Ladybower Reservoir

It has taken me too long to get back to the Peak District. A gentle start then, with a short-ish family walk: round the Ladybower Reservoir, the lowest of the three Derwent Valley Reservoirs.

The string of massive reservoirs along the valley here were created across the course of the early twentieth century. Work even continued during the War. The War brought an unexpected role too: the similarity of the lakes and dams to the Möhne and Eder dams on the Ruhr made them the ideal training ground for the newly formed 617 Squadron to practice for the Dambusters raid in May 1943. (The Ladybower was only just being completed at the time and not filled up.) It is a heritage borne proudly. The waters and woods are peaceful, away from the buzzing carpark, with just the birdsong to accompany the walk, but you can still imagine the deep, heavy rumble of the Lancasters’ engines and the low swoop over the surface.

The walk around the water is about five and a half miles. Much is wooded, some is on a remote road. It is not waymarked, but it does not have to be: follow the clear, made path above the shore down to the Ashopton Viaduct, cross the viaduct, then make your way up the other side.

There is some sadness here too: two villages were drowned when the valleys were flooded. Ashopton lies beneath the deepest part, where the River Ashop met the Derwent, where the viaduct now runs. Further up was Derwent, where the Mill Brook enters the waters. The water was low today, and the base of the walls of a demolished house lay exposed on the shoreline. There are many more beneath the water, and the village church.

At the head of the Ladybower, the path crosses a meadow beneath the towering wall of the Derwent Dam (behind which the waters of the Upper Derwent Reservoir are pent). I could imagine here the dark shape of a Lancaster passing close overhead.

The walk is popular for families, and all around the shore the roads and some paths are swept by cyclists. It is only one of several walks hereabouts. When I am back with a main computer, I will try mapping them,

A Round-Surrey walk?

For years I assumed that a walk following Surrey’s long and highly varied boundary would not be practical. I like to walk in Surrey and have got to know a number of happy paths through the middle of the county, but I could not see paths at the edge, one border excepted.

Surrey has particular qualities. The roads in Surrey are single-minded: principally they head to and from London, so if a drives chooses to drive athwart these routes it is a tortuous journey. The footpaths are mainly little ones between villages and even the most famous long-distance route, the Pilgrim’s Way, was invented by a Georgian cartographer from many such disjoined paths. At the edges, the paths seemed few. I have enjoyed many a long and glorious walk may on the footpaths in the green heart of the county, amongst the North Downs and the Weald, and along the Tilbrook amongst others, there are not so many around the border. It is as if the footpath network shared the same aim as the roads – to London.

However, much work has been done in latter years to devise new waymarked routes on the edges of Surrey. Knitting them together and roping in new, local paths, and admittedly some road-walking, it is possible.

The first sketch I made is very close. You find trespasses into neighbouring counties with every boundary path, and there are a few more than I would have wished, into Sussex in the south in particular. That could be drawn in a bit.

On the northern border, we have the Thames Path to follow all the way from Deptford to Runnymede, but this too steps over onto the Middlesex bank – that cannot be helped, as there are long stretches where the well-to-do villas of Surrey folk run their gardens all the way down to the riverbank – and good for them, as it is a delightful river in those parts.

In the west, by Hampshire, we now have the Blackwater Valley Path established by the local councils thereabouts in the last few years. By the Kentish border, a local council has established a path named after the local Hundred (and after the council with a borrowed name which devised the path) namely the Tandridge Boundary Path. These are both very good routes for our purpose.

In the south, the county border is with Sussex, and is in the hills and woods. The Sussex Border Path provides a route though its preference to to dip into the latter county.

This may take work, but an appropriate route, of about 175 miles, should be possible.

Draft map