Monday 22 December 2014


In Derbyshire at the weekend (yes, again), I visited a quite extraordinary site/sight that I'd never even heard of before. Lumsdale is a spectacular wooded gorge high above Matlock which, not content with being an area of 'outstanding natural beauty', is also one of the most important water-powered undustrial archaeological sites in England, the location of at least seven mills dating back to the Arkwright period and before, plus various other industrial and domestic buildings, nearly all of which are now more or less ruined.
 The water from Bentley Brook flows into two placid mill ponds before tumbling over the edge of the gorge in an endless succession of waterfalls. This dramatic combination of falling water, rugged rocks, romantic ruins and encroaching trees is quite achingly picturesque, and it's hard to imagine why Lumsdale isn't better known. Even by Peak District standards, it's a gem.
 That it has come down to us as it is today is  largely thanks to one woman, the aptly named Marjorie Mills, who in 1939 bought the then thickly wooded site, determined to preserve it. She rejected all offers for the building stone, refusing to permit demolition, but the task of maintaining such a site was too much for one person, and 40 years later it was leased to the Arkwright Society, who undertook to offer safe public access where possible, to maintain the charm of the wooded areas, and not to restore the buildings but to preserve them 'frozen in their picturesque decay'. They have done a brilliant job.

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