“ A reservoir on the edge of the Peak District National Park. „
I consider myself to be very fortunate living within such a short distance of so many of the Peak District's attractions, but because there are so many different places to choose from so close to me, many of them like those in the Strines Valley often get overlooked.
Dale Dike Reservoir (also sometimes spelt dyke) is a reservoir on the north eastern fringe of the City of Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District National Park. It is one of four reservoirs in the valley, the others being Strines, Agden and Damflask. They are all owned by Yorkshire Water and provide a supply of fresh drinking water for Sheffield and the surrounding area.
Dale Dike Reservoir is locally a very famous reservoir due to the events of that took place on the night of 11th March 1864. When I was at school (many years ago) we learned about The Great Sheffield Flood that was caused when the dam wall at this reservoir burst and sent a torrent of water hurtling downstream that claimed 270 lives. As a child I was always interested in the story of the Sheffield Flood as my father's aunt who lived to the ripe old age of 99 told me all about the role that her grandparents played in it. They lost their home but survived, although almost of all their neighbours died. The story goes that they had a new born baby and were up feeding it in the middle of the night when they heard the strange noise of the rumble of water rolling down the valley. Within just a few minutes the water had covered a distance of 9 miles and had reached the city centre, washing away everything in its path.
If you are approaching Dale Dike from Sheffield then it is the third reservoir in the chain. An extensive plantation of coniferous trees fills the valley and surrounds all these reservoirs so there is surprisingly little of them to be seen from the minor road that runs up the valley from Bradfield to the Strines Inn and it's actually very easy to miss them all. There are several ways to access it but they all involve a walk through the woods of between 10 and 20 minutes depending on where you park. It is possible to park in several spots at the side of the road but most of the spaces only hold 2 or 3 cars so it can be difficult to find a parking space at the weekends, especially if the weather is nice.
I've always laughed at folk who have an image of Sheffield as a dull, drab dirty place. It's true that 40 years ago there was a lot of heavy industry but all of that has now gone and even the city centre is clean and modern these days, but what Sheffield has always had is easy access to some of the finest countryside in England. Within just a few minutes I can be high on the moors above the city and I could be anywhere in England and for that I've always been grateful.
Since I know this area quite well I always try to park in the same place and if I'm lucky to find a space then it's only a quick walk through the woods to the water. The path is good quality with a nice soft carpet of pine needles but it is quite steep and there's a few exposed tree roots so it wouldn't be suitable for the infirm.
I love Dale Dike in all seasons, but sadly when it snows (it snows a lot in the winter up here) then the roads are usually closed. When it has rained (it rains a lot up here too) there is always the most wonderful smell of freshness from the pine needles that is almost indescribable. Of course most visitors will flock here when it's nice and sunny and when it's like this then it really is picture postcard perfect.
I had last visited Dale Dike way back on Boxing Day 2011 so recently when we were looking for somewhere local to walk we decided to head there again. I recall the last time there was plenty of snow and the edges of the water were frozen, which was in complete contract to this recent visit, which was a very mild day with clear blue skies.
I was lucky to find my usual parking spot empty and we headed off through the woods towards the reservoir. At the side of the footpath just before you reach the reservoir there is a simple stone memorial in memory to those that died in the flood. I've seen it every time I've passed but I still always have to stop and read those same few words again which read "In memory of those that lost their lives owing to the breaching of Dale Dyke Reservoir on March 11th 1864".
Of the four reservoirs only Damflask is accessible completely by road so with the exception of that one there are no watersports that take place on Dale Dike or any of the others. I guess it's just too far to drag all the equipment so when you first reach the dam wall and peer over it you can be sure to be greeted with a wide, empty expanse of water. There will likely be a few ducks on the water but otherwise it will be quite empty and very quiet and peaceful.
The whole area around Dale Dike Reservoir is very popular with hikers and there are quite a few circular routes of varying length and difficulty. It's also popular with bird watchers too and this area is noted for some of its rare birds. If you're lucky you might see a large bird of prey, which could be anything from a Hen Harrier, Merlin or Goshawk to a common Kestrel. Or especially if you're here early or late in the day (dawn or dusk) you might even see one its strangest inhabitants, the Black Grouse, which looks a bit, like a miniature Turkey.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a visit to Dale Dike Reservoir or any of its sister waters. Its quite easy to visit all four locations within about 3 hours although if you wish to a do a circular walk around each one then you would need to set aside a whole day. In fact if you get up early enough you can have a quick look at them all and still make it in time for lunch at the Strines Inn at the top of the valley.
Dale Dike Reservoir is accessed via an unclassified road that extends beyond Bradfield on the outskirts of the city of Sheffield. Bradfield can be reached by a regular bus that runs a circular route from Hillsborough, close to the Sheffield Wednesday Football Ground so if you're prepared to walk and to do a round walk of about 8 miles you could see all of these reservoirs using public transport. Beyond the Strines Inn, which sits high above the reservoirs the road drops down into the next valley where a further chain of reservoirs can be found (Broomhead, Midhope and Langsett) and further beyond that you arrive in Derwentdale with its 3 large reservoirs (Ladybower, Derwent and Howden) so it also makes for a very pleasant drive for those that are not into walking or unable to walk very far.