Over Haddon sits perched on a ledge with glorious views over Lathkill Dale, one of the most beautiful dales in England, the first to be designated as a National Nature Reserve in Derbyshire. The river, one of the purest in the country, rises in a cave near the top of the dale and sometimes disappears underground in its upper reaches before widening out below Over Haddon. It is for the sheer beauty of the scenery, the wonderful walks and the natural beauty of its wildlife that visitors come to the village in droves at weekends and during the summer.
The reason for visitors flocking to the village in 1854 was quite different - a mini-Klondike Gold Rush took place, when gold was found in one of the lead mines. News spread fast and soon the little village was besieged with bounty hunters. A company was set up and hundreds of people invested money in the hope of a rich return; there was even talk of building a railway branch line to Bakewell. Unfortunately, the gold was so deep and in such small quantities that the venture was unprofitable. The company was closed down and the investors lost all their money.
One commodity that was not in such short supply was lead, and there is evidence as far back as the Romans, of lead mining in Lathkill Dale. The Mandale Mine was one of the earliest recorded in Derbyshire. It became famous for producing large quantities of lead at prices that put some other mines out of business. At that time, the pretty Lathkil Hotel (one ‘l’) with its outstanding view of the dale was the home of a predecessor called the Miner’s Arms, where no doubt most of the lead miners invested their hard-earned money.
The Sundial on the south wall of the church of St Anne is a memorial to Janet Wadsworth, simply entitled ‘Janet’, whose grave lies a few feet away. The beautifully incised and gilded memorial on Welsh slate, is the work of David Kindersley and associates and was presented to the church by her many friends. David Kindersley is one of Britain’s best known craftsmen, whose work can be seen in America and other parts of the world. Janet, the daughter of A P Wadsworth, the former editor of the Manchester Guardian she played an important role in local affairs as well as being a regular worshipper at the church. In her working life, she was Education Officer for Granada Television and her job meant she had to travel around the country but she never forgot her church and the village of Over Haddon.
Over Haddon seems an unlikely birthplace for a former head of MI6, a position Maurice Oldfield rose to when he was appointed Director of the Secret Intelligence Service, in 1973, by Edward Heath. He joined the army in 1939, volunteered for the Intelligence Corps and was posted to the Middle East ending the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. After the war, he was awarded an MBE and joined the Foreign Office, where he gradually worked his way up to the top of the ladder. He was knighted in 1975, died six years later and is buried with his parents in the churchyard.
Martha Taylor who lived in a little cottage in the village achieved fame as the ‘Fasting Damsel’, both doctors of both medicine and theology made long journeys to visit her while she fasted. The longer the fast lasted the more she was talked and written about – some accused her of being a fake, but could produce no evidence despite the fact that she was watched day and night. Martha survived her fast and all the interest it had created, dying a few years later, in 1684.
The Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1861, a few years before the church; the Village Hall came much later after a long wait and now plays an important part in community life as well as being available for hire for private events. The biggest event of the year is the village show held every September, when garden products, cookery, wine and handicrafts are all judged on a points system, the overall highest points scorer being awarded the Joseph Oldfield Cup.
The former craft centre and café are sadly missed since their closure, replaced with cottages mainly to be used as second homes and for holiday accommodation. Uncle Geoff’s Diner provides refreshment at peak times. Manor Barn is no longer the home of the English Nature and the Exhibition Centre closed recently. There is a highly regarded Farm Butcher’s Shop at New Close Farm, and at the junction of Main Street and Monyash Road is Haddon House Riding School.
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OVER HADDON WALK
Over Haddon, the starting point for this walk, sits perched on a ledge with glorious views over Lathkill Dale one of the most beautiful dales in England, the first to be designated as a National Nature Reserve in Derbyshire.
The river, one of the purest in the country, rises in a cave near the top of the dale and sometimes disappears underground in its upper reaches before widening out below Over Haddon.
It is for the sheer beauty of the scenery, the wonderful walks and the natural beauty of its wildlife that visitors come to the village in droves at weekends and during the summer. The walk down Lathkill Dale is generally regarded as the highlight of the visit.
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