Lathkill Dale Nature Reserve
Lathkill Dale Nature Reserve is a short drive or a longer walk from Alport , and is certainly worth a visit if you are staying in holiday accommodation the area. It is one of the finest of the limestone Dales in the Peak District and the upper part is a National Nature Reserve, taken care of by English Nature.
The steep sided valley of Lathkill Dale is 5 kilometres south of Bakewell, between the villages of Over Hadden, Monyash and Youlgrave, just up the hill from Alport. It runs 5 km West-East between Monyash, and Alport and contains examples of a very wide range of habitats found in the Dales, including mixed scrub, grasslands, scree and rock outcrops, as well as broadleaved woodland. There are lots of car parks to get to it, some situated at Over Haddon, Moor Lane , Youlgrave and Conksbury Bridge. Bus services run from Over Haddon, Monyash and Youlgrave too.
The River Lathkill rises just below Monyash, and flows down the valley to meet the River Wye, just below Haddon Hall. The limestone bedrock which makes up most of the area, provides the visitor with a clear view to the very bottom of the River, filled with trout, and as Izaak Walton declared it so eloquently, the waters are said to be 'the purist and most transparent stream' he had ever seen.
It's a great place to take your feet in the waters in the summer and there are plenty of picnic spots and adventures to be had for the children. In places, the top part of the Valley is quite narrow and part filled with spoil from a quarry, just on the North side, but don't let this spoil your opinion of the place before you even get there. The stone which was quarried, is called Derbyshire Marble and has long been abandoned, but has now been colonised by a rare plant, which flowers in June and July, called Jacob's Ladder and the Valley is transformed into a spectacular vision.
In drought, there may be no water in this area and the Valley is dry where it crosses the Monyash to Bakewell Road, continuing dry for about a kilometre until it reaches Lathkill House Cave. The water has flowed underground from Flagg in this area and resurges from the cave when the weather is wet.
Below Lathkill House Cave the valley widens into a grand, deep valley steep with rocky sides and is joined from the South by Cales Dale, where at the foot, which spans the stream, there is the remains of an old sheepwash, which was used until the 1940s. In spring this area is rich in wildflowers, covered with purple orchids and cowslips and looks absolutely beautiful.
Low Wood is next, just below Cales Dales, where the sides of the valley are partly wooded. This is where the first of many weirs appear and there was once a mill near here too. Low Wood merges into Meadow Wood, and in places the River is damned to form ponds for the fish, where there are many water-based birds such as coots, wagtails, dippers and waterhens. This area was once home to several very profitable lead mines, and sections of the workings may still be seen, especially the aqueduct, which carried water to a large waterwheel, which was once used to pump water from the mine. A consequence of the mines was that the water table was lowered considerably, causing the river to run almost dry in a drought. The River resurges from 'Bubble Springs' just below Over Haddon, and continues in a heavily wooded, steep sided valley to emerge at the very picturesque and often photographed, Conksbury Bridge, a mediaeval bridge, which carries the Youlgreave road across the river. There are numerous fishponds and the character of the River turns into a more gentle, less steep sided valley, to meet the Bradford at Alport and continue another 3 km to the Wye.