Ladybower Reservoir walk.
Well this was an epic walk around Ladybower and Derwent Dam, it started off as a bright but chilly and windy day with weather warnings of gales travelling south, but for our expedition, it was just right for a walk, sheltered and no rain, however, it turned into an epic adventure in the end.
We drove to the Fairholmes visitor centre set just in front of one of the famous dams used in the epic trials of the bouncing bomb with the 617 Dambusters squadron. We were concerned about the amount of debris on the road and the buffeting from the cross winds but as soon as we got into the valley, it all quietened down. I had visited this area with my wife on many occasions and seen some wonderful sights from the drowned lost villages at low level water to witnessing a veteran of the Dambusters squadron crying in the memorial museum, from exploring the old workings in “Tin town” the village that was created for the dam builders to epic afternoon teas in Castleton, many lovely memories but I have never witnessed waves and mini tornados on the water, so much so water was being whipped up and blown over the top of the dam.
We started our walk at the foot of the dam, being sprayed with the mist from the water being blown over the dam, ok it’s not the Hoover dam, but it is pretty epic given the surroundings and when it was built. We followed the path on to the road that was on the other side of the lake and steadily walked up the side through wooded valleys and past houses that were part of the sunken town of Derwent. There are eerie stone entrances and lanes that disappear into the depths of the reservoir, no doubt pack horse of tracks to the houses, church or farms now lying deep within the murky silt, there history probably now long lost to hear say and fable only to gasp for air in periods of drought. Whilst the area is beautiful it is at a cost and time should be given by the visitor to remember the sacrifice given by the villagers and the builders in the name of the industrial revolution.
As we walked along the well-made ex village roads surrounded by tall trees gently swaying in the wind you could almost be forgiven for hearing the soul of the lost villages talking in some way, maybe its wishful thinking of an old romantic wanting to hear or see signs in other ways or just an over enthusiastic mind sympathetic to natures conversation, either way, it was a lovely walk with fleeting shafts of sunlight to gently touch you and lift your spirit from its winter slumber.
At one point, a large tree blocked our way which required straddling as though you were mounting a horse, evidence again of how the forces of nature battle with not only man but with each other. Given the size of the tree, it has taken many a year to grow to that height and girth so it must had witnessed the valley being flooded and finally succumbed to power of the gods Zeus and Zephyrus on this windy day, anyway, it lay slain across our path waiting for the mercy of man and a chainsaw and a unceremonious dissection.
As we ventured along the reservoirs side we past several green domed capped tubes, all padlocked by clearly where capable of sliding open. I didn’t have a clue what they were; they were all over the place, air shafts, or a hangover from some war defence system protecting our dams from retaliatory retribution from the Germany. I still don’t know for certain but a little poking around seems to suggest that they are air valves to do with submerged pipelines, not convinced as I favour a far more mysterious or sinister purpose.
The path descended to the reservoirs edge and in the shallows the outline of foundations together with the remnants of ornate carved copings or window sills, who knows, another secret thrusting out the depths like Excalibur in defiance. The bleached white arched bridge, which carries the A57 “Snake Pass“, straddles the joining of the two valleys that make up the Ladybower reservoir. This magnificent bridge belies the structure beneath, the towering legs that support the arches hide the depth of the water and more remnants of Ashopton a village habitat once enjoyed. In places the reservoir is 135 feet deep and averages at 95 feet
We eventually met with the A57 and crossed it then turned left along the side of the main reservoir, once again, the green domed topped structures followed or path, still none the wiser! We turned left towards Bamford crossing another semi submerged white arched bridge towards Bamford where at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn our well-earned lunch was waiting.
After lunch we retraced our steps to the Ladybower Dam, a large stone and soil dam with two large spillways or “plug holes” which are some 24mts in diameter which step down to underground tunnels 20mts below. They regulate the water level. I’m intrigued to see inside, but scared at the prospect of falling in given the depth and unknown exit, well you can’t even get to them, so curiosity will have to be content with poking around on the internet.
The path around Ladybower is good until you get to the end and this I a long way round to find that you have to climb up through woods, the day is cracking on and we are relying on digital mapping and GPS to navigate this seldom used path, trees are hampering the GPS signal requiring us to plot a path using foot and bike tracks, eventually we broke from the trees onto open moorland, our GPS chirped up and told us to turn right down a steep track towards a crossing at the end of the reservoir.
Well I’m good at distance walking, and going uphill but downhill, well that’s a different matter as its painful on my knees and ankle. As we made our way to the bridge the dark was descending, rapidly, but so were our choices of getting back to Fairholmes, where we were parked. Eventually we came to the A57 and had to make a choice, take the road back, approximately 5-7 miles or up and over, another ascent nd more importantly, descent. Given the distance we had already walked and the fact of walking a twisty un-lit busy road even though we had red warning lights and torches, it was still a dodgy road to travel at night, so we opted for the cross country path. It was steep and on paths that we only had GPS mapping for, but shorter and safer. So we crossed the A57 and climbed up a path through lightly wooded moorland, it was steep and switched back and forth as it ascended the peak. It was dark once we reached the top and then checked our GPS to find the path down; unfortunately it went into thick woods. With torches on we made our descent, we had spare lights so kept light to the minimum. At one point we were greeted by lights climbing towards us, eventually it turned out to be a group of wild campers burdened with provisions for a stargazing albeit windy night. Eventually we got back to the dam that we started at and walked back to the car, never has the sight of the car ben more welcome.
On return to our lodgings we all had baths to soak our joints in readiness for a slap up meal, however, all the places we tried had stopped serving, so supermarket fare was on the menu tonight having walked some 11 miles and climbed 1600 odd feet, thankfully the promise of a comfy bed Just was a little closer.
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