Ladybower Reservoir is situated in the Upper Derwent Valley at the heart of the Peak National Park, in an area often referred to as the “Lake District of the Peak”. It is surrounded by magnificent countryside where water and woodland, topped by high moors, predominate. In recent years forestry has become an important factor and the sides of the valley have been clothed in conifers. Not surprisingly, the area has become so popular that over two million people visit each year.
The outstanding beauty of the area acts as a magnate for walkers, cyclists, fell-runners and those people who just come to relax and enjoy the countryside. At certain times the road beyond Fairholmes is closed to help protect the environment and a mini-bus service is operated. Disabled Badge holders are exempt. The Upper Derwent Information Centre is based at Fairholmes, where bikes can be hired and information about the area obtained. There are also large car parks, toilets and plenty of room for picnics.
The valley was a very attractive location for the storage of water, with its long deep valley and narrow points for dam building. This combined with a high average rainfall, low population level and heavy demand for water from the industrial towns that surrounded the Peak District, made the case for reservoir construction. The Derwent Valley Water Board was set up in 1899 to supply water to Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester and the Howden and Derwent Reservoirs were constructed shortly afterwards.
At that time the demand for water was satisfied and although plans existed for further reservoirs, no further action was taken. But demand continued to grow and the decision was taken to build one very large reservoir, to be called Ladybower. This though entailed the flooding of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent and caused considerable unrest. However, the project went ahead and the villagers were moved to houses built specially for them at Yorkshire Bridge.
The packhorse bridge that stood near to the gates of Derwent Hall, which had a Preservation Order on it, was moved stone by stone and rebuilt at Slippery Stones at the head of the Howden Reservoir. All the graves in the churchyard were excavated and the bodies reburied in nearby Bamford churchyard. A few properties built on slightly higher land, including the Shooting Lodge and former Roman Catholic School, survived. But the majority were demolished and flooded, leaving the church spire eerily poking out above the waters. The flooding was completed in 1945, and the opening ceremony was carried out on Tuesday September 25th 1945 by King George VI. Two years later the church spire was blown up.
The tiny village of Yorkshire Bridge, which lies in the shadow of the dam wall of the Ladybower Reservoir, with its neat, regimented rows of houses was used to house those rendered homeless by the flooding of the valley. One person though refused to move, Miss A Cotterill of Gwinnett House. She remained there until she died in 1990, at the age of 99, the waters of the reservoir lapping at the front garden steps.
Perhaps the best known inhabitant to have lived at Yorkshire Bridge was a sheepdog named Tip. Her master, Tagg, was a well-known local sheep farmer who helped found Hope Valley Sheepdog Trials, and during his later years lived at Yorkshire Bridge.
On the 12 December 1953, Tagg, aged 85, went out for the last time with his faithful border collie, Tip, and vanished completely. Despite an exhaustive search neither he, nor his dog could be found. It was not until 15 weeks later that Tagg’s remains were discovered by chance, with the faithful Tip now completely exhausted lying about five yards away. Somehow, Tip had managed to survive heavy snow, biting winds and freezing temperatures on one of the most hostile stretches of moorland in the country.
Tip was carried back to the rescuer’s lorry and later transferred to a caring home, where she was carefully nursed back to health. Once the story became known, Tip became famous not only in this country, but abroad as well. A year later, in May 1955 she died. However, the hearts of those that had heard the story were so greatly touched, that a memorial was erected at the western end of Derwent Dam, in memory of Tip.
The Derwent Dams were used during the Second World War to perfect the ‘bouncing bombs’ technique which in 1943, breached the Ruhr Valley Dams, in the heartland of industrial Germany. A plaque and memorial museum in the west tower of Derwent Dam retells the story of the Dambusters. The museum is open most Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the year.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
The Upper Derwent Visitor Centre (Tel. 01433 650953) located at Fairholmes, close to the Derwent Dam. Fascinating facts can be found about the area through the interactive displays. Maps, books, postcards, souvenirs, drinks and light refreshments are also available. Picnic tables are provided outside. For opening details please ring or visit website.
Dams and Dambusters Museum (Tel. 01433 650953) this interesting display is open in the West Tower of Derwent Dam, most Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the year.
Castleton Caverns without doubt the most spectacular collection of caverns in the country. Speedwell (Tel 01433 620512), Blue John (Tel 01433 620638), Treak (Tel 01433 620571) and Peak (Tel 01433 620285).
Ladybower Inn (Tel.01433 651241) situated on the A57 overlooking the reservoir, the inn was re-sited more than 100 years ago having originally been located further up Ladybower Brook. Open all day. Meals served daily.
The Upper Derwent Visitor Centre Picnic Site (Tel. 01433 650953) a refreshment kiosk is available at the Visitor Centre, in what is a picturesque spot despite its close proximity to the car park. Picnic tables and benches are available. Open at same time as Visitor Centre.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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A special new sub-section has been added to this website, based on the Discover Derby Supplement, published by the Derby Evening Telegraph during March 2005. The most recent additions are:
Click below for details.
ON THIS SITE
Every month an illustrated Newsletter is published giving details of:
What's New, What's Coming and What's On.
It is fitting that such an outstandingly beautiful walk should feature as the 100th walk completed in the Discover Derbyshire series published by the Derby Evening Telegraph.
The wide ranging views over the reservoir and the surrounding countryside are superb. So make sure you pick a good clear day for this walk and get there early before the crowds.
All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.