Peak District Walks
Date: 11th June 2015
Distance: 8.7 miles
Ascent: 1181 feet
Time: 3 hours 20 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SK212644
A wonderful walk in the White Peak from Youlgrave along the length of the valley of Lathkill Dale before returning via the Limestone Way.
Route Summary: Youlgrave - Conksbury - Conksbury Bridge - Lathkill Dale - One Ash Grange Farm - Cales Dale - Calling Low - Low Moor Plantation - Limestone Way - Youlgrave
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: This walk was the second of three walks that I did on an ambitious day of walking whilst visiting the southern half of the Peak District, an area I don't normally get to visit as it is too far to drive there and back in a day from where I live. Having enjoyed a super walk from Eyam over in to Bretton Clough earlier in the day I drove to Youlgrave, where I was staying that night in the youth hostel, and which was also conveniently the starting point for a route visiting Lathkill Dale.
Parking outside the school in Youlgrave I walked through the churchyard before leaving the village along the quiet lane heading for the small hamlet of Conksbury. From Conksbury I dropped down to Conksbury Bridge to reach the River Lathkill. The next four miles of the walk was a simple case of following the path on the north bank of the river deeper and deeper into the valley.
Upon reaching the river I was immediately struck by how clear the water was, indeed it has to be the clearest river I've yet come across. Although very different to the upper reaches of the valley these early stages were quite lovely, the broad path following closely to the river the attractiveness of which was enhanced by a set of weirs.
Between Conksbury Bridge and the footbridge below Over Haddon the riverside path was quite popular but as I continued west from the footbridge I would meet fewer and fewer people. Over the course of the next section I came across some small caves alongside the path, one of them unfortunately was full of empty beer cans. I'd chosen what was probably the warmest day of the year for this walk and the clear waters of the river looked very inviting. However, with regular signs asking people not to go in to the water in order to protect the local population of white-clawed crayfish, I had to restrain myself.
Eventually the woods began to thin and I began to catch glimpses of limestone outcrops on the steep flanks above me. Then, upon reaching the footbridge leading in to the side valley of Cales Dale, the wood finally came to an end and I commenced the finest section of the walk as Lathkill Dale increasingly narrows into a high-sided limestone gorge. Unbeknownst to me prior to this walk Lathkill Dale is one of the few places that Jacob's Ladder can be found growing in the wild and by happy chance I'd timed my visit to the best time of year to see them in flower.
Continuing on from the valley's colony of Jacob's Ladder I passed the remains of Ricklow Quarry before taking a path doubling back up above the limestone slopes before turning south to join the Limestone Way to the west of One Ash Grange Farm. An interesting but rather random feature of the latter was a small cave which contained a nativity scene!
The return was a simple walk back to Youlgrave along the Limestone Way. The only major obstacle en route being the descent and immediate climb back out of Cales Dale on steep stone steps - very tiring towards the end of my second walk on a hot summer's day! Perhaps the highlight of the return was a final view back down in to Lathkill Dale just before reaching the farm at Calling Low.
Prior to this walk almost all of my previous walks in the Peak District had been in the areas dominated by gritstone and so this was my first experience of one of the White Peak's limestone valleys. I have to say I loved it. Lathkill Dale was beautiful and very different in feel to the limestone areas I know further north in the Yorkshire Dales. Now I need to start planning a visit to the likes of Chee Dale, Monsal Dale, Cressbrook Dale and Dove Dale!