This year (2018) is only the third time that the village of Derwent has risen from the depths of Ladybower Reservoir.
On the eastern bank of Ladybower Reservoir there is an information board that tells you about the lost village of Derwent. I have often read it on my walks along that bank and thought it would be fascinating to see. So when I read in the news that the village was accessible due to the low water levels a visit was a must.
Ladybower reservoir was constructed between 1935 and 1945, in its flood plain there were two villages that had to be abandoned. Ashopton was the larger of the two and sits under the viaduct that carries the A57 across the reservoir today. Derwent is further upstream and slightly smaller, although; it did have both Catholic and Anglican churches and an impressive manor house (I think called Water House).
Derwent Village was demolished in 1943, except for the church steeple which stood defiantly out of the waters for some time before it to was dynamited in 1947 (for safety reasons!). The village was ‘drowned in 1944 and has stayed hidden under the dark waters ever since – well almost.
In the dry summers of 1976 and 1995 the remains of the village surfaced, and they have again this year (2018). Many people have been to visit the site this summer, I was sad to read in the news article mentioned above that the remains of the village had suffered from vandalism from tourists this year, a mentality that I do not understand.
Squelching our way to the village.
It was a moody day when my friend Rich and myself pulled into one of the car parks along Ladybower Reservoir. It had been raining quite hard through the night and the heavy grey sky were threatening to give us some more. It was also incredibly windy, later in the day we met some folk coming down from Derwent Edge who had decided that it was too dangerous up there in the wind. We would find out later!
From the car park we followed the road that runs in front of the Derwent Reservoir dam to cross to the other bank of Ladybower, then walked about a mile south to the site of the village. While walking along the road we were looking at the banks of the reservoir, it was astonishing just how far the water level had fallen. There was a 30′ to 40′ drop which would have contained thousands of gallons of water, it was a bit overwhelming.
The first signs that we saw of the village was the layout of what I think was Water House. The paths of the large gardens were obvious and there were some piles of rubble which must have been buildings. It all looked very black and muddy, there was a lost foreboding air about the site, it certainly looked like it had emerged from depths of a watery grave.
A bit further south was the site of the main village. We spent some time wandering around the piles of bricks and stones being very careful not to get stuck in the very sticky mud. Apparently a man had to be rescued last week who got stuck up to his chest, not an experience I wanted to follow.
It was exciting trying to work out what each pile of rubble was, we concluded that the main pile was the old Catholic church while across from the village pond was the Anglican church. Old fireplaces and ornate stones lay dark and bare on their muddy beds, while doorways and different rooms in the buildings could be traced with the eye. It was nostalgic and interesting as we picked our way over bricks and stone and I tried to imagine what the village would have looked like when it was lived in.
On our way back to the shore line we walked up what was just about visible of the main tarmac road that ran through the village, and crossed the bridge over the mill-race the bridge still looked remarkably sound and sturdy.
I do not think it made me feel sad seeing the ruins, but it did leave me with a sense of something like nostalgia. I would have loved it if the buildings had not been demolished or at least a little more of the walls had been left. It would be easier to see what the old village had looked like, but I suppose it would also have been more dangerous.
I wondered where they rehoused the residents and how they felt about having to move. I know they had to re-intern all the residents of the grave yard at a church near by.
Walking over Derwent Edge
As we started to climb out of the valley towards Derwent Edge the rain started.Fortunately by the time it had really got its mustered up we had reached some old farm buildings one of which had been converted into a shelter, so we ducked in there. We were shortly joined by about a dozen other folks (the ones who were abandoning their ridge walk) all looking very wet and bedraggled.
After a few minutes the rain calmed down and Rich and myself set off again, we went up the hill. The other party shortly followed – they went down. I love the colours of the Peak district in Autumn/Winter. The dark deep reds and greys of the bracken and stone contrast brilliantly with the light browns of the grass. These colours are broken up by the dark greens of the trees and the mossy piebald coloured stone walls. On an overcast day like our one the Peaks have a brooding atmosphere which is heavy with self-satisfaction.
The higher we walked the stronger the wind, by the time we reached the ridge we could hardly stand up. Buffeted around we checked out the view for a few minutes and then pressed on down the other side. It was a gentler walk than our ascent following a track that served the shooting buts along its way. As we descended towards the A57 the strength of the wind dropped and by now the rain had completely given up.
Before we reached the A57 we turned north along a stone wall towards farm buildings of Moscar House. We passed through the middle of the farm-yard to follow the path. I am always a little nervous walking through farms, a few times I have been accosted by the farmer. Mostly they are alright and know you are simply following a path, but some can be – shall we say a little grumpy!
On the other side of the farm we came to a tarmac road that looked very straight and boring. The scenery around was interesting enough, especially looking across to Strines Reservoir with the strange tower overlooking it from its south shore (I later found out it is called Boot’s Folly), but the road was tedious walking. I was very glad when we finally arrived at The Strines Inn, on a wet and windy day it’s warm open fire and the promise of hot food, a drink and being able to sit down for a while and rest was very welcome.
Back up the Edge
The clouds had broken by the time we left the Inn, patches of clear blue sky were overhead, with food in our bellies and a warm feeling inside we set of for the bridle-way that would take us back up to the ridge of Derwent Edge. This proved to be a two-mile uphill slog which was not the best on a full belly. I am not complaining although I was not sad when we finally reached the top!
We followed the path to Back Tor and on to Lost Lad.The views here to the north across the Howden moors are wonderful, calling you to come and explore them, the pathway west from Lost Lad is one of my favourites. It is an ‘on top of the world’ experience, lonely and basic, fashioned by the weather.
Down to the reservoir
It was not long before we were making our way down Walkers Clough, a very uneven pathway that is also very slippery in wet weather. It was only around four o’clock but the light was already beginning to fade as we approached the waters of the reservoir, we were coming to the end of our days walk.
It had been very enjoyable, I love the different seasons of the peaks they all have their own special beauty. There is something naked and essential about the land, no messing, and no frills. I think it appeals to the primitive necessity that lies deep in our pampered modern souls.
A short mile walk brought us back to the car, it was dark as we approached the silhouette of our transport home – perfect timing.