The River Wye is the major river of the western part of the Peak, rising on Axe Edge above Buxton (as do the Rivers Dove and Manifold, all within the space of a few kilometres) and flowing eastwards through Buxton and Bakewell to join the Derwent at Rowsley.
The Wye in Buxton
The river goes underground soon after its source and re-emerges in Poole's Cavern to flow down into the town centre of Buxton via Pavilion Gardens. When the 5th Duke of Devonshire built The Crescent between 1780 and 1784 he culverted the river to pass beneath the building, and more recently it has been culverted again to pass beneath the Spring Gardens shopping centre, so little of the river is to be seen in the lower town. At this stage the river is only a stream, but below Buxton it starts to grow into a sizeable river.
Stepping stones in Cheedale
Buxton lies in a natural basin scooped out by glaciers, so to emerge from this the river has had to carve a long series of gorges which characterise the section between Buxton and Ashford. Here the river always lies in a deep-cut valley which is often lined with cliffs and is sometimes spectacularly narrow. The first part of the gorges is Ashwood Dale, a narrow tree-lined valley where the main road travels alongside the river, but this is fairly recent because one section was blasted to make room for it. At the end of Ashwood Dale the road leaves the river because the Wye enters Cheedale, with steep cliffs on either side and sections where the lower valley is often difficult to even walk along. This type of scenery continues through similar sections near Miller's Dale and Water-cum-Jolly.
This upper part of the valley is punctuated by mills (such as Litton Mill and Cressbrook Mill) and the remains of mills. It is a noted area for walking, climbing and fishing, and birdwatching is also popular. The scenery is amongst the most impressive in the Peak.
At Cressbrook the river enters Monsal Dale, and finally widens out somewhat, though it still lies in a deep valley. At Monsal Head, it is forced to make a 90-degree turn and carve its way through the limestone ridge to the south, and this point, overlooking a steep-sided partly wooded valley, is one of the most famous viewpoints in the area.
After Ashford in-the-Water, a picturesque village lying on the river with some ancient bridges across it - the first significant village since Buxton - the Wye finally seems to begin to relax and widen into a broad river valley leading to Bakewell. This takes it past Haddon Hall and the junction with the Lathkill before flowing on to Rowsley and the junction with the Derwent.