Walking: Walk, my fair lady?
The Wonders of Ladybower
• Meet at the Cafe at Fairholmes Car Park where you will also find the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre. There is a parking fee to pay here but there is adequate free, roadside parking on the approach road to Fairholmes. This is a clock-wise walk, bound on all sides by beautiful scenery, full of local history, with the water of Ladybower Dam always on your right.
• Start/Finish: Fairholmes Car Park.
• Post code: S33 0AQ.
• Location: Off the A57 Glossop to Sheffield Road.
• Length: 6 miles.
• Terrain: Easy walking on good clear tracks round Ladybower Reservoir.
Take the path away from the visitor centre and in the direction of the Derwent Dam * itself.
You will have joined the obvious tarmac path with the dam immediately in front of you, and take time out here to take in the mighty structure which holds back the waters of the Derwent Reservoir. (For details of the part this dam played in WWII, please see later).
Carry on walking along the road which bends to the right, the road rising before shortly passing housing on your right.
You will then see the northern end of Ladybower Reservoir, also on your right. There is a large pipeline across the waters which carries fresh spring water from the surrounding hills, purified locally before serving the nearby village of Bamford.
Just to the north of the pipeline on days when the reservoir levels are low, you will see the footprint of old buildings drowned in the construction process.
Continue along the path in a southerly direction and you will come to the only part of Derwent Village which survives to this day, and at the 2001 Census, some 51 people were resident there.
Pass through gates ensuring that they are closed when you leave them, and at some stage the path will begin to drop away.
Immediately prior to this take note of the stone wall on your right where there was once a gate leading to the old village of Derwent, and across from this you will see a stone path leading to what appeared to be an orchard garden, long forgotten and overgrown.
The road then bends to the left and then to the right and you pass through another gate before reaching the bottom, at which point there is a noticeboard which gives the traveller some insight as to where Derwent Village once stood, together with pictures of the old houses and tenants.
Again, at times of low water, some of the old buildings, including the shell of the old church tower are apparent.
The final church service was held on 17th March 1943, after which the bodies of the 18 workers who perished during the construction of the three dams were exhumed and re-buried in nearby Bamford.
The church bells were removed from the bell tower and now hang in Chaddesden Parish church not far away.
The road then rises once more and take time out to look across the valley to the picturesque scenery of Hagg Side and beyond to the pinnacle of Win Hill.
Continue along the road, passing though further gates, and then the landscape opens to your right, revealing the architectural beauty of Ashopton Viaduct which carries the busy A57, it is when you near the viaduct that you are almost half way round the reservoir, and probably a good place for a break.
Continue along the road and pass through yet a further gate, before the road drops down and exits onto the A57 itself, where the walker should turn right in order to walk in a westerly direction, and across the viaduct itself.
To your right you will see the beautiful landscape of the Derwent Valley, together with the vast expanse of water.
To the left you will see the dam wall of Ladybower Dam, and the most southerly end of the water.
Having crossed the viaduct turn right, pass through the gate and back onto the path which skirts the reservoir.
If the walker hasn’t yet stopped for refreshment, then perhaps this is the spot to choose, looking to the left up the valley, and across to the majestic rolling hillsides which form part of the eastern side of the valley.
Carry on along the path and you will eventually come to some steps that drop down to a lower level before rising once again onto the path proper.
This is a water installation which buries the main fresh water carrying pipeline previously referred to, in order to comply and suit environmental purposes.
Carry on along the path with the main road to Fairholmes to your left, the path getting increasingly closer to the road which is the one you took on the initial approach to the walk.
For those of you who parked in the free parking bays on the approach you will need to leave the walk at this point and return to your vehicles.
Those who parked in the main car park should continue along the roadside path until your reach the car park on your right.
The Derwent Dam – its part in victory, WWII: * The Derwent Dam – this dam featured in the 1954 British black and white film, The Dambusters, and which starred the late British actor – Richard Todd*.
It was chosen owing to the fact that it bore a close resemblance to one (Mohne) of the three German dams targeted for the daring raid which was heroically carried out by the RAF’s 617 Squadron, on the night of 16/17th May 1943, commanded by the decorated Officer – Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
This is a truly important story in our history, and one which played a prominent role in the ultimate success of the D Day landings, which took place on 6th June 1944.
For those readers interested in delving more into this there is an interesting display in the Museum, open in the West Tower of Derwent Dam on most Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the year. Contact 01433 650963.
* A decorated war hero himself, actor Richard Todd visited the site every year of his life until his death in 2009, and was present on the 70th Anniversary of the raid, when a single Lancaster Bomber flew over Derwent Dam in commemoration of those brave aircrew who flew on the night of the raid, those who returned and those that didn’t.
• This walk was written, produced and walked by Dearne Valley Ramblers for more interesting walks or more information please visit http://www.ramblers.org.uk/dearne-valley