Around the valley on hill and in dale are the tell-tale remnants of earlier ages: the pockmarks of lead mineshafts; the crumbling stone barns caught between dry stone walls; the rise and dip of ridge and furrow fields, and the long-windowed workshops of the cottage industry.
Along the southeast border this remarkably diverse area lies just outside the national park, but it contains all the character of the Peak District. It includes the gritty Derwent Valley Mills with soaring chimney stacks to the gorges and rocky bluffs of the Matlocks, and a quiet hinterland of sleepy villages tucked into the folds of farmland. The Lower Derwent Valley is peppered with industrial heritage: mills, canals, dammed lakes, rivers, leats, lynchpins and water wheels, evoking a seismic shift in Britain’s economic and social landscape – the Industrial Revolution, when this corner of the Peak District witnessed the arrival of the factory system. The Derwent Valley Mills scattered along the A6 are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising the part the Lower Derwent played in changing the world forever. Around the valley on hill and in dale, however, are the tell-tale remnants of earlier ages: the pockmarks of lead mineshafts; the crumbling stone barns caught between dry stone walls; the rise and dip of ridge and furrow fields, and the long-windowed workshops of the cottage industry. In between are the opulent halls and stately homes of Derbyshire’s industrialists such as Arkwright, Smedley and Nightingale.
Matlock Bath © Kevin Eaves, Shutterstock
Industrialisation also brought benefits to the masses during the Victorian era in the form of tourism. Industrial heritage aside, there is much else to see and do in this corner of the Peak District. The pleasure gardens, parks, hydro hotels and pavilions still adorn Matlock and Matlock Bath today with their faded elegance. The hills and dales are criss-crossed with public footpaths, including the glorious Limestone Way, while the market towns of Cromford and Wirksworth will tempt you with their arty cafés, boutiques and architectural heritage.