The Lovers' Walks are a series of footpaths along the riverside and up and over the cliffs.
Lovers' Walks is a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' by English Nature.
These woodlands also form part of the Peak District Dales Woodlands 'Special Area for Conservation'. They contain habitat which is rare or threatened within a European context and known to be one of the best UK examples of 'Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes and ravines'.
The Lovers' Walks link to Derwent Gardens on the opposite side of the River Derwent by a river bridge built in 1969. Derwent Gardens hosts the District Council's annual Matlock Bath Illuminations spectacular every autumn.
The Origin of Lovers' Walks
The original Lovers' Walks originated sometime prior 1742 and is to be the oldest surviving example of a public pleasure ground. The Lovers' Walks, approximately three quarters of a mile in length and accessed via a ferryboat ride from below Bath Terrace.
The spectacular focal point for the original Lovers' Walks, was the Cascades, a natural outfall from a thermal spring into the river. Close to the viewing point for the Cascades there was a path leading visitors 200 feet up and along the cliff. The original paths had decorative features such as urns and ornaments.
In 1782 Lovers' Walks was part of the estate purchased by Richard Arkwright, and included the family home, Willersley Castle. The landscaped Castle grounds were separate from Lovers' Walks by a wall. The Willersley gardener would escort visitors wanting to complete the walk to Cromford through the gate in the wall.
By 1785 Birdcage Walk extended the Lovers' Walks northwards. It also added another path to the top of the cliff, with rustic alcoves created at the top and bottom. William Emes of Derby, the former Head Gardener at Kedleston Hall was responsible for this development.
Matlock Bath was hard pressed to cope with influx of day trippers brought by the railway. The Local Board leased land from FC Arkwright on the opposite side of the river to form the Jubilee Grounds. There was circular walks and in 1893 saw a bandstand built. Matlock Bath and Scarthin Nick Urban District Council leased the Lovers' Walks in 1897 and in 1901 joined all the separate walks together. 1906 saw turnstiles added and an entry fee charged.
The Jubilee Grounds from time to time saw temporary attractions. From the 1920s there were aviaries and animal cages for wolves and monkeys, only ending in the 1950s. Since this time the Lovers' Walks have remained unchanged, until the renovation works via the Matlock Parks Project.