Bradford Dale nestles deep beneath the villages of Middleton-by-Youlgreave and Youlgreave, its course interrupted by a succession of weirs and pools constructed to encourage trout to breed. Beds of watercress, reed, king cups and rush encourage nesting birds including the elusive Kingfisher, a jewel of a bird which flits about in a flash of turquoise.
At the top end of Bradford Dale are the remains of a tiny disused pumping station, paid for by the Bateman family of nearby Middleton-by-Youlgreave, where a water turbine was used years ago to supply the village before mains water pipes were laid.
Fullwood Rock in Bradford Dale is named after Sir Christopher Fullwood who was a staunch Royalist and raised an army of 1,000 men, mainly comprising of lead miners from surrounding villages. His home at Middleton Castle was surprised by Roundheads in the Civil War and battle broke out. Amid the canon fire Sir Christopher fled into Bradford Dale and hid in a fissure between the boulder and rock face, but was found. He was seriously wounded from a gunshot but taken prisoner and whilst being transported to a distant gaol, he died of his injuries at Caulton in Staffordshire on November 16th 1643. Middleton Castle was then destroyed as an example to other Royalists, but Fullwood Rock was named in his honour.
Bradford Dale contains a series of wonderful little bridges spanning the river including a clapper bridge and three packhorse bridges.
Prior to the tradition of well dressing in Youlgreave, the wooden framework is left in the River Bradford to soak before being plastered with clay and painstakingly adorned with an intricate and detailed picture made up of petals and organic materials.
After reaching the clapper bridge below Youlgreave, Bradford Dale opens out and runs through a lush meadow where cattle and sheep graze. There are a couple of benches overlooking the river as at one point a concrete dam has been constructed to create a swimming pool where bathers can enjoy a splash and the rare experience of swimming in natural river water - when it is warm enough to undress!
Beyond Youlgreave the River Bradford runs downstream to Alport, a picturesque little hamlet made up of chocolate box pretty cottages with mature gardens running down to the waters edge. Here the River Bradford marries with the River Lathkill before heading over Alport Weir and running east to join forces with the River Wye.
There are well walked paths in Bradford Dale which are easy to follow. A section of the dale forms part of the Limestone Way which is a long distance route leading from Castleton in the north to Rocester near Ashbourne.