River Bradford

The River Bradford is a limestone river that links the communities of Middleton, Youlgrave and Alport in the Derbyshire Dales. Bradford Dale is on the south-eastern corner of the limestone plateau and its river is, in some ways, similar to the more famous the rivers of the White Peak. The entire length of the Bradford watercourse is a mere four miles from the source in Gratton Dale to the confluence with the River Lathkill at Alport. Bradford Dale and the river itself may be small in scale but they are home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Along the river there are unvisited places that are havens for wildlife and rare plants. Throughout Bradford Dale there are delicate ecosystems that depend on the general health of the river and of the dale itself.

The appearance of the dale has been altered down the years by agriculture and industry. Bradford Dale was once a working place with a sheep dip, corn mill, factory and wheelwright’s shop. Lead miners passed through the dale on their way to the lead rakes and some even mined in the dale. The landscape around the River Bradford and the river itself, were shaped by people for various uses in the past, and human activity continues to influence the flow and ecology of the river for both good and ill.

What makes the landscape especially rich around the River Bradford is the close proximity of the different kinds of bedrock. A walk up the hill to Mawstone or Robin Hood’s Stride (a gritstone tor) will take you across limestone, shales and gritstone with their very different associated flora and fauna. There are different worlds within just a few paces of each other.

Over time, parts of the river have had a variety of names including Rollow Brook or Roller Brook, Bradford Rivulet and, latterly, River Bradford. The names give us a clue to what the Bradford once was - a brook, a stream or a rivulet, rising from springs in a remote valley to run through deep gorges, quiet dells and open meadows. The Bradford’s status as a river is, perhaps, owed to the past uses people have made of this limestone stream over many hundreds of years. The river, which is home to the endangered native white-clawed crayfish and is an important nursery stream for wild brown trout is now owned and managed by Haddon Estate.

Youlgrave Village

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Youlegrave Village Derbyshire England
Photo: Dave Smith

You can visit the Youlgrave Village website here

You can also read the valley’s monthly community magazine, The Bugle, here