taken: 02:54
Average speed: 2.5 mph
Ascent: 403m
Descent: 426m

Summits: None

Other points of interest: Cales Dale, Bradford Dale, Alsop

We were back in the Peak District this weekend, the White Peak to be precise - a departure from my recent explorations of the wild and wonderful Dark Peak. The White Peak, characterised by the underlying limestone geology, is very reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales but perhaps on a more modest scale though that's not to say it isn't impressive. The stunning Chrome Hill belongs to the White Peak and is a magnificent hill indeed.

Our route today would take us from the bustling village of Youlgreave (or Youlgrave) over rolling hills and into Lathkill Dale - one of the many delightful valleys that burrow their way through the surrounding rocks, other examples being Dovedale and the Manifold Valley. In a departure from my normal rampages across the country, this was a more sedate walk with family to make to most of the final days of summer.

We parked in Youlgreave using a small car park in the west of the village and made our way along the road to the Limestone Way, one of the many long distance paths that cross the UK. This one in particular is a 46 mile effort from Castleton to the Dove Valley. We would use a very short section of it to cross from Bradford Dale to Cales Dale and, ultimately, Lathkill Dale.
Proof we were on the right track
It was a cloudy but warm day, typical of the British summer and it didn't take long to get a sweat on motoring along the Limestone Way, across fields of wary cows and fellow walkers. The path rounds a farm at Calling Low before starting a steady descent down towards some of the dramatic limestone scenery that characterises the White Peak. Suddenly, the path falls away steeply down a set of stone steps into the depths of Cales Dale. While it's no trouble getting down, it didn't look particularly pleasant to climb, given the expressions on some fellow walkers' faces.
An abandoned barn along side the Limestone Way
The Limestone Way
Approaching Lathkill Dale
Lovely cloudscape today
Lathkill Dale
Sara above Cales Dale
Descending the steep steps down into the valley
Cales Dale, along with Ricklow Dale and Fern Dale form part of the deeply riven Lathkill Dale, one of the finest limestone dales in the Peak District. The valley isn't particularly wide but it is enclosed by steep rocky sides while the River Lathkill appears and disappears at will, flowing freely one minute and hiding amongst the limestone bedrock the next. Interestingly, it is the only river within the District that flows entirely over limestone.
The limestone walls of Lathkill Dale - It is reputed that the footbridge was once supported by wheels from one of Cromwell's cannons
Lathkill Dale and the largely dry River Lathkill
The upper part of Lathkill Dale is a National Nature Reserve, home to rare wild plants such as Jacob's Ladder. A broad bridleway spans the length of the valley, passing many features of its historic lead mining past including the remains of the 19th Century Mandale Mine, supports for an old aqueduct and the ruins of a pump house.
Towering limestone guards the valley
Path alongside the River Lathkill
The River Lathkill
Tufa dam on the River Lathkill
Old mill pond at Carters Mill
Entrance to Palmerston Wood
Footbridge that accesses the ruins of Batemans House - an old miners house that is was built over an old mine shaft with fairly obvious consequences
The old mine aqueduct supports
The path passes right between them
The valley opens up into an idyllic countryside scene where a series of weirs (constructed to encourage trout to breed) deliver the pristine waters of the Lathkill down towards Alport, passing the site of the Medieval village of Conksbury. All that remains now is the unique stone-built Conksbury Bridge, a Grade II listed building.
The River Lathkill
The River Lathkill

Conksbury Bridge
Back to open fields now and it was down to the delightful little hamlet of Alport, a settlement that has been around since the 17th Century though Alport Mill has been recorded since 1159, making it considerably old indeed.
The path runs alongside the river
Still some evidence of the River Lathkill's limestone heritage
Looking back towards the site of Conksbury
River Bradford
Our route continued into Bradford Dale, equally as beautiful as the lower reaches of Lathkill Dale, if not slightly less dramatic. The sun was out in force by now, a splendid afternoon to be out wandering the countryside. The course of the river Bradford is interrupted by another series of pools and weirs, this time constructed to create outdoor swimming pools, which were being taken advantage of as we passed. Despite the summer sun, the yelps emanating from the swimmers suggested the pool was less than temperate.
Packhorse bridge over the River Bradford
Another interesting bridge close to Bradford
Bradford Dale
The River Bradford
The final part of the walk was a stern climb out of Bradford Dale into Youlgreave though the prospect of a cold beer spurred us on somewhat as was extremely well received. It's nice to spend time away from the mountains fells of the north and this was the perfect way to spend a day with family. It's always a bonus when it's someone else's walk which means you can concentrate on the surroundings rather than which gatepost to turn left at. I'm still likely to get lost mind.

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