The large boulders just behind us are the spoil from a long disused quarry in Ricklow Dale above.. The quarry produced a highly prized form of limestone, known as black marble, full of interesting fossils. Visit the Bull’s Head in Monyash to see a fine example serving as the pub’s threshold.
If dry, this moss-covered sycamore tree is a fun and easy climb for children, or the young at heart, but its deep roots must be tapping water from somewhere below… Looking over the gap and stile in the dry-stone wall, the dale starts to open out once more, revealing lofty heights on either side, wheeling with jackdaws chattering overhead. These and other birds such as peregrine falcons and ravens, find attractive nest holes and ledges in the eroding crags.
Gazing up you will see a host of inaccessible stacks and small caves formed thousands of years ago by smaller torrents of meltwater. The nationally rare blue-flowering Jacob’s Ladder grows in the grass on the north-facing slope in the fenced area to the right, while in high summer the path ahead is dominated by the tall yellow spikes of Hoary Mullein. This impressive giant thrives here in the dry and sun-parched soil, many miles from its East Anglian stronghold.
On a sunny day, the dale can feel like an oven from this point on, the pale limestone reflecting heat from all angles. Hats are a real necessity and make sure you have plenty of water with you. Amazingly we have not yet encountered any natural water sources in the dale but perhaps there is the very distant sound of something further along the path? Hop over the stile and let’s continue to investigate.
Continue down the dale.
This trail was originally developed by Simon Corble for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain.
Simon Corble is a theatre director, playwright and actor based in Derbyshire’s Peak District, is passionate about the countryside and discovering the hidden secrets of the natural world.