An Alternative Start at Fairholmes Bus Stop (Line 273, infrequent service) cuts 4.4 km/2.7 mi and 100m ascent.
A Short Extension on Crook Hill leads over its twin tops rather than skirting around its base.
Three Variations in the Afternoon break the long, nearly flat reservoir-side return route by climbing up a hill or ridge with fantastic views and descending back to the reservoirs further along:
- from the crossing of the Derwent River at Slippery Stones up to Howden Edge/Margery Hill and along the edges back down to Upper Derwent Reservoir (add 3.6 km/2.2 mi and 238m ascent).
- from Abbey Tip Plantation up to Pike Low and on to Derwent Village (add 30m and 123m ascent);
- up Grindle Clough to Whinstone Lee Tor and Lead Hill (add 1.3 km/0.8 mi and 152m ascent).
A Shorter Ending at Fairholmes Bus Stop (Line 273, infrequent service, last bus in winter around 16.00) is possible (cut 4.9 km/3.0 mi and 65m ascent). [With this, only the first of the Afternoon Variations is walkable.]
At the end of the walk, you could retrace the outbound route (higher and a bit longer, but quieter) instead of following the A57 Snake Road to the Ladybower Inn.
An Alternative Route leads from Alport Castles down through the Woodlands Valley and up to Win Hill. This is 22.4 km/13.9 mi long with 768m ascent, and also rated 8/10.
On the Alternative Route, a loop exploring the landslip area of Alport Castles is described.
On the Alternative Route, easier descent routes avoiding some or all of the steep and potentially slippery descent through the beautiful Parkin Clough are described.
A Shorter Ending of that Alternative Route finishes at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn with its bus stop (on the same lines as the Ladybower Inn).
An Alternative Ending of that Alternative Route descends from Win Hill to Bamford Station, reverse-walking the start of SWC 302 (map-led).
Ashopton was a small village in the valley of the River Ashop with a population of fewer than 100. In the early 1940s, the village (along with neighbouring Derwent) was demolished to make way for the filling of Ladybower Reservoir. The village was located near where the Derwent Valley joins the Woodlands Valley and the route of the current A57 Snake Pass to Glossop. The reminders of the village include the name of the Ashopton Viaduct which carries the A57 (the main part of the village was located immediately to the south of the viaduct) and Ashopton Sawmill and Ashopton Cottage. Unlike the remains of Derwent Village which have become visible when water levels have dropped, Ashopton will never re-emerge from the waters of Ladybower as silt has already covered the remains of its buildings.
The Peak District (National Park)
The Peak District is an upland area at the southernmost end of the Pennines.
The Peak District National Park is one of the UK’s most popular and is located within the boundaries of five counties (Derbys., Ches., Staffs., Yorks. and Greater Manchester). Founded in 1951, it was the first national Park in England. The Park spans an area of around 1,440 km2 (550 mi2) and – despite its name – its terrain consists mainly of rolling hills, farmland, moorland and some gritstone escarpments (the "edges"). It is however significantly higher than much of the terrain in the surrounding area.
The Peak District is formed almost exclusively from sedimentary rocks dating from the Carboniferous period. They comprise the Carboniferous Limestone, the overlying Gritstone and finally the Coal Measures, though the latter occur only on the extreme margins of the area. In addition there are infrequent outcrops of igneous rocks including lavas, tuffs and volcanic vent agglomerates.
The northern Dark Peak (whose geology is gritstone) is one of the most famous landmarks in the Peak District National Park, known for its exposed and isolated tracts of moorland, as well as its expansive rolling plateau which is covered by cotton grass bogs and heather moorlands. The soil of the area is composed of moorland peat which provides the perfect environment for the plant life in the area. The areas to the flanks of the high moorland host numerous copses which are composed of Oak and Birch.
The southern White Peak (whose geology is mainly limestone) is another distinctive area within the park due to its gently sloping Limestone plateau, crisscrossed by the Limestone Dales. The Dales provide the areas’ drainage and vary in steepness throughout the area.
White to Dark
The White to Dark Way is a 43 km (27 mi) waymarked multi-day path from the White Peak to the Dark Peak developed in 2012 by TrailZilla and Country Walking Magazine. It claims to be the first major walking trail dedicated to linking the Peak District’s two 'halves', across terrain ranging from meadows, woods and farmland to wild moorland and gritstone edges, going from Bakewell to Hope. The route includes Monsal Head, Cressbrook Dale, Litton, Eyam, Stanage Edge and Win Hill. See https://www.livefortheoutdoors.com/whitetodark
In 1899, the Derwent Valley Water Board was set up to supply water to Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, and the two Gothic-style dams were built across the River Derwent to create Howden Reservoir (1912) and Derwent Reservoir (1916). West of the Derwent a large village known as Birchinlee, locally known as 'Tin Town', was created for the 'navvies' – the workers who built the dams – and their families, many of whom came from the Elan Valley Reservoirs in Wales.
Over the decades, demand for water increased. Piped intakes were constructed from the rivers Ashop and Alport to the west to feed directly into the Derwent reservoir, but soon demand increased further to the point where another reservoir was required. The larger Ladybower Reservoir, built largely during World War II, necessitated the flooding of the villages of Derwent and Ashopton, with the occupants being relocated to the Yorkshire Bridge estate, just downstream of Ladybower dam. A packhorse bridge with a preservation order on it also had to be moved, and was rebuilt at Slippery Stones, north of Howden Reservoir.
The boundary between Derbyshire and Sheffield/South Yorkshire follows the River Derwent in its upper reaches and therefore runs through Howden Reservoir.
The topographical similarity between the Upper Derwent Valley and the Ruhr Valley of Germany led to the dams being used as a practice environment for the Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron (Dam Busters) in 1943 before their attack on the Ruhr dams. The Dam Busters film was subsequently filmed at the Derwent Dams.
Ladybower Reservoir is a large Y-shaped reservoir, the lowest of three in the Upper Derwent Valley. The River Ashop flows into the reservoir from the west; the River Derwent flows south, initially through Howden Reservoir, then Derwent Reservoir, and finally through Ladybower Reservoir. The area is now a tourist attraction, with the Fairholmes visitors' centre located at the northern tip of Ladybower. The east arm of the reservoir, fed by the Ladybower Brook, is overlooked by Hordron Edge stone circle.
Ladybower was built between 1935 and 1943 by the Derwent Valley Water Board to supplement the other two reservoirs in supplying the water needs of the East Midlands. It took a further two years to fill (1945). The dam differs from the Howden Reservoir and Derwent Reservoir in that it is a clay-cored earth embankment, and not a solid masonry dam. Below the dam is a cut-off trench 55m deep and 1.8m wide filled with concrete, stretching 150m into the hills each side, to stop water leaking round the dam. During the 1990s the wall was raised and strengthened to reduce the risk of over-topping in a major flood.
Drinking water must be pumped to treatment works rather than using gravity flow as in the other two reservoirs, increasing costs. It is treated at Bamford water treatment works and then flows south down the 45 km long Derwent Valley Aqueduct to supply clean water to the cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. The aqueduct passes through the park of Chatsworth House. A tunnel carries some of the water from the Derwent Valley eastwards through the hill and into the lower of the two Rivelin Dams to supply Sheffield.
The building of the reservoir resulted in the submergence of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent, including Derwent Woodlands church and Derwent Hall. Ashopton stood roughly where the road to the Snake Pass met the Woodlands Valley. The narrow stone Packhorse Bridge over the Derwent was removed and rebuilt at the head of the Howden reservoir. In 1976, 1995 and 2018, dry conditions caused the water level to drop and the village of Derwent to once again be exposed.
Crook Hill is regarded as an outlier of Kinder Scout although being separated by the long western arm of Ladybower Reservoir, covering part of the Woodlands Valley, as geologically the hill consists of Kinder Scout Grit, a kind of sandstone. The hill has twin summits, the highest of which reaches a modest height of 382m, while the secondary top (sometimes referred to as Ladycrook Hill, although this name does not appear on OS maps) reaches an altitude of 374m. Despite the modest height, the hill's summits give excellent views of the surrounding countryside including Ladybower Reservoir, Derwent Edge and Win Hill.
Between the two summits there is some evidence of an ancient megalithic standing stone circle. It originally consisted of five stones around a surviving mound, two of which are still upright.
Peak Horsepower – Kinder Loop
Peak Horsepower has been created to extend and improve the Peak District bridleway network. Their Kinder Loop is an 88 km (55 mi) circular waymarked route through the dramatic scenery around Kinder Scout and provides an iconic, challenging long-distance riding route in the centre of the country. It starts from the head of the Ladybower reservoir and draws on existing bridleways, the Pennine Bridleway and the Trans-Pennine Trail. See: http://www.peakhorsepower.co.uk/
The Alport Castles are a landslip feature in the Peak District National Park on the eastern side of Alport Dale, in the National Trust's High Peak Estate, north of the Snake Pass and north-west of Ladybower Reservoir.
At almost a km long, it is thought to be the largest inland landslide in the UK. The name "castles" comes from the debris from the landslide, which has produced several gritstone mounds that tower over the valley and appear from the distance to look like castles, with the largest of these, the "Tower", resembling a full-scale motte and bailey castle.
The exact cause of the landslide is unknown, but similar if less dramatic landslips occur all around the Dark Peak, notably on Mam Tor, where softer lower layers of shale give way under the heavy gritstone above.
The rock faces and cliffs are unstable and unsuitable for climbing and scrambling but the site is accessible along some well-trodden public rights of way and is a popular site for walkers and birdwatchers, as ravens and peregrine falcons have been known to nest on the crags.
The Derwent is a Derbyshire river of 106 km/66 mi length and is a tributary of the River Trent, which it joins south of Derby. Its waters ultimately reach the North Sea via the Humber Estuary. For half its course the river flows through the Peak District and for most of the first 10 km it forms the border to South Yorkshire. In the lower reaches between Matlock and Derby it was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, providing power to the first industrial scale cotton mills. Today it provides a water supply to several surrounding cities, and its steeply sided valley is an important communications corridor through the uplands of the Peak District.
Derwent Valley Heritage Way
The Derwent Valley Heritage Way (DVHW) is an 88 km (55 mi) waymarked Long-Distance Path along the Derwent Valley from Ladybower Reservoir via Chatsworth, the Derbyshire Dales area, and through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site to Derwent Mouth where it flows into the Trent.