Ladybower Reservoir to Whinstone Lee Tor & its abundant wildlife round
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England and includes a large part of the Peak District National Park. The southern end of the Pennine Hills extends into the north of the county and the county also contains part of the National Forest. Derbyshire borders on Greater Manchester to the northwest, West Yorkshire to the north, South Yorkshire to the northeast, Nottinghamshire to the east, Leicestershire to the southeast, Staffordshire to the west and southwest and Cheshire also in the west. Derbyshire is known for being a diverse county with cities, towns and villages set in outstanding countryside with industry and leisure working together. Its main city is Derby, which although steeped in history, is one of Britain’s youngest cities and was awarded its Charter by HM the Queen in 1977. Derbyshire is a mixture of rural economy in the west and coal mining was the industry in the north and south and also in the Erewash Valley. The landscape varies from arable country in the flat areas of the south of Derby to hill farming of the high grit stone moorlands of the southern Pennines to the north of the city. The county is also rich in natural resources such as lead, iron, coal and limestone. The arrival of railways in the late 19th century and early 20th century led to a large number of stone quarry industries and although they have left their mark on the countryside today stone quarrying is still a major industry.
The Peak District is made up of two areas The White Peak which is a limestone plateau of green fields with rolling hills and many dales and The Dark Peak (or High Peak) which is a series of higher, wilder and boggier grit stone moorlands. The Peak District is also known as the Derbyshire Peak District and covers areas of Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Cheshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. Although there are no prominent boundaries the central and most rural areas of the Peaks lie within the Peak District National Park. The National Park, the first to be set up in Britain, covers 555 square miles three quarters of which lie within Derbyshire and the other quarter in parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire and 12% of the park is owned by the National Trust a charity which aims to conserve historic and natural landscapes and does not receive government funding. The Peak District National Park Authority provides public facilities such as car parks, public toilets, visitor centres and also maintains the rural nature of the park although most of the land is still owned by the traditional landlords.
Ladybower Reservoir is the lowest reservoir of three in the Upper Derwent Valley of the Peak District the other two being Howden Reservoir and Derwent Reservoir. Ladybower is a Y shaped reservoir built between 1935 and 1943 to supplement the other two reservoirs in supplying the water needs of the East Midlands. It took another 2 years to fill and unlike Howden and Derwent dams which are built of a solid masonry Ladybower’s dam is a clay-cored earth embankment. The two viaducts needed to carry the trunk roads over the reservoir we built using a steel frame clad in concrete. The building of the reservoir resulted in the drowning of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent. Ashopton was demolished before the reservoir was filled, but much of the structure of Derwent was still visible 14 years later, during a dry summer. The River Derwent, Derbyshire’s longest river, flows south for 66 miles from Howden Moor firstly through Howden Reservoir then Derwent Reservoir and through Ladybower Reservoir then continues south into the River Trent just south of Derby. The River Ashop flows into Ladybower Reservoir from the west. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 labour and raw materials became scare so the building of the reservoir was delayed. The reservoir was formally opened on 25th September 1945 by King George VI accompanied by Queen Elizabeth. The Howden and Derwent Dams were built in the peaceful Derwent Valley between 1901 and 1916. The peace was shattered by the roar of Merlin engines powering Lancaster bombers over the dam walls as 617 Squadron began their training runs for the attack on the Great Dams of Western Germany in World War II. Derwent Dam was chosen by the Lancaster bomber pilots for practising their low level flying and the new bouncing bomb aiming techniques because it was very similar to the Germany dams they were going to attack. Over the weeks the southbound flight path over the Derwent Valley became unchallenging for the aircrews so they used Bamford Church Tower as a turning point and returned northbound to face a much harder exit from the valley. The 617 Squadron was formed under great secrecy at RAF Scampton and their mission was given the codename Operation Chastise which was a Second World War raid on Germany’s Ruhr dams using Barnes Wallis revolutionary bouncing bomb and modified Lancaster bombers. The German dams which helped provide vital water and electrical supplies for the Nazis were targeted on the night of May 16th 1943 with two dams successfully destroyed. These spectacular reservoirs and the beautiful area around them are now popular tourist attractions with the Fairholmes Visitors Centre and picnic area with gift shop, cycle hire and public toilets located at the northern tip of Ladybower Reservoir just to the south of Derwent Reservoir and the Ladybower Information Centre with picnic area and public toilets situated on the A6013.
Whinstone Lee Tor at 415 metres is one of the smaller hills in the Peak District but the view westwards from the viewing area, at the crossroads of paths below the summit, of both parts of Ladybower Reservoir, Crook Hill and Win Hill and in the very distance the Kinder Scout range is stunning. Whinstone Lee Tor leads on to Derwent Edge which is a Millstone Grit escarpment. The Millstone Grit forms the edge of the high peat moorland plateau on the eastern side of Derwent Valley above Ladybower Reservoir. The edge is known for its unusual grit stone shaped tors which have been formed over the centuries by the wind, rain and frost. Locals over the years have named these tors, such as Cakes of Bread, the Coach and Horses (also known as the Wheel Stones), the Salt Cellar and Lost Lad Hillend and have now been officially titled on OS maps. Derwent Edge is also known for its views of the Derwent Valley and the Dark Peak landscape and most of the moorland around Derwent Edge has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its special vegetation and rare birds. The edge is part of the National Trust’s High Peak Estate and visitors are free to roam but are urged to keep to the established routes to avoid disturbing breeding birds.
From the side of the road on the A57 just before Ashopton Viaduct we head forwards and take the track on the right just before the bus stop sign. We walk uphill and follow the tarmac track round to the right passing some buildings on our right. Just past the last building we turn left signposted Whinstone Lee Tor through a gate into the wood and bear left uphill on the track following a row of pylons and a wall on our left. We pass through a broken wall and keep heading forwards still following the wall and the fence on our left to a gate. We go slightly downhill through the gate and then head uphill with the wall still on our left. This is where we see the Cuckoo. The track bears to the left uphill to a wall corner we turn right still uphill for a short way until we come to a cross roads of path. The path to the left leads to a viewing area. We take the second track on the left, next to the bridle way, uphill to the summit of Whinstone Lee Tor. At the top the track bears to the right, this is where we see the grouse chicks. At the next peak we turn left downhill at a cairn opposite a row of grouse butts on our right signposted Derwent. We follow the track downhill passing a cairn until we come to a wall. We turn left through the gate and head forwards across the field to the right hand corner of the wood. We then go through a gate and walk between the fence and the wall until we come to another gate. We go through the gate and follow the track downhill over a stream, Grindle Clough, to the buildings where we turn left through a gate. We follow the track downhill to Ladybower Reservoir. We go through a gate and turn left and now just follow the track back to the viaduct where we started then turn left back to our parked car.
This is an easy to moderate walk on good well walked paths and tracks with gradual inclines and declines.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 207.10m (679.5ft) approx highest point 383.4m (1257.87ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 4.1 miles allow 2 hours using OS Explorer Map OL 1, The Peak District Dark Peak area.
Start point: Parking spaces near the bridge at the side of the A57.
Ladybower Reservoir is to the west of Sheffield close to the valleys of Hope and Edale in the dark area of the Peak District.
Directions and Parking
This route avoids going through Sheffield. From the M1 take junction 36 and head for Sheffield North on the A616 to Stocksbridge. After passing Stocksbridge and Underbank Reservoir on the left take the first minor road on the left onto Mortimer Road. Follow this road until you reach the A57. Turn right onto the A57 then at the junction and traffic lights head straight on. The free car park spaces are on the left at the side of the road and there is a pay and display car park about a mile further on the right at Rough Wood.
Parking: Free parking in the bays at the side of the road on the A57 and a pay and display car park about a mile further on over Ashopton Viaduct. There is also free parking on the A6013 just the other side of Ladybower Viaduct at the side of the road in the bays and also a pay and display car park with an information centre.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in the car park on the A6013 which also has a picnic area, refreshment kiosk and information centre. There is also the visitors centre between Derwent Reservoir and the northern end of Ladybower Reservoir with public toilets, refreshment kiosk, picnic area, gift shop and cycle hire. There are also two pubs nearby the Ladybower Inn on the A57 and the Yorkshire Bridge Inn on the A6013. The next nearest public toilets and refreshments are at Bamford approx 2 miles further down the A6013.