A Derwent Dam Circular Walk

The Peak District for me is a constant love and magnet that is fascinating and rugged in any season, I’ve enjoyed walking in Derbyshire for most of my life and spent many happy times here with my family for well over 28 years, whether going the distance or a gentle stroll, it is all an adventure and always fun. The Derwent dam circular was again one of those memorable family days strolling along the shore of Ladybower reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak district.

A short intro and a little history of the Derwent Dams;

First and foremost known for its part in developing the bouncing bomb used during the second world war, the pilots of 617 Squadron used the Derwent dams to practice low level flights in their Lancaster bombers in preparation for operation Chastise, more widely known as the Dam Buster raids which were carried out on German dams on 16th and 17 May 1943 led by Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, Royal Air Force No 617 Squadron. The bouncing bomb was developed by Barnes Wallis and was purpose built for the raid on the Möhne, Edersee and Sorpe dams in Germany which the Derwent dams closely resembled.

Derwent Dam

Our Derwent circular began on a cold wet Saturday, it rained intermittently in-between sleet, but the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits no matter how it lashed against us.

A Derwent Dam Circular Walk in the Peak District 1

Winter in the Peaks can be harsh at times, but this was comparatively mild compared to some of the winter weather we’ve sampled up here, the close by Win Hill for example offers some majestic views on a snowy day. We planned our trip knowing to expect cold wet weather and had wrapped up against the elements, even my little 3-month-old grandson had a fun day all snuggled up in his winter coat in his pushchair, this route is pushchair friendly which was a definite bonus.

The seven of us, plus three dogs headed off along the path that runs alongside the access road making it easier with the pushchair but there is a path through the trees and closer to the reservoir if you’re on foot only and wearing sturdy footwear.  Parking is available alongside the road intermittently and a main carpark at the visitor centre; from the a57 Snake Pass Road, the Derwent Dam visitor centre is sign posted just after the Ashopton Viaduct which is half way between Sheffield and Glossop.  

Ashopton Viaduct

On reaching Ashopton Viaduct on a clear day Win Hill can be admired on the opposite side of Ladybower reservoir, a beautiful sight, but alas on this wet cold morning as we arrived there was a mist across the trees completely masking the other half of the reservoir, I still like this effect because to me it just makes for more atmosphere and mystery.  On crossing the viaduct it’s great to pause half way over and look across the water, it’s so calming to just take in the view and take a moment. We take a left and onwards beside the reservoir, the dogs excited and baby needing a feed. There are benches all around the route so plenty of chances to stop and take in the view or feed the baby! Once baby was fed we strolled on at a leisurely pace until finding a spot for the dogs to take a drink and came across another bench, this time we didn’t need it but would make a beaut of a picnic spot in the summer.  

bench with a view
derwent walk

Woodland sheltered us through the next section and plenty of trees for the dogs to water! Woodland walking is so relaxing and even baby Elijah enjoyed watching the trees go by, he was wide awake the whole time, not wanting to miss a moment of his little adventure, gazing up through his rain cover.  

derwent dam overflowing
bench by the reservoir

Spring was not too far away as was clear from the flowering of the snowdrops, I always think this is a beautiful sight and a reminder of brighter warmer days ahead. The views over the reservoir are satisfying, the water calm and deep, the trees surrounding the reservoir are reflected as if in a mirror, these are all my favorite sights.  

family walk
plug hole derwent reservoir

We began to catch a glimpse of the Derwent dam and one of the towers through the trees, it was clear to see it over topping and not at all surprising considering the amount of rain that had dropped. Although it was not in full flow it was still a fascinating sight, and the sound of it even more spectacular, quite a roar as the water cascades over the top of the dam! My daughter captured some photos for me using her phone camera whilst I was tied up looking after two of the dogs, big Max and tiny Bandit and hadn’t bought my usual camera with me due to the weather. To be honest I knew my daughter was more than capable of taking the shots I’d been after, and she did, as always, a keen eye for a photo.  It was a tricky day for photography, low light, constant rain and mist but the circuit around to the dam beholds enchanting scenery at every turn.   

derwent dam right tower

If it’s a longer walk you’re looking for then a walk to Howden dam, (the twin of Derwent dam) and around Derwent reservoir is another adventure which I’ll be taking in the summer months hopefully. Our next pit stop was already anticipated, a coffee break at the visitor centre; that’s 5 coffees, one bottled water and a bottle feed for baby Elijah!  

eye spy a derwent

Once re-caffeinated and milked up we were off on our merry way with one very sleepy baby and one very cold wet dog, poor little Smokey needing a coat, (being investigated asap,) the other two dogs have rain coats. Walking back now along the opposite bank of Ladybower reservoir and the views are stunning, from here looking across the water the hills still snow covered, catch the eye even though partially shrouded in mist and reflected in the calm waters. With only another mile or two, who’s counting, until we reach our parking spot we make the most of the views and the calmness which baby Elijah found soporific as he dropped off into to a sweet slumber. Before heading home, we took a quick stop off on our journey to see the plug holes draining at ladybower dam which is a beautiful place to watch a sunset I might add.

sunset ladybower reservoir
a bench overlooking ladybower

Another enjoyable family day out in Derbyshire Peak District and more lovely memories. It’s a beautiful circular route with good access and with toilets and refreshments at the visitor centre too, but if a longer more challenging route is what you’re after there’s plenty of options, take a longer route and incorporate Howden dam or walk up high to spectacular views. Looking to the summer and we will be returning to Ladybower reservoir for further walks and more to add on the history plus of course more fun and memories guaranteed!

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  1. Looks absolutely stunning. Can u tell me how far this circular walk is and where about you started from please. Possible postcode maybe x

    1. Avatar of Janine Moore Janine Moore says:

      Hello Trudy,
      Thank you, it’s a beautiful area indeed.
      For parking, there’s often parking space available for free in dedicated spaces beside Ladybower reservoir. Best parking but paid for is at Fairholmes visitor centre post code Hope Valley S33 0AQ
      The circular walk from Fairholmes visitor centre around past the dam and over Ashopton viaduct, and along the other side to a full circle is roughly 6 miles (9km.) or taken the other way around.
      I hope you manage to visit and enjoy the area.
      kind regards,

  2. Beautiful and interesting! Tell me, how did the Derwent Damn drown??

    1. Avatar of Janine Moore Janine Moore says:

      Hello Jane,
      It really is a lovely area to explore. Thank you very much, I’m glad you’ve found it interesting.
      By drowning, do you mean how the dam overflowsin the photo? This will happen after a good winters rain and snow has filled the Derwent and Howden reservoirs, enough to allow it to, over top, to flow over the top of the dam.
      This year has been a hot year, and the reservoirs are all very low indeed and so are quite low for the time of year. I hope I’ve answered your question. Thanks again, Janine

  3. Avatar of Janine Moore Janine Moore says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I’m sure you would enjoy the area, it’s well worth stopping to explore. Thanks for the lovely coment on the photos too.
    All the best,

  4. We often drive along Snake Pass when visiting family, so will have to stop and do this walk! Looks lovely. Great photos!

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