PEAK DISTRICT RIVERS
"...the purest, most transparent stream I ever yet saw..."
Perhaps the most famous of Peak District rivers is the Dove, described by
Charles Cotton, co-author of the 1653 classic, The Compleat Angler, as “the Princess of rivers.”
Dovedale forms the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and is famed for its astonishing rock architecture, crystal-clear stream and abundant wildlife, which made it a National Nature Reserve in 2006.
Equally pure and claimed to be one of the purest in Britain is the River Lathkill, which flows into the Wye near Haddon Hall. Cotton named the Lathkill “by many degrees, the purest and most transparent stream I ever yet saw, either or home or abroad.” The Lathkill is the showplace of the Derbyshire Dales NNR, and is one of the Peak’s famous disappearing rivers, as it sinks into underground potholes during dry summer spells.
Like many Peakland rivers, the Lathkill was once the scene of industry, and the ivy-covered ruins of the Mandale lead mine near Over Haddon are a stark reminder of the days when the river was harnessed to help drain water from the mines by soughs (drainage tunnels, pronounced “suffs”).
The River Wye, which rises on Axe Edge and flows through Buxton and (via glorious Monsal Dale) Bakewell before joining the mighty Derwent at Rowsley, was another working river. Although it is only about 20 miles in length, at least 25 mill sites have been identified along its length. Many were originally local corn mills, but when the Industrial Revolution came along, textile manufacturers were quick to realise the potential of its water power at places like Litton Mill, Cressbrook Mill and at Bakewell, where Richard Arkwright had a mill at Lumford.
The River Noe flows from Edale before joining the Derwent at Shatton.
But it is the River Derwent which is the major river and landscape feature of the Peak. It carves its way south down the eastern side of the Peak from the bleak moorland heights of Bleaklow, and was dammed in the last century to create the triple reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower.
PIKE POOL on the RIVER DOVE - Mike Cummins
There were also many mills along the Derwent, at places like Bamford and Calver, before it is joined by the Wye and it flows on towards Matlock and Cromford, the site of Arkwright’s first water-powered cotton mill. The Wye joins the Derwent at a Rowsley confluence and the combined waters of Derwent, Wye and Lathkill all eventually flow into the Trent, and finally the North Sea.
Other important Peak District rivers include the Manifold, another ‘disappearing’ limestone river, which flows parallel with the Dove in Staffordshire; and the Etherow, which flows through wild Longdendale in the far north of the area, the Goyt and the Sett, on the western side of the Peak, which all eventually flow into the Mersey and the Irish Sea.
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 7 May 2015