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Lathkill Dale is a pastoral delight, surrounded by fields and woodlands © Walking Englishman
Lathkill Dale is internationally recognised for its ravine woodlands and flower-rich grasslands as well as its spectacular geological formations.
Lathkill Dale's botanical and ornithological richness have resulted in its designation as a National Nature Reserve by Natural England. From the dale head in Monyash there’s a small car park (for bus users, a service runs from Bakewell via Over Haddon to Monyash). From here the dale spreads out a grassy highway, the exposed rock just a scratch on one side at this point.
The broad valley is soon swallowed up by a narrow ravine though, reducing the way to a narrow, uneven path. This is a wild and rockstrewn place, with no sign of the River Lathkill initially. Part way down, the dale rock gives way to luminous green where water saturates weedy grass – the source of the River Lathkill. The water squeezes out of an inconspicuous rock next to Lathkill Head Cave here – except in dry periods. Soon scree and rocky bluff yield to woods, and the fast-flowing narrow brook broadens to a meandering river. The dale here is rich with wildlife in spring and summer: cowslips, orchids and the rare Jacob’s ladder, coots, moorhens, trout, dippers and kingfishers.
From here on, the Lathkill is dammed to create a series of still ponds that drop from weir to weir. At this point grassland gives way to woodland, noticeably softening the character of the dale. Signs warn of the mineshafts littering the path edges on this stretch of the walk. These reminders of Lathkill’s industrial past are to be seen everywhere. Look out for the wooden footbridge leading to Bateman’s House and its fenced-off and gated mineshaft. Steps heading partway down the mineshaft lead to a viewing point, revealing the bowels of the mine workings. Yet further down the dale, a steep path leads up the bank to the remains of Mandale Engine House and sough. Mandale Mine dates back at least to the 16th century.
Further on, a notice nailed to the tree reminds the walker that this is a concessionary path. The worn sign informs visitors that a fee of one penny is payable except Thursday in Easter week. Where a stone bridge spans the Lathkill beside an old mill and cottage, the road winds up to Over Haddon, perched on the top of the dale. If you just want to potter among the old industrial sites on the lower part of the dale only, this part of Lathkill Dale is a short walk from Over Haddon and has an easy-access path. If you have set out from Monyash, you can return to the village along the country roads that link the two villages or take the footpaths along the top of the northern side of the dale. Flagging down a bus is another option.