Monday, 1 June 2009

Upper Derwent Reservoirs (Circular) – (Dark) Peak District – (Derbyshire) – 29/05/09 – 10 Miles – Helen, Luther & Molly.

I have been keen for some time now to try out one of the cut out walks from Country Walking magazine, in order to see how accurate they are. So on this occasion Helen graciously put aside her planned walk, in order to give me my head in the Peak District. Also along to make sure the pace didn’t slacken too much was Lab dogs Luther and Molly.

So having parked at the Bridge End car park on the Derwent Valley road, and applied assorted sunscreen and floppy hat’s, we began a gentle climb up and away from the Ladybower reservoir. Having reached the top and turned right, our reward was some spectacular/breathtaking/stunning (pick your cliché) views of the Woodlands valley on our left. This panoramic spectacular continued for some two miles, until we had to make a descent passing through a local farm that took us up to the A57. Thus interpreting the instructions a little too literally, I was convinced we then had to walk alongside the road. Helen on the other hand knew this was nonsence, and crossed over onto the track directly opposite us on the other side of the road. So lesson number one when using these cut outs: don’t just read the written instructions but refer to the map on the back (which of course showed the route dissecting the A57).

We then passed between the open bird sanctuary at Blackley Hay and briefly skirted the river Ashop. Now I know we heard a Cuckoo somewhere on this walk, but I can’t actually remember whether this was the place, so unless Helen corrects me later assume so. Meanwhile the thirsty doggies tried to get what refreshments that were available at the not so accessible river. Me and Helen were also in need of refreshment, so in due course we took our lunch break on a crumbling stonewall, whilst the doggies had another go at drinking up the River Ashop.
Following lunch we reached the A57 again by crossing over a water strewn concrete bridge, whilst the doggies got some more leisure activity down by the river. Thus once over we picked up a trail for about a mile through Alport Dale, before heading past a local farm. Turning right (and having worked out what constitutes downstream) we crossed yet another bridge, where the doggies and Helen enjoyed even more fun and frolics in the river (if I had known what was about to follow I would definitely have joined them). Thus the ‘cut out’ said we then had to negotiate a steep, long, but well worn climb. In the event it wasn’t steep and long at all, it was Everest. To put it in context, I have never gone up anything before that was as demanding as that: not Snowdon, not Golden Cap, not the climbs at Branscombe, not the walk from the Woody Bay car park on our working holiday in Devon last October, nothing basically. What added to the challenge was that we were now doing this on the hottest part of the day, on what turned out to be (according to the Countryfile forecast anyway) the hottest day of the year. Needless to say we used every excuse to stop, every couple of minutes, mindful of the toll such exertion might be taking on the doggies (Ha !). Anyway having emptied most of our water bottles we eventually spotted the summit, and with one final push got there. Needless to say it wasn’t the summit at all, merely a small plateau and that there was still more climbing to be done. So lesson number two when using these cut outs, if it says ‘steep and Long’, make sure you have in your rucksack the flag of your own particular nationality (especially if you are unfit wimps like us).
So still breathing we got there in the end and having debated whether a pile of rocks below was ‘The Tower’ referred to in the cut out, we took a chance and turned right onto the ‘only’ well worn grass path that we could have turned onto. So lesson number three when using these cut outs: if it looks bleeding obvious, don’t try to prove it is not. Anyway what goes up, needs to come down and we were now in descent mode heading through a wood (where Helen discovered a fairy grotto), all the while stalked by another couple with their dog. Having reached the bottom we turned right onto the road and began to walk alongside the Howden reservoir.

Now this final three and three quarter miles of the walk was my least favourite part of the day. Partly because whilst Helen had now appeared to get her second wind, the effects of the earlier climb had really started to kick into my legs and overall energy level. But also for most of the time whilst we walked past the Howden, Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs there was no other option but to walk alongside (and sometime on) the road (as per instructions). It wasn’t so much that the roads were busy with traffic, as there was more cyclists than cars, but rather keeping the dogs out of everyones way whilst sometimes being forced onto the road was tiresome, and that the view of the reservoirs themselves was often obscured. The upside however was that the information boards told the interesting story of the community that sprung up at Birchinlee at the turn of the century (otherwise know as Tin Town) solely in order to construct the Howden and Derwent Dams before being swallowed up by the water. After a few unofficial off road diversions from Helen, we eventually reached the Fairholme visitor centre (an ice cream kiosk and some seats ?) where I had a 99 and Helen had a Cornetto. Following which we were able to find an actual signed offroad trail that took us back to the Bridge End car park opposite the Ladybower reservoir and the end of our day.
So as walks go it was a good one (subject to the qualification in the last paragraph), and the instructions in the ‘cut out’ proved accurate and easy to follow. If you are interested in trying this walk yourself, it is Route 15 in the November 2008 issue of Country Walking magazine.

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