“ Upper Derwent Valley / Derbyshire / England „
Just a couple of weeks ago we made a point of buying the Mail on Saturday simply because it came with a free copy of the DVD, The Dambusters.
The storyline is based on a true life story and it tells of the blood, sweat and tears that Dr. Barnes Wallace went through to invent his amazing `bouncing bomb` that broke the Ruhr and the Eider Dams in Germany during the Second World War.
Many of you will be too young to have heard of the wartime story but Barnes succeeded in creating a bomb that actually bounced, skimming the water in `Ducks and Drakes` fashion until it hit its target, exploding on impact.
His marvellous invention was trialled at the Ladybower reservoir in the Hope Valley and in the film/DVD you clearly see the eeriness of the massive span of deep water and maybe visualise the huge bomb snaking and dancing its way across the waters surface.
The Upper Derwent Valley is for the most part in Derbyshire but the North Eastern area lies in Sheffield. There are a total of three dams which help to form three reservoirs, the dams are The Derwent, The Howden and Ladybower.
In 1899 the Derwent Valley Water Board ( The areas water supply is now looked after by the Severn Trent Water Board) was formed in order to create a water supply to Leicester, Derby, Sheffield and Nottingham. Two huge Gothic style dams were erected and spanned the River Derwent which in turn created two reservoirs, The Howden Reservoir in 1912 and The Derwent Reservoir in 1916.
Of course they had to draught in hundreds of `navvies` ( the workers who constructed the Dams ) to work on the project, all of whom had to have accommodation for themselves and their families.
So to make this possible a large village was built to the West of the Derwent and it was named Birchinlea, but later became known as ` Tin Town` by its inhabitants.
Many of those who worked on the construction of the Dams had travelled up to Derbyshire after finishing work on the Elan Valley reservoirs in Wales. They transported materials with the aid of a purpose built narrow gauge railway.
As the years passed by it soon became clear that if they were going to be able to supply sufficient water to all of the inhabitants in the area another dam was going to have to be constructed. Hence as World War Two started to gather momentum the construction of the Ladybower Dam was well under way.
But before they were able to start work on forming Ladybower reservoir there were certain factors that had to be taken into account, first of all the villages of Ashopton and Derwent were directly in the path of the reservoir, so all of the villagers were moved to the Yorkshire Bridge estate. A mass exhumation took place as a burial ground would have also been flooded, the bodies were then buried at the nearby Bamford churchyard.
As we all know there are many things of outstanding natural beauty that are protected with preservation orders and this applied to a `Packhorse Bridge` that needed to be re-sited, the bridge was taken apart and then rebuilt at a place called `Slippery Stones` which lays North of the Howden Reservoir. The Ladybower Reservoir was eventually completed in 1945.
Dr. Barnes Wallis needed to carry out tests on the performance of his `Bouncing Bomb` and decided that Ladybower was the ideal testing place. Ladybower and the Ruhr Valley in Germany were topographically alike and in 1943 the Lancaster bombers of the 617 Squadron ( Also known as The Dam Busters) used Ladybower as a practise run leading up to their successful bombing raids on the Ruhr Valley Dams.
It is well known that the Squadron were berated by locals for their `joyriding!` as the Lancaster bombers carried out endless practise runs to achieve the right height and speed for dropping their bombs the chickens and cows went into a state of semi-shock and the local milk and egg production plummeted!
Nowadays the area is one of outstanding natural beauty and is visited by people from all over the World.
There are designated parking spaces that are free of charge. We were fortunate and made our last visit when it was quiet. As you cast your eyes over the vast expanse of water I can only describe the feeling as one of complete eeriness! It is chillingly beautiful yet in another way it is surreal, the water appears to be `bottomless` and for anyone like me that has an inbuilt fear of deep water it can be fairly scary!
Take the walk across the vast stone bridge and you are completely surrounded by the most magnificent panoramas. As reflections bounce off the surface of the glassy water you are compelled to look over the edge of the bridge at the staggering beauty that surrounds you. Lush green fields and dry stone walls for as far as the eye can see, visit later in the year and you will experience the carpet of trees changing colour with the season.
Ladybower reservoir is now frequented by keen anglers, in particular fly fishermen, walkers and bird watchers. It is quite possible that you will see an otter and grey squirrels are everywhere!
The area has good cycling facilities, both for ordinary cycling and mountain biking, although the tracks are reasonably flat in the main they are considered as being relatively rough. There is a cycle hire facility at Fairholmes Visitor Centre.
The area is of special interest to bird watchers and between the months of February and May it is possible to spot certain birds of prey. The expert watchers suggest that your visit should be on a weekday morning to maximise the chances of spotting maybe a Peregrine or a Goshawk.
Of course many visitors have four legged friends and dogs love nothing better than a romp around but they advise that dogs are kept on leashes so as not to disturb the precious wildlife.
Because the weather can be so unpredictable they naturally suggest that if you are going to wander far and wide that you make sure that you wear the right type of clothing.
If you are looking for in depth information there is an excellent museum which is situated in the West Tower of the Derwent Dam, just a short distance away from the Fairholmes car park and visitor centre. Video footage and memorabilia all about the Dam Busters raids are there for all to see along with a lot of information about the area and the local inhabitants of yesteryear.
But bear in mind that the centre is only open on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 10am -4pm.
Free admission but there is a donation box.
The Peak District has always been recognised an an area of outstanding natural beauty and it is almost certainly an area that we should be proud of.
Great Britain has some incredible scenery and Ladybower is well worth putting on your list of places to visit.
The Ladybower Inn is on the A57 Sheffield to Manchester road and overlooks the Ladybower Reservoir. A Free House that serves real ales as well as other draught lagers and beers.
A wide and varied menu that caters for all with a good wine list.
They have seven en suite guest rooms and one ground floor suite that is suitable for anyone who is disabled.
Before you continue to read i must first say that this review is not just about Ladybower reservoir but also about Derwent and the area around them....
Thank you for your time....
Brief description of area.....
Shaped in a Y configuration this is the lowest of the three dams.
The river Alsop runs into it from the west, The river Derwent from the south.
It was the biggest reservoir of its time with its widest part being approximately 3 miles wide.
Two villages were flooded to make this vast expanse of water, the village of Ashopton and Derwent. The buildings being demolished in Ashopton but not in Derwent, leaving the church spire visible in very dry seasons. (although I do believe the spire has now been dismantled for safety reasons, as people were trying to swim out to it and putting themselves in danger).
Ladybower began it life in 1935 and took eight years to construct and nearly two years to actually fill, building work slowed down in 1939 when WWII broke out.
When completed it was ceremoniously opened by King George VI on September 25th 1945.
Derwent Dam and reservoir...
This enormous reservoir covers approximately 170 acres and reaches up to 35 metres deep. A small island lies in the one and a half mile stretch of water.
The reservoir and its enormous dam were made famous by the Dam busters ,(or operation Chastise, with Barnes Wallis and his famous bouncing bomb), during World War II. The Dam being very similar to the German dams so the RAF used it to practice there low flying raids.
(The majority of the actual film was shot here)
Along the A57 Glossop to Sheffield road crosses Ladybower by the Ashopton viaduct. A minor road on the west side of this leads to Fairholmes. Approaching from Hope Valley, follow the A6013 north from Bamford to reach Ladybower and the A57.
The 273 bus from Sheffield to Castleton goes to Fairholmes Information Centre. The 273 Sheffield (or Chesterfield) to Castleton bus stops at the Ladybower Inn alongside Ladybower Reservoir.
There are plenty of off road parking areas along the road towards the main car park which lies near the foot of Derwent dam.
In the main car park there is an information centre, small burger bar and toilets.
Mountain bikes can be hired from the information centre.
It is open from April until the end of October and weekends outside of these dates.
There is a lot of beautiful walks around the area and the scenery is somewhat breath-taking. With many footpaths and cycle routes it is worth taking a picnic hamper with you.
With many areas and plenty of benches scattered around there is always somewhere to rest and admire the view.
For the fit and active I recommend a walk to the top of Derwent Dam and a stroll around the mass of water. But to reach the top of the Dam you first have to clamber up a steep and pretty exhausting footpath, resting halfway up is advisable if just to look at the view.
A nice place to spend the day if the weather is good or not.
Take a sturdy pair of walking boots and a rucksack full of snacks and water....you'll enjoy the peace and quiet, giving you time alone with your thoughts.
Ladybower reservoir is situated in the Upper Derwent Valley in an area of Peak District National Park known as the Dark Peak. This area is characterised by its high mountains and steep gritstone edges. I am fortunate enough to live less than a 20 minute drive from here, yet this has never been a place that I have taken for granted. This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in England.
The Ladybower reservoir lies at the heart of this area, occupying an area in the bottom of the lower derwert valley. In this difficult terrain there are few major roads around here, but the A57 (known locally as the Snake Pass), which is the main trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Sheffield cuts through this same valley and follows the shores of Ladybower reservoir for over 2 miles (3 Kilometres).
Visitors to this area could easily be forgiven for thinking that Ladybower reservoir is a natural feature, created from the glacial effects of the last ice-age, but in fact this reservoir is a recent, man-made creation.
Work began on the creation of this reservoir in 1935, following on from the construction of two earlier reservoirs that had been created further up the valley, in upper derwentdale. This third reservoir, which was to complete the trio with Howden reservoir and Derwent reservoir would be an even bigger project than its predecessors and would ensure a supply of fresh drinking water for future generations.
Ladybower reservoir was also the most controversial of the three projects since it involved the flooding of two villages. These were Ashopton. which lay at the junction of the Ashop and the river derwent - and the village of Derwent, which lay further upstream on the derwent river.
In 1935 my Grandfather lived in Ashopton and like the rest of the people in that village he was forced to abandon the cottage that he lived in and start afresh in another village, called Grindleford a few miles away. Of course, some compensation was received for this inconvenience but money never measures the real human costs.
Construction of Ladybower took eight years to complete and it finally opened in 1943. It was officially opened in that year by King George V1, but it took a further two years to fill. At this time it was the largest reservoir in Britain.
It was shortly after this time when Ladybower became associated with the famous Dambuster squadron of the RAF, who used this vast body of water to test their bouncing bombs, prior to their infamous raid on the German dams of the Ruhr valley. These bouncing bombs had been invented by a local man called Barnes Wallace, whose invention is widely seen as one of the major turning points of the Second World War. Today, there is a small museum near here that is dedicated to these days and each year on the anniversary of the bombing of the Ruhr dams there are fly-pasts of old bombers and aerial displays.
Nowadays this whole area is one of outstanding natural beauty and forestry has changed this landscape dramatically. The reservoir itself is owned and managed by the Severn Trent Water Authority whilst the surrounding areas are largely in the control of the Forestry Commission.
There are public access rights throughout this area and access is free, although the majority of the car parks around here are pay and display.
During weekends and bank holidays this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region and over half a million people are attracted here annually. The most popular activities here include walking, hiking and cycling, but many people just come here to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity, for despite such a popular area it can still be surprisingly tranquil due to its vast size.
I try to come here several times a year and I often use it as a base to explore the wild, surrounding areas. With my love for wildlife and nature I am always on the lookout for some of this area's specialities and over the course of the last few tears I think that I have probably seen them all. Of the rarer mammals here there are both Otters and Red Squirrels. This is one of the last remaining places in England where the latter can still be found, having not yet been driven out by the ubiquitous Grey Squirrel, which has more or less forced our native Squirrel to extinction. The rarer birds here include Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon and Black Grouse.
If you are visiting this area for the first time then I would suggest that you visit the fairholmes visitors centre in upper derwentdale. This centre is opened daily throughout the summer, but only opens on weekends between the 1st November and Easter.
I would certainly recommend a visit here to anyone that is in the area and has a love of the outdoors. This is an area that has very fond memories for me and I recall some of the tales that my Grandfather told me about Ashopton, in the days before his village was flooded. A few years ago during a time of drought the water levels in reservoir dropped do low that it was actually possible to see the top of the steeple of a Church poking out of the water.