I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Lathkilldale


I've been going to the Peak District for as long as I can remember. It's the nearest National Park to here - with the most wonderful walks and scenery. It lies mainly in Derbyshire, but the western moorland edge takes in parts of Staffordshire and Cheshire too. Geologically it forms two distinct areas: the White Peak, a limestone plateau scored with deep river valleys, and the Dark Peak, an altogether different region of grits and shales, of rocky escarpments and acidic peat moorlands. I can't decide which I half I prefer, for I love them both.

Easter Sunday found me at the head of Ricklow Dale just outside the village of Monyash in the White Peak. This nine mile walk, from Ricklow Dale through Lathkilldale, down Bradford Dale, then across the limestone plateau back to Monyash, is an old favourite of mine. I've done it in all seasons and all weathers. Who could resist the inviting allure of this grassy, lumpy valley, as it winds out of sight through the gorge - becoming steeper and narrower, rockier and more wooded all the time? It draws you in...


Lathkilldale is special, a jewel among Derbyshire rivers, its waters crystal clear, its habitat perfect for orchids and the rare Jacobs Ladder flower, grey wagtails and dippers, water voles and brown trout. As the dale narrows, the open sides give way to steep slopes dense with ash trees, the young ash saplings with smooth, grey barks, the older trees with fissured trunks. Low by the stream the trees and rocks are covered in bright green moss and lichens. Further down there's a natural waterfall, then some man-made weirs with trout pools, and the relics of an old lead mine, the Mandale Mine.


Here's what Patrick Monkhouse has to say about the Lathkill in his book On Foot In The Peak, published in the 1930s, and one of my favourite books on the area (I like these old, little-known, out-of-print books brimming with personal enthusiasms, quirky observations and individual style - far more interesting than all the anodyne, clichéd guide books you find on sale everywhere):

The Lathkill should emerge from a great square cavern on the right as you go down Ricklow Dale. In wet weather it does so, and no river in the Peak has a more imposing birth. It springs, already a river, from the hillside, as the goddess Athene sprang fully armed from the head of Zeus. In dry weather, the Lathkill gets up late, and comes out, with perfunctory apologies, anything up to half a mile down its course. But one cannot long be angry with so beautiful a river. Lathkill is among the deepest and narrowest of the Derbyshire dales...

Here's the cave at Lathkill Head, where the river Lathkill emerges from the Underworld, and which Monkhouse describes so romantically...


(I've written before about Lathkilldale here.)

4 comments:

Gail in Aberdeen said...

You have taken me back to my Nottingham childhood in the sixties and early seventies, and I still cannot think of anything that I've ever looked forward to with such eager anticipation as escaping from the city on a Bank Holiday, and being taken on a long family walk in the Peak District, Lathkilldale being a particular favourite.

pilgrimpace said...

A day or two ago you told me to look at 'The Weaver of Grass'' blog, and the book she quoted from is before me on my desk. Today I look across from the computer and a tiny piece of Lathkilldale is on the desk too. I'm not sure what conclusion needs to be drawn ...

The Solitary Walker said...

Gail, it's a lovely dale. Usually it's quiet but it was packed with walkers last Sunday.

Andy - you see that volume of Tennyson you've got near at hand? Well, that's there because I'm doing a post on Tennyson's birthplace tomorrow... Mysterious, isn't it? But that's blogging for you...

Tramp said...

I agree whole-heartedly with your comment about guide books ... Tramp