We are now in the Lovers’ Walks, a series of paths that lead visitors through the gorge. On this side of the bank the paths tempt visitors along the river and up into precipitous gorge side above.
The Lovers’ Walks are believed to be the oldest surviving example of a public pleasure ground. They have been in continuous use since the 1740s and have enabled generations of visitors to follow the trends set by poets Shelley and Wordsworth, whose writings inspired respect for and wonderment of the beauty of nature.
With the railway bringing increasing crowds, however, the Lovers’ Walks were hard pressed to cope with the rising numbers. Then in 1887 this tree-lined promenade and the bridge we have just crossed opened to coincide with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Woodland still covers all but the Lovers’ Walks paths. The trees here and those on the High Tor are classified as Ancient Woodland – a definition used to protect wooded areas that have been growing since 1600. They have also been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England.
The Lovers’ Walks were one of the first examples of how Matlock Bath changed to cater for tourists, whilst preserving the natural features of the landscape.
These attractions retain prominence today and are a stark contrast to the brightly lit shop fronts along the main street. We will now explore these to discover the final mysteries of Matlock’s curious mix of natural grandeur and seaside-style entertainment.
Cross back over the bridge and almost directly in front of you will see the bright blue exterior of the Matlock Bath Aquarium. Cross over the road and stand outside it for our final stop.
This trail was originally appeared on the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain. Thanks are due to:
Jo Kemp for creating and photographing the trail.
Rory Walsh and Caroline Millar for suggestions and advice.
Neil Theasby for images reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Lily Alsop for putting together the written guide.