The triple chain of the Howden, Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs which flood the Upper Derwent Valley, represent the largest area of water in the Peak, and has been dubbed the Peak District’s Lake District.
The Derwent Dams were constructed by the Derwent Valley Water Board (now Severn-Trent) to supply fresh clean water to the fast-expanding industrial populations of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
The first two massive masonry dams constructed were the Howden and Derwent, between 1902 and 1916. During construction a temporary village, known as Tin Town because of its corrugated iron walls and roofs, housed the 1,000 or so navvies (labourers) and their families.
The larger Ladybower dam and reservoir followed in 1943, and took two years to finally fill! To accommodate the reservoirs, the villages of Derwent and Ashopton were demolished and their residents were re-housed at nearby Bamford. In times of drought, the foundations of some of the buildings can still be seen rising from the water.
During the Second World War, the two original Derwent Dams were used for practice flights by 617 Squadron – known as “the Dam Busters”. They were chosen because they closely matched the target dams in the Ruhr Valley in Germany. The Derwent Dams were later used as the backdrop to the 1955 film The Dam Busters.
To get the next stopping point:
At the culverted watercourse where the path splits, take the right hand path and head up it for approximately 500m until you reach a farm track. Turn left onto the farm track and follow this as it ascends and turns to the right, then right again.
As you continue your ascent heading approximately NW, you will notice a marker sign for ‘Lackerbrook’. Take this path and follow it uphill eventually with a wall on your right hand side and a drop off to the left.
At the farm track turn left and after approximately 250m you will reach Lackerbrook Farm which is now an outdoor centre. Cross the field past Lackerbrook Farm to a junction of paths at the edge of a wood. Turn right here to a ladder stile which leads up past Bellhag Tor and across Lockerbrook Heights.
After about a mile of moorland walking with the Alport Valley to your left, this leads to the escarpment of Birchin Hat above Alport Castles. The walk from Lackerbrook Farm to the Castles will take at least 25-30 minutes.
This trail was originally created by Roly Smith for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain. Thanks are also due to Helen Rawling for editing the walk and to Chris Speight FRGS, CGeog, RGS-IBG Trustee for checking the route and providing feedback.
Roly is a keen walker and the author of over 90 books on the British countryside. He has been recently described as one of Britain’s most knowledgeable countryside writers.