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One of the finest reservoirs in England
Ladybower Reservoir (Derbyshire)
Member Name: micksheff
Ladybower Reservoir (Derbyshire)
Advantages: Beautiful scenery
Disadvantages: Enviromental damage during its creation
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.
Summary: Created between 1935 and 1943 this is one of England's largest reservoirs
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