Secret treasure is open to us all

Hidden Gem: Jane Taylor of the Lumsdale Valley Project Group is pictured by the Lower Pond, which was created circa 1850 to harness the water from Bentley Brook to feed the waterfall which powered the various mills in this concealed part of Matlock.

Hidden Gem: Jane Taylor of the Lumsdale Valley Project Group is pictured by the Lower Pond, which was created circa 1850 to harness the water from Bentley Brook to feed the waterfall which powered the various mills in this concealed part of Matlock.

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Dramatic waterfalls, atmospheric beauty and historic mill buildings are all waiting to be discovered at one of Matlock’s hidden gems.

Visitors are invited to explore the unique industrial site of the Lumsdale Valley – as a hard working group of residents campaign to maintain the treasured spot.

Picturesque: The view across the Lower Pond, which was created circa 1850 to harness the water from Bentley Brook to feed the waterfall which powered the various mills in the Lumsdale Valley, a concealed area of Matlock which is an important part of the county's industrial heritage.

Picturesque: The view across the Lower Pond, which was created circa 1850 to harness the water from Bentley Brook to feed the waterfall which powered the various mills in the Lumsdale Valley, a concealed area of Matlock which is an important part of the county's industrial heritage.

The group took over the lease of the site in 1979 for a peppercorn rent and with the help of grants have made it safe and accessible to the public.

The valley, which is hidden away and unknown even to many residents, has a charm and magic recognised by all that see it.

Resident and Lumsdale Project Committee member, Jane Taylor said: “Many people are surprised when they learn that there are only around half a dozen folk who keep the valley viable as both a treasured leisure site and an archaeological gem.”

With a landscape that boasts a tree lined brook, an attractive pond and perhaps most memorably a large waterfall, it is no surprise that the BBC will be featuring the valley in a programme focusing on Britain’s Hidden Heritage, next month.

Industrial Heritage: The waterfall which powered the various mills in the Lumsdale Valley, a concealed area of Matlock which is an important part of the county's industrial heritage.

Industrial Heritage: The waterfall which powered the various mills in the Lumsdale Valley, a concealed area of Matlock which is an important part of the county's industrial heritage.

Jane added: “I think visitors find the valley fascinating.

“The reaction of most people is to fall in love with it. You almost feel as if you are in a magical place.”

Ruins have been stabilised, new footpaths provided, viewing platforms built and the vegetarian and trees brought under control.

Committee members lead tours around the site, for people to discover more about its industrial heritage and to generate funds for their work.

Water power has been used in Lumsdale as far back as the 16th Century and the area ranks as one of the top five water-powered industrial archaeological sites in the UK.

It was one of the first places in the history of the industrial revolution where mills utilised the technology patented by Richard Arkwright.

In the 1960s Dr Chris Charlton and Dr Patrick Strange carried out studies of the valley and convinced owner Marjorie Mills of its importance.

Mrs Mills was keen to protect the ruins from further decay and the area was then leased to a committee of residents.

Committee member Julian Burgess moved to the valley in 1982.

He said: “It is a unique place of nature, wildlife and industrial archaeology, and residents have been keen to see that preserved.

“It is quite a secret valley and people are really very impressed when they come and look round as it is an area of romantic decay.”

Work on the site, which is now owned by the Arkwright Society, was completed in 1983 but residents still work tirelessly to continue the upkeep of the valley.

Currently the committee is trying to reinstate the middle pond.

Visitors can explore the Bentley Brook which flows through a small wooded gorge, and see the remains of six water wheels and three ponds, perhaps the most concentrated evidence of early water power in Britain.

Heading down the valley from Highfields School, you can see the overgrown remains of Bone Mill, possibly built in the 16th Century and abandoned in the 1920s, having been used to grind bones for fertiliser.

Following the path down, past a couple of ponds and some cottages, is a dam wall below which stands a second mill, built in the 1850s, whose most recent use was as a saw mill at the beginning of the 20th Century.

New headteacher at Highfields School, Eddie Wilkes, was keen to find out more about the valley and hopes to build on the schools involvement with the committee.

Last week he was invited to tour Lumsdale with committee members.

He said: “To have a place like this on our doorstep is fantastic.

“What it uncovered for me was the amazing history of the area.”

He added: “The school has a long standing involvement with the Arkwright Society and without a doubt the school will get involved with the project. It’s good for the youngsters to have this link to their past.”

A garden party is being held at Ivy Cottage – opposite Highfields Upper School – on Saturday, June 18, from 11am to 4pm, to raise money to maintain the valley.

The party will include stalls selling bric-a-brac, books, plants, cakes and jams and visitors can also enjoy a cream tea and a choir will be playing.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the valley or take a tour can contact Julian Burgess on 01629 55317 or Jane Taylor on 01629 580271.

The committee is also seeking new members to help maintain the area.