One of matlock Bath’s most popular walking spots is to suffer the loss of its main footpath after being found too dangerous.
A geological report on deteriotating limestone cliff faces has forced the closure of the historic Lovers’ Walk on the left bank of the River Derwent, opposite North Parade.
Including a children’s play area, the well known section of Lovers’ Walks, dating back to the mid-18th century and situated between New Bridge in Derwent Gardens and the recently renovated Jubilee Bridge, has been fenced off by Derbyshire Dales District Council pending further investigations. Hillside walks in the area are also out of bounds and cliffs closed to climbers.
The cliff survey is also casting a shadow over one of the region’s largest autumn festivals - Matlock Bath Illuminations - organised by Derbyshire Dales District Council. The riverside footpath between the two foot bridges in the village is an emergency evacuation route for the event that attracts thousands of visitors every weekend in September and October.
The council said: “The sudden closure of this section of Lovers’ Walks and the play area on the left bank of the river has understandably caused some consternation among local people and visitors to Matlock Bath, including climbers, anglers and canoeists.
“But once we received the specialist geotechnical appraisal we had no choice but to put the safety of the public first.”
The series of footpaths both along the riverside and up and over the precipitous and spectacular cliffs dates back to the 1740s, as the believed to be the oldest surviving example of a public pleasure ground.
A geotechnical appraisal by Rock Solutions Ltd found that blocks of limestone had loosened due to surface weathering, varying in size from 5 metres to 25 metres wide.
Council leader Lewis Rose sais: “The report, which we commissioned after what we hoped was an isolated incident of a number of loose rocks rolling down onto the footpath, is clear in its recommendation that public access to areas below the cliff face should be closed off immediately.
“An area spanning 175 metres long above Lovers’ Walks was inspected, covering five high angle limestone buttresses above steep heavily wooded slopes, and most of these buttresses were found to contain loose blocks, some of which we are told could represent a considerable risk to the footpath.
“Potentially this could be an extremely expensive matter to put right, but it’s too early to speculate on the actual cost. What we are doing with immediate effect is commissioning further survey works, while also talking to event management specialists to look at any emergency evacuation options that will enable the Illuminations to go ahead without that section of Lovers’ Walks as an exit route. We are also seeking the views of Natural England.
“Until the results of those surveys and conversations are known there is nothing more we can say, other than to apologise for the inconvenience and to assure local people and visitors to Matlock Bath that we have not taken this decision lightly.”
The geological report can be viewed online at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/loverswalkclosure
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