Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Derwent Valley Heritage Way Section 1 Ladybower to Grindleford

Ladybower Reservoir
Following the completion of our walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal earlier in the year we cast around for another walk we could all do as a family and settled on the Derwent Valley Heritage Trail as a contender.  I had bought an out of print book on the trail a number of years ago but never got around to doing any of the walk.  With a modest total distance of 55 miles and relatively easy transport connections for its entire length it seemed like a good candidate.  Given that we had been in Wales earlier in the week it seemed like a good opportunity to make a start on it before we headed home.
Preparing to Cross the Dam
Our starting point was Heatherdene Car Park adjacent to Ladybower Reservoir; the largest reservoir actually in the Peak District National Park.  Ladybower Reservoir completely fills the Derwent Valley, as do the reservoirs further up the valley.  No doubt the valley looks completely different than it did 100 years ago when there was only a small river running through it.  The reservoir was built in the war years and completed in 1945, taking two years to completely fill.  The former village of Ashopton was completely submerged during the construction phase and signboards further up the valley show the rather haunting picture of the church spire sticking out of the water.  It was later demolished as a hazard.  All was quiet today as it was still fairly early in the morning.  Swirling clouds and bright sunny conditions greeted us on the early stages of the walk, which was very welcome.
Former Railway Line
We walked down from the car park through a section of woodland to the end of the dam.  We crossed the earth dam along a path that was permitted only after the opening of the Heritage Way.  The view from the dam certainly gives a visual idea of the scale of the project - the earth dam itself is absolutely enormous, while the water body held behind it is also huge.  In fact from the dam it is only possible to see a fraction of the overall lake, which extends right up the valley beyond the Snake Pass bridge visible in the distance and off to the left behind the mass of Win Hill.

Bamford Moor
At the end of the dam we turned left and headed slowly downhill along the track bed of the railway that was built for the construction trains that brought in all the materials.  Although there were minimal traces of this being a railway somehow it was easy to envisage its original use for it was not nearly so haphazard as a normal farm track.  Sadly as we proceeded down the track the sunshine conditions that we had enjoyed for the first half hour or so of our walk gave way to black clouds and before long we were putting our wet weather gear on.  Fortunately the rain didn't last very long and we were soon bathed in sunshine for a short period of time again.
Water Board HQ
The track encountered a road and dog legged around it before resuming its course.  I suspect that there was originally a level crossing or even perhaps a bridge here, although no trace of either now remains.  The onward path became ever more hemmed into a cutting as we headed south but eventually we emerged by a large house that catered for family holidays.  Apparently this was once the headquarters of the Water Authority but I am guessing that it has not been for a good many years.  The former railway line would have continued onward to form a junction with the Hope Valley railway line a little further on.  Our route took us across fields to reach the still active railway that links Sheffield and Manchester.  This was our first look at the valley since we had left Ladybower, some three miles up the line.  The scenery all around us was quite different now - already we had left the brooding moorlands of the Dark Peak and were heading to the more pastoral White Peak area.
Wildflowers
Just the other side of the railway and we passed by a garden centre that look rather devoid of stock.  Being August though I suppose most of the main planting has been completed by most people.  We then crossed the very busy main road to Castleton.  Years ago this road would have taken traffic over Mam Tor Pass but it has been cut off as a through route following a serious landslip in the late 1970s which necessitated abandonment of the route.  Nevertheless with Castleton being quite a tourist honeypot the traffic along the road is still very busy and we crossed with extreme care.
Old Barn
On the other side of the road we took up a path that closely followed the River Derwent.  The course of the path would remain close by for the remaining part of the day and was always delightful.  The river was full of energy, boosted by in input of water from the River Hope, and it bubbled its way down the valley.  Our path sometimes followed at level with the river and sometimes we rose high above on small cliff like features that the river had eroded on its journey downstream.  About a mile into this section of the walk we got pretty excited when we spotted a kingfisher, its azure blue colour really showing up in the now gloomy conditions.
Stepping Stones
As we headed downstream it is fair to say that in spite of the wonderful scenery there were few other notable features.  We did pass one of the old stone barns for which the Peak District is famous and I was quite surprised that it hadn't been converted into anything else.  Many of the barns are now used for camping purposes or even converted into holiday homes.  This one was still in its tumbledown state & had a good deal of rustic character about it.  We also passed some stepping stones across the river and the girls were a little disappointed that we weren't going to use them for our route!  Otherwise the main sight along this stretch was the large swathes of wildflowers all along the banks.
Gatekeeper
Away to the north of us was the village of Hathersage, for my money one of the most attractive in all of the Peak District and perhaps one I would consider living in if the opportunity ever arose.  This could be a good staging point for the walk especially if time is limited.  We had decided to push on a little to Grindleford, the next station down the line.  This meant that we had to cross the river via a wonderful old stone bridge and resume our course on the eastern side of the river.  By now we were starting to see more walkers on our route although strangely all of them seemed to be going in the opposite direction.  We wandered along a road that formed an access to a works unit and then across some fields to a pine forest.  There seemed to be a number of different species in here and it was a lovely section of path.  Too soon though we were leaving the river behind and wandering up on the link path to Grindleford station.
Padley Chapel
The path took us up through the forest and across the railway line.  Although the weather was very overcast it was still quite humid and we really noticed this on the climb away from the river.  A little way after we crossed the railway we came to the cluster of houses around Grindleford station and passed Padley Chapel.  This old chapel was once attached to Padley Manor and has a rather grisly history as two Catholic priests were found holed up in here by the authorities during the reign of Elizabeth I.  Practising the Catholic religion was a pretty dangerous pastime in those days and these two priests were dragged off to Derby where they were hanged, drawn and quartered.  Their remains were stuck on spikes as a warning to others not to follow the same religious road.  Sadly the chapel was shut so we were unable to go inside, but the fact that it acts in this capacity still is something of a miracle as the building served as a barn for many decades and the old manor house has long since gone.
Grindleford Station Cafe
When we arrived at Grindleford Station we had some very welcome refreshments in the station cafĂ©.  This place is justifiably popular - people come here just to have their lunch without necessarily going on the train or venturing forth into the surrounding countryside.  The breakfasts in particular looked both welcome and generous.  Maybe another time?

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