After a brief and beautiful losing of ourselves, we arrived exactly where we had been going — a series of two ponds in the Lumsdale Valley created to power the mills below, a centre of industry for several hundred years.
This whole area just south of the Peak District is a centre of industry, the springboard for the industrial revolution — though you would never guess now.
Cottages stand where an old lead smelter once sat, along with a counting house and ore house, from 1749 through the 1780s. One of the mills is perhaps from the 1600s, and a cycle of uses, from saw mill to paint mill to spinning and bleach — all of it happened in this stretch of buildings.
Starting with the old saw mill and moving through the valley — it no longer felt so important to recognise old uses, try to understand old processes and imagine what this scene looked like several hundred years ago:
Instead I wished I looked upon it with a practiced eye, so the layers of meaning and history could be sifted, brought forward in turn to form a whole. At no point in this place do you want to treat it as a museum. We didn’t linger long at the informative boards, and I am glad they remain few.
An early bleach trough, where they bleached skeins of yarn (and I imagine how toxic it all was, continues to be though you would never now guess):
This is never how I once imagined sedate English woods.
An old square paint trough, I think, I am looking back now with charts at these pictures, they don’t quite match memory, but that is all right. To the left a tunnel that once led to a bridge across the stream. A curiosity now. A place to hide from other visitors and pretend they are not there.
We wandered down the valley through one building and then another, alongside the stream for a while and the series of waterfalls that once brought power. It is hard, now, for me to imagine waterfalls as useful.
The Bleach works, with an old millstone.
I left the valley sadly. From there we climbed and lost ourselves again briefly through poor walk instructions, then wandered along the curve of a hill to looking back over Matlock from another angle:
Finally arriving at Starkholmes, and a well earned meal. And a cat.
then back down the hill to the bus, through a gimlet of holiday makers enjoying Matlock Bath. The Paignton of the North. Which I might ignore, but the country’s first pleasure parks were there? I meant to look into that a little more…