Lathikill Dale is one of our countries finest limestone valleys. It's steep sides hide the crystal clear streams that carve there way through this wonderful place.
We start our 10th walk in the Derbyshire village of Monyash which lies a couple of miles outside the pudding town of Bakewell. This is a very popular walk with us and we complete it many times throughout the year in all seasons as its quite close to home. On this occasion we decided at the last minute to walk it the opposite way to what we normally do so please bear in mind you can walk this in reverse if it takes your fancy.
Just on the outskirts of Monyash is a small car park which has public toilets, I do believe the car park is designated disabled only but there is ample roadside parking. It does get quite busy so I would recommend an early start.
Go through the gate across the road by the red Dog Poo bin, this is the entrance to Lathkill Dale, it may not look so inviting to start with but believe me it soon closes up into a steep sided valley.
As you go through the gate the obvious path heads for the Dale, continue along the path.
Milly heading towards the dale
Continue through the field to the next gate, this is where the Dale starts to show its true colours. Due to some heavy quarrying many, many years ago the bottom of the Dale is littered with quarry spoil, large rocks that were abandoned by the quarrymen. This can be a bit of a scramble and when its wet, can be very slippery so take care. The photo below shows where the quarrymen tipped the spoil into the Dale. it was taken from the bottom of the Dale looking up the left hand side.
Quarry Spoil left by the Quarrymen
The path is obvious, it has been trodden thousands of times by leisure walkers from as far back as Victorian times and before then by the many lead miners that worked in the dale. The sides of the valley steepen significantly so there is not that much to see for about a quarter of a mile.
The Valley opens up again and you are now able to take in the beauty of the dale:
Leaving the Quarry behind
Here the Dale opens and to the right (just make out the fence) is the home of a colony (I think thats what you would call it) of a plant called Jacobs Ladder. Apparently this plant is extremely rare in the wild but here, is one of the countries largest colonies. We did this walk toward the end of June so as the plant flowers May and Jun we were lucky enough to see it in bloom. I am not into flora and forna but I have to admit it was a very impressive display. In all the years we have been walking Lathkill Dale this was the first time I had seen the colony in full bloom:
Why is it called Jacobs Ladder? Well there is an information sign so when you visit and do this walk you will be able to learn all about it :-)
After you pass the colony of Jacobs Ladder the path becomes a little better underfoot and before long you will see the river emerging from underground through the mouth of a cave just to your right. In the dry summer months (if there is such a thing anymore) you can actually step inside the cave and if you are quiet you can hear water running deep under ground.
River coming up from the depths
As we all know its not exactly been a dry summer so the river was as high as I have ever seen it so we had to take a few detours from the path as normally it weaves close to the river but on this occasion the path was well submerged.
There is a bright side to all this water though and its about a half mile further on!
As you leave the cave Lathkill Dale sweeps right, continue to follow the path or in this instance the river. You will see to your left a another dale sweeping in, this is called Cave Dale, we are yet to explore this, maybe next time.
Continue along the path, walking past the wooden bridge on your right and you soon arrive at the Lathkill Dale waterfall. This is the perfect place to stop and have a coffee. It has a nice peacefulness about it but it is a popular resting place and picnic spot. I am a bit of a geek when it comes to waterfalls, I love photographing them, this is why there is a bright side to all this wet weather :-)
Lathkill Dale waterfall
Come on, you have to admit this is a lovely spot! Lush green trees, soft, gentle crystal clear water. Is there any wonder I love where we live!
So, after the well earned coffee, continue along following the river. After the waterfall the Dale becomes shrouded in woodland, the path widens and the walk become easy underfoot.
Continue along the Dale for a about 3 miles taking in the peacefulness of the place.
Diane following Milly and me along the river
As you walk along the Dale if you keep your eyes peeled you will notice many remnants from the old lead mining industry, its mostly on the opposite bank, you can see the ruins of the old mining buildings.
Eventually you will reach a small village with just one or two houses that sit on the river bank. Here you turn right and cross the stone bridge over the river.
Just filled up my Travel Tap in the river before crossing the bridge
When you cross the bridge you enter woodland and start to climb out of the Dale, its not a very steep path, but you are glad to reach the top if you know what I mean!
When you reach the top you enter a field through the gate, follow the signpost and turn immediately left heading for the farm. The path takes you directly through the centre of the farm yard and through a gate on the opposite side. It is very muddy here at the best of times and as its a thoroughfare for the farms cattle, well, its not always mud if you know what I mean!
Diane and Milly exiting the farm
As you exit the farm the path becomes a little difficult to make out. Just follow the high wall to your right until you come to a broken signpost:
The sign should actually say Footpath To Youlegrave, this is the direction you need to walk. The path crosses meadows on we were lucky enough to have the meadows in flower when we walked through, really beautiful. This is a good opportunity to stop and have a good look around you, the Derbyshire countryside really opens up in front of you and on a clear, sunny day the views are spectacular.
Follow the footpath through the meadows until you come to a stile which puts you onto a road. This is the only bit of road walking to do before you get back to Monyash. I am not a fan of walking on roads, they are mostly enclosed by walls or hedgerows and you dont get to see anything. Once over the stile turn right and head up the road for about 500mtrs. When you get to the top there is Moor Lane to your left and to your right you enter a field picking up the Limestone Way heading for Low Moor Wood.
Diane and Milly picking up path of the Limestone Way
Follow the path that takes you into Low Moor wood. its not a very big wood but when the blue bells are out this is the place to bring your camera. I have never been able to catch the Blue Bells here but I have heard the whole wood is filled with their scent.
As you walk through Low Moor wood you skirt a farm yard to your left and the path starts to take you down hill towards Cales Dale. As you head down the path you get a good view to your right of Lathkill Dale. Continue to follow the signs for the Limestone Way.
Looking right towards Lathkill Dale and Cave Dale
Continue through the fields until you get to a Kissing Gate. This is the top of Jacobs Ladder! No not the flower as above but a steep climb down into Cales Dale. Too many Jacobs Ladders in Derbyshire, it gets confusing!
Head down the steep steps into the bottom of Cales Dale and at the bottom you are presented with a few paths that you can follow. For this particular walk you want to pick up the signs for One Ash Grange:
That means that you go up the other side of Cales Dale so there is a bit of a climb as Milly quite happily demonstrates:
Milly thinking she is a Nepalese Sherpa!
Climb up the path and when you reach the top One Ash Grange Farm comes into view. This is a good place to stop and have a brew before entering the farm.
Me having a well earned coffee
Cross the field following the path to One Ash Grange farm and climb the steps into the farm yard. Follow the track around the farm house then turn right up the lane heading away from the farm and back towards Monyash.
Continue up the lane and pass the horse jumping field on your left, as you get to the top of the lane the lane goes to the right but leave the lane and head left keeping the hedgerow to your left. Miss this turn and you will find yourself heading back to Lathkill Dale.
Continue up the field to the gate, go through the gate and turn right along the edge of the field following the Limestone Way.
You eventually arrive at a gate with the following view over Fern Dale:
Here you turn left onto Milkings Lane (no sign to tell you its Milkings Lane), although its hard to see why its a lane, this does become more obvious as you follow the track. The lane becomes wider and has walls on either side, keep on this lane and it takes you back into the village of Monyash.
As you leave Milkings Lane you pick up the road that heads back into Monyash. keep on the road and head towards the houses ahead. Continue along the road as it sweeps right around the village pond to the cross roads which is the centre of the village. Opposite you will see the Bull's Head Pub and the Smithy Cafe, we always stop at Smithy's for lunch, they do a cracking beef and stilton sandwich!. If you are not bothered about lunch turn right at the crossroads and walk along the road heading back towards Bakewell. Pass the Campsite on your left and in a short while you will return to the start of the walk and back to your car.
This really is a pleasant walk that really shows what Derbyshire is all about. We have done this walk more times than I can remember and no doubt we will do it many more times.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about the walk.
Our next walk is from Snowdonia after we revisit Larry's cottage, our first visit since he passed away, hopefully the weather will hold out for us, but I wont hold my breath!