Damflask is an an endless source of natural inspiration.
The Peak District has long been a favourite haunt of Sheffield writer and teacher Peter Naldrett. He’s written several walking guides about the region and his latest book, Days Out Underground, features some fun-packed subterranean adventures in Derbyshire. So, it’s not surprising that one of his favourite places is just over the border of the National Park.
There’s a drystone wall running the full length across a dam in the north west of Sheffield. Whether the weather the be fine or the weather be not, leaning on that wall guarantees an atmospheric, seasonal view of water, woods, moorland and hills.
Welcome to Damflask, an understated reservoir which is an endless source of natural inspiration. Hundreds of people leg it by the side of this drystone wall every December as they take part in the annual Percy Pud run, but many don’t realise the symbolic significance of this barrier that keeps people away from the reservoir.
Ordnance Survey maps have a thick yellow line running along the course of the wall; it’s a place where urban Sheffield is firmly behind you, a place where the Peak District National Park officially starts.
The official marker of the Peak District is a little way off on the main road, hidden by grass and shrubs, but make no mistake - Damflask is a place where the workaday life of the city can be forgotten. Temporarily.
As a young writer, I used to come here in fine weather with a laptop the size of a suitcase to tap out novels I was excited to be writing, novels which came to nothing and sentenced me to a career in non-fiction. Damflask is the place I have walked around on dates and later became the firm favourite for walks with my wife, a destination where the off-road pram could be pushed around and now a spot for leisurely strolls with my children.
At more stressful periods, this is the place to come and escape from work pressures, get the endorphins going and become completely reinvigorated in a circular stroll that takes around an hour. My walks circling Damflask have combined with some memorable occasions, from singing carols in local pubs on Sunday lunchtimes in winter to enjoying a picnic in Low Bradfield on hot summer afternoons.
It can be combined with a double-dam hike up to Agden Reservoir and, most importantly, invites a visit to the Postcard Café for a sausage and egg sandwich with a can of pop. Damflask is for the simple pleasures. Like many places in our outdoor city, Damflask is special because it is beautiful, peaceful – and accessible.
It’s this ‘easy-to-reach’ factor that we often take for granted in Sheffield when we have so much countryside on our doorstep. We need to remember that people come on holiday here – to visit reservoirs like Damflask, Ladybower and Derwent- just as we Sheffielders might make a holiday trek to the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District.
Many of us are blessed with a special place we can get away from it all, a walk or bike ride we can tackle from the house without having to climb into a car – and Damflask is mine. If I’m working from home on a book or magazine feature, lunchtime will see me get on my cycling gear, pump up the tyres and bike out to Damflask.
Often it’s the lure of those sausage and egg sandwiches that is the deciding factor when the helmet is strapped on my head, but the exercise is good for me and the fresh air and awesome views clear my head.
The path around the reservoir is maintained by Yorkshire Water and is a thoroughly good community resource that is very well used by joggers, dog walkers and those out walking off a large lunch or heavy night out.
So next time you’re planning a weekend activity when the sun is shining, take a journey through Dungworth or Loxley and end up at that very special wall that runs along the top of the dam holding back the reservoir.
Have a stroll by the water’s edge, clear your head, hold hands, plan your holidays, have a cuppa, sit and rest a while, look for ducks and geese, listen out for sounds of farming, breath in the freedom and escapism offered in this corner of the city.
And if you see me tootling along on my bike, then please feel free to take me for my sausage and egg sandwich.