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Matlock Bath: Steps and Woodland Walk on Lovers' Walks
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For a photo of the steps today (in the snow)
More about Lovers' Walks

Lovers' Walks, brief history

Lovers' Walks (Edwardian)


Aviaries & Monkey Houses


Lovely autumnal photograph, taken at least ninety years ago, of the steps that go up the hill from close to what is today the children's play area by the [former] arched tufa shelter*, sometimes described as an alcove, on the eastern side of the River Derwent. The steps are often referred to as Birdcage Walk. There are several similar paths that climb up the steeply wooded slopes. The five hectares of Lovers' Walks are Grade II listed these days[1].

William Bray, writing in 1783, described the steps in his "Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire": [2].

"Returning towards the landing place is an ascent to the top of the rock by about 220 steps, besides several gradual slopes ; this is so well managed by different turnings, that tho' the rock is here almost perpendicular, little difficulty is found in gaining the summit ; and the wood grows so close to the edge of the path, that there is no room for the least apprehension of danger. About half way up is a seat overlooking the river and country. At the top is a fine pasture ground, sloping from the very edge of the rock down to a little valley, where a small bend in the river is seen, tho' from the situation of the ground, ground, it appears to be a different one from that which you left below"[2].

A little over half a century later William Adam tells us how, "after crossing the Boats from the Bath, we proceed north by the Alcove, ascend a series of rude steps amongst trees, in which the crows have built their lofty eyries. ... reaching the second alcove, "embowered amongst the rocks and trees. This is called Bird-cage Walk; from hence upwards is close under the lofty cliffs"[3].

See two images of the alcove:
Grotto in the Walks at Matlock Bath by George Robertson (c. 1748-1788), Derby Museum and Art Gallery collection. The couple seated on the attractive bench were bathed in sunlight. Yet there is vegetation on the roof, indicating the shelter had been there for some time.
North View of Matlock Bath by Joseph Farington (1747 - 1821), which is on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website. It shows a very wooded Lovers' Walks, but in a gap next to the river bank we can just make out the old tufa arched alcove described by Adam. It is undated, but his other prints of Matlock and Matlock Bath are ca. 1817.

Children who grew up in Matlock Bath post war often wondered, if it was for lovers, why was the alcove seemingly facing the wrong way? We could not understand the lack of privacy as those walking from Jubilee Bridge could see straight in. We did not, of course, fully realise that the bridge was a relatively new structure, and how for almost two centuries people had crossed the river by boats that were available for hire downstream. The eighteenth and early nineteenth century lovers who sat here would have enjoyed the view of the river that flowed towards them as well as the spectacular scenery beyond it.

*Disappointingly, a few years ago (circa 2018/19), a tree fell over the Grade II* listed historic arched structure, and it was badly damaged. It was then deemed to be in a dangerous state so the Council decided to demolish it, removing all the stone. There is now no sign that the shelter ever existed. This is particularly sad as it had been on the Lovers' Walks for 300+ years. Despite assurances that the stone is said to be in safe keeping there is currently (2024) no indication about when or if it will be rebuilt. Some sources are hinting that it will never be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it had not been treated well in the past. There was concrete on the roof and either the council or a utility company installed a metal cabinet inside it that bisected the fairly utilitarian low wooden bench seating (not the original). Nevertheless, it was one of Matlock Bath's oldest structures. It is hoped by many that it has not disappeared for ever.

"Matlock Bath : Lovers' Walk". Celesque Series, Photochrom Co Ltd, London and Tunbridge Wells, No. 49111. All British Production. Not posted.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] English Heritage maintain a Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England (Matlock Bath Conservation Area Appraisal, July 2006). Lovers' Walks were listed on 3rd August 1984.

[2a] Bray, William (1783) "Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire" (Second Edition) London, Printed for B. White at Horace's Head, in Fleet-Street. The first edition was published in 1778.

[3] Adam, W. (July 1838) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row ; ... Mawe, Royal Museum, Matlock ; .... This was the first edition of his guide.