Water Cum Jolly

Water-cum-Jolly is a particularly scenic little dale on the River Wye close to Cressbrook Mill. It is situated downstream of Litton Mill and Millers Dale, and a short walk upstream from Monsal Dale. There is limited roadside parking for Water-cum-Jolly at grid reference 178722 on the riverside road to Cressbrook off the B6465, but a large pay and display car park is sited at Monsal Head which is about a mile away.

The view from Monsal Head or Headstone Head as it was previously known is one of the most noted in Derbyshire, looking down into the depths of Monsal Dale with the famous viaduct in the foreground and the little village of Cressbrook in the distance.

To access Water-cum-Jolly you follow a footpath to the rear of Cressbrook Mill which in recent years has been refurbished and converted into luxury residential apartments.

Across the road from Cressbrook Mill and Water-cum-Jolly is the site of the original Cressbrook Mill where there is a pond which once fed its waterwheel. John Baker, a hosier and entrepreneur developed this site in the 18th century. He constructed a distillery for peppermint, lavender and other aromatic herbs which he grew or found locally. He erected the first Cressbrook Mill building about 1785 but this was to be destroyed by fire. A new mill was then built and taken over by Sir Richard Arkwright. Arkwright died in 1792 and Cressbrook Mill changed hands yet again. In 1815 the impressive 12-bay Georgian building was erected by William Newton who was a self-educated poet. He later befriended Anna Seward of Eyam fame who gave him the title of ‘Minstrel of the Peak’.

There is a wide expanse of river at Water-cum-Jolly which is held back by a weir and mill stream which centuries ago would have operated a huge waterwheel. Tranquil and serene, the river at Water-cum-Jolly flows through a deep ravine with rocky limestone crags, slitherbanks and miniature cliffs where colourfully-clad climbers can often be seen attempting to scale the smooth overhanging rock faces. The steep bank to the north containing the alpine-style cottages of Cressbrook village have a Sylvan appearance, with a thick band of trees leading up to Cressbrook Hall on the hilltop.

Years ago the woods were harvested for their crop of lilies of the valley which were transported and sold at Manchester market.


Water-cum-Jolly is popular with many species of birds and wildfowl whose squawks, shrieks, chatter and quacks seem to echo and reverberate off the rocks and around the dale. In spring you can observe them nesting, with miniature twig-constructed castles precariously perched along the course of the river or blowing about in trees above. mallard , coot, moorhen, dab chick, little grebe and even swans can be seen at Water-cum-Jolly.

There is a concessionary riverside path through to Litton Mill. However, after heavy rain this can often be flooded and sometimes becomes very muddy or impassable.

A lovely footpath over the weir takes you up the hillside to the Monsal Trail on the former railway line, which you can walk along to the famous Monsal Viaduct about a mile away.

Monsal Dale which is downstream of Cressbrook Mill and Water-cum-Jolly is an area of natural and man-made beauty which has inspired many writers. In the 19th century James Croston wrote the following:

‘A calm and beauteous spot
A glorious Vale far down beneath the rocks
Where peace and bliss might, undisturbed repose
And man forget the names of sin and hate’

Whilst Eliza Cook wrote the following:

‘And Monsal, thou mine of Arcadian treasure
Need we seek for Greek Islands and spice-laden gales;
While a temple like thine of enchantment and pleasure
Can be found in our own native Derbyshire Dales’

Water-cum-Jolly is a tucked away treasure of the Peak District , missed by many who do not know of its existence, but enjoyed by those who do and sometimes discovered in chance by others as they walk beside the river.

Water Cum Jolly