LADYBOWER AND THE DERWENT DAMS
The beautiful Upper Derwent Valley is the Peak District’s Lake District.
Dominated by the triple reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower, which flooded the valley to slake the thirsts of the booming industrial populations of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, this is the biggest expanse of open water in the Peak.
And that mixture of water, trees and high, enclosing moorland is very popular with visitors. Over a million and a quarter people throng the Upper Derwent annually, making necessary an award-winning traffic and visitor management scheme.
The upper end of the valley, from Fairholmes northwards to King’s Tree, is closed to traffic on summer weekends and Bank Holidays, when a mini-bus and cycle-hire service comes into operation. There is a National Park visitor centre and cycle hire centre at Fairholmes, in the shadow of the Derwent Dam.
The upper two dams, the Howden and the Derwent, were built between 1901 and 1916, employing an army of over 1,000 navvies and their families who were housed in a temporary village at Birchinlee, between the two dams, while the work took place.
This self-contained community had its own shops, recreational hall, hospital, police station and school, housed in nearly 100 corrugated iron structures, which gave the settlement its local nickname of ‘Tin Town.’ The bustling community boasted a range of shops, a recreation hall, school, hospital, “canteen” (as the pub was known), and a police station.
The site of Tin Town is now lost in the forestry planted in the interests of water purity after the dams were built, but a plaque records its existence in a layby just below the Howden Dam.
The third and largest reservoir and dam was the Ladybower, constructed between 1935 and 1943, which necessitated the demolition of two ancient villages which once stood in the valley bottom at the foot of the Snake Pass.
The populations of both Derwent and Ashtopton were re-housed at Yorkshire Bridge, Bamford, and 100 dead from the churchyard were reburied at Bamford.
The foundations of their homes, the church and the Victorian pile of Derwent Hall can still be seen in times of drought or when the water is drawn down.
The other famous story of the Upper Derwent is that of the Dambusters, because it was here that the brave crews of 617 Squadron trained in their specially adapted Lancaster bombers for their epic raid on the Ruhr dams in May, 1943.
There is a memorial to the airmen who lost their lives in the raid in the western gateway to the Derwent Dam.
For more images of this stunning area please vist Ladybower and Upper Derwent Valley photography by Michael Cummins - instant downloads, framed prints and more.
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 7 May 2015