This remote farmstead was one of the places where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached his non-conformist doctrine in the 18th century. Every July it is still the scene of an obscure Methodist celebration known as the Love Feast. Instead of the usual communion wine and wafers, the congregation share fruitcake and water from a two-handled Loving Cup, to commemorate the non-conformist tradition.
This is one of the geological and scenic highlights of the Peak District National Park. Alport Castles is said to be the largest landslip in Britain, but it is rarely visited because of its remoteness.
The Alport Valley is made up of weak Carboniferous shales (fine-grained rocks made of mud) overlain by harder Millstone Grit. The large cliff face we see here is the Birchin Hat escarpment. Alport Castles formed when the softer sandstones and shales of Birchin Hat slipped away from the rock-face. The Millstone Grit on the top broke up into blocks and tumbled down the valley side, creating a chaotic landscape of fallen boulders. With a little imagination, they can resemble castles – hence the name.
The triple chain of the Howden, Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs which flood the Upper Derwent Valley, represent the largest area of water in the Peak, and has been dubbed the Peak District’s Lake District.
The Derwent Dams were constructed by the Derwent Valley Water Board (now Severn-Trent) to supply fresh clean water to the fast-expanding industrial populations of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
The first two massive masonry dams constructed were the Howden and Derwent, between 1902 and 1916. During construction a temporary village, known as Tin Town because of its corrugated iron walls and roofs, housed the 1,000 or so navvies (labourers) and their families.
The larger Ladybower dam and reservoir followed in 1943, and took two years to finally fill! To accommodate the reservoirs, the villages of Derwent and Ashopton were demolished and their residents were re-housed at nearby Bamford. In times of drought, the foundations of some of the buildings can still be seen rising from the water.
Standing on the main street, look along the line of shops, arcades and attractions. The tranquility of our view from High Tor above may seem like a lifetime ago!
Imagine the hustle and bustle of this main thoroughfare when the railways first ferried visitors in droves. The sights prompted J. B. Firth in 1908 to describe
the bawling of the drivers of brakes and waggonettes, the attentions of the pushing salesmen“.
Today the bold blues, yellows and pinks of ice cream shops, fish and chip bars and arcades are hard to miss. And neither is the Aquarium. This building holds another clue to Matlock’s visitor appeal. Of the many spas and wells that first brought visitors to Matlock in their thousands, behind these walls is the only one that still works today – the Petrifying Well.
A ‘Petrifying Well’, as advertised on the board outside, was once a real feature of the town and drew in crowds of thrill seekers from the surrounding cities. But what is a ‘Petrifying Well’?
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.
Turn your gaze back over the river to the town itself. See if you can make out the row of shops and amusement arcades below, and the glare of the theme park towering high up on the opposite side of the gorge. You might even catch the smell of fish and chips wafting its way up the cliffs!
We have explored how the road to Nottingham opened up access to the village, but how did this change an aristocratic spa town into the one we see below us today?
In early the 18th century, Britain was in conflict with France. The resulting Napoleonic Wars made travel across Europe unsafe and discouraged the wealthy from taking continental holidays (known as ‘the Grand Tour’). Instead British travellers were diverted to places much closer to home. Dramatic British landscapes – such as the Peak District and Lake District – became very popular tourist destinations.
Soon, Matlock Bath saw the arrival of the railway, just 30 years after the toll road. With this came a completely different kind of visitor… the large, organised excursion had arrived!