Monyash to Lathkill Dale
This easy half-day stroll from Monyash takes you into the heart of the Lathkill Dale and illustrates the two sides of the dale’s character...
Lathkill Dale from Monyash
Lathkill Dale is part of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve, famous for its clear-running limestone river. But it was also the scene of intense industrial activity during the last century. This easy half-day stroll from Monyash takes you into the heart of the Lathkill Dale and illustrates the two sides of the dale’s character.
Monyash – the Old English name means “many ash trees” – was granted its right to hold a market in 1340, and the ancient market cross still stands on the village green. The reason for its importance high on the fast-draining White Peak limestone plateau were its five “meres” (clay-lined ponds), of which only Fere Mere now survives. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it became an important lead mining centre, when most of the inhabitants were engaged in the dual economies of farming and mining.
From the car park walk down to the village green, passing the Market Cross, and turn left past the “Bulls Head” crossing the road to enter the churchyard.
The elegant spire of St. Leonard’s Church, Monyash has watched over the village for 800 years. Heavily restored in 1887, the building retains its Decorated style transepts, aisles and nave arcades, reflecting the tiny village’s former importance as a market township.
A path leads south through the churchyard through a series of squeezer stiles and into a walled farm lane which you follow until it ends at Fern Dale, a small dry tributary of Lathkill Dale, which is crossed by three stiles. At a gate, you join another farm track which leads directly to One Ash Grange.
One Ash Grange
The compact little farm of One Ash Grange perched on the brink of Cales Dale was once owned by Roche Abbey in South Yorkshire.
Follow the track to the left of the first barn to a stile at the end of the Dutch barn. The path now descends sharply into the rocky defile of Cales Dale, which is followed (left) beneath impending limestone crags to cross the Lathkill and reach Lathkill Dale by a wooden footbridge.
The River Lathkill exhibits that strange feature of streams which run for all or part of their course across limestone. In summer, when the water level is low, it can disappear competely to run its course underground. This situation has been exacerbated by the centuries of lead mining in the area, after large-scale drainage of the workings led to a significant lowering of the water table.
Further downstream from the junction with Cales Dale, the path alongside the Lathkill enters Palmerston Wood, where the ruins of Mandale Lead Mine can be visited. A Cornish beam engine was used here to pump water out of the mine via a 10-metre /32 foot diameter water wheel.
This part of the dale is probably the richest for wildlife, and you may see dipper and grey wagtail hunting in the clear waters of the river, and nuthatch and woodpeckers in the woodland. The more open dalesides are famous for their herb-rich flora where over 50 different species of plants have been identified per square metre. This is turn supports butterflies such as the orange-tip and northern brown argus.
Turn left at the other side of the footbridge and walk up the path which leads westwards up the dale passing, after the first stile, the partly hidden adit to the Holmes Groove lead mine across the river to the left.
The bold limestone crag high up on the right is known as Parson’s Tor. Known as Fox Tor until 1776, its name was changed to commemorate the tragic death of the Rev. Robert Lomas, rector of Monyash, who fell to his death from the tor when returning home from Bakewell on horseback one stormy night. He is buried in Monyash churchyard.
Continue up the increasingly-impressive dale, now open and treeless. After a few more yards, to the left, the gaping maw of Lathkill Head Cave yawns.
Lathkill Head Cave
Lathkill Head Cave is what is known as a “resurgence” cave, and is where the River Lathkill emerges from the hillside in spectacular fashion during the winter months when the water level is high. Cavers have explored about 200 feet/60m into the hillside, but this kind of activity is only for the experts, and non-cavers should not be tempted to enter too far.
Continue up the dale, and where the limestone walls start to crowd in, in summer you may be lucky enough to see some fine stands of the rare Jacob’s Ladder flowering in the dale bottom. The path is now confined to a rocky scramble, much improved after work by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, over and around some large boulders.
The scree of broken stones coming down from the right is from the now-disused Ricklow Quarry, from which “figured marble” was won in Victorian times. This was a highly-fashionable polished grey limestone in which there were a large number of decorative crinoid (sea lily) fossils.
The dale now opens up and you cross a series of stiles where in summer you may be ticked-off by the resident pair of wheatears, which nest in the broken down drystone walls in this part of the dale.
Eventually you emerge onto the B5055 Bakewell road by a stile. Turn left and cross the road to enter Bagshaw Dale, a shallow dry valley which is an extension of Lathkill Dale. Crossing a series of stiles and gates, you emerge through drystone walls onto the Taddington road, where you turn left into Chapel Street to return to the village centre and car park.
Start/Finish: Car park in Chapel Street, Monyash
Distance: 7 km/4½ miles
Approximate time: Allow 2/3 hours
Highest point: Monyash, 270m/885ft
Maps: OS Explorer Sheet 24,White Peak
Refreshments: Tea room, shop, and Bulls Head public house in main village street
Terrain: Many squeezer stiles at start, then fairly easy dale walking with a rocky scramble towards the end
These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District 2010
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015