One of the duties a walking guide author must be aware of is the need to monitor any changes that might have occurred since the guide was published. My Collins Walks in the Peak District (twenty walks all over 5 miles), was published last year. Bearing in mind that Collins like me has to be prepared for any amendments to future editions, I am gradually working my way through the list. This walk is one from the guide and as will become evident, I did find one small but important change that has occurred since I originally planned the route. The walk is one with ever changing views over the Derwent valley and its moors.
It starts near Ashopton Viaduct and climbs steadily across the flank of Crook Hill where the route follows an ancient packhorse way. Strange rock formations with fanciful names dot the eastern skyline and the eye is carried easily across the heights from scene to scene. Quiet forest glades lead down to the man-made lake of Ladybower where a quiet road along its eastern shore is followed all the way back to the car park on the busy A57. During summer weekends and bank holidays, the road from Fairholmes Visitor Centre to the dale head is free of all but essential traffic. A bus service carries pedestrians to various points along the road and a cycle hire scheme also helps visitors enjoy the tranquility and beauty of this secluded valley. Helpful Information 6½ miles (10.5km) of moderate walking mostly along well defined tracks and forest trails; one 580ft (177m) climb. Park in the roadside layby on the A57, Snake Road, near Ashopton Viaduct. Public transport: TM Travel 89/A service run one bus each way on summer Sundays from Chesterfield to Fairholmes. TM Travel 222 route also connects trains at Bamford station during winter as well as summer. Their 240, 241 & 242 service via Sheffield Interchange is slightly more frequent. Refreshments available every day at the Fairholmes visitor centre kiosk. Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure 1. 1:25,000 scale. The Peak District – Dark Peak area.
• From the layby follow the main road across the viaduct and turn right at the far end. Follow the Derwent Valley road for about 80 yards (73m). • Go left, through a narrow gate and then bear diagonally right, uphill on a faint path across three fields. • Nearing Crookhill Farm look out for a diversion sign and follow its direction uphill towards and to the right of the farm. This is the alteration mentioned above. Originally (and still marked on the OS map), the right of way went to the left of the farm and involved a convoluted way through the farmyard. The new path is much easier to follow. • Climb the stile next to a cattle shed and walk towards a bridleway beyond the farm. Turn right at a finger post pointing towards Birchinlee. • Follow the track around the twin slopes of Crook Hill and out on to the open moor. Use waymark posts to reach the upper edge of a forestry plantation. Continue forwards with the trees on your right. Pause below Crook Hill and look to the east, across the deep cleft of flooded Derwent Dale. The eastern skyline is marked by rocky outcrops, more in keeping with Dartmoor Tors than Derbyshire. Most of the crags have names, but two in particular should be obvious from their shape, even from this distance: one is the ‘Salt Cellar’ and the other the ‘Coach and Horses’ (marked ‘Wheel Stones’ on the OS map), which is just like a 19th-century mail coach. Even though it is man-made and completely alters the appearance of the dale, Ladybower Reservoir makes an attractive contrast to the wild moors beyond. South-westwards from Crook Hill and across the Woodlands Valley arm of the reservoir are the heights of Win Hill and Kinder Scout.
• Keeping to the left of the forest boundary, walk forwards at the footpath junction. Another viewpoint: this time towards Kinder Scout’s eastern edges that dominate the Ashop Valley and the northern shoulder of Win Hill. Mam Tor’s undulating ridge further to the right marks the boundary between the Dark and White Peak. • Turn right along the access track to Lockerbrook Farm and then continue forwards past the farm buildings for about 200yds (183m). Lockerbrook Farm is used as an outdoor pursuits centre run by the Woodcraft Folk an organisation similar to the Boy Scouts but run by the Co-operative Society. • Look out for a concessionary footpath sign beyond the farm. Turn right here to walk downhill across a field and into the forest. Follow waymarks down through the mature trees to the valley road. • Cross the road and make your way through the Fairholmes visitor centre and picnic site. Join the access road and follow it below Derwent Dam. Derwent Dam.
If you are fortunate as we were, you may see water cascading over the dam when the reservoir is full, making it the largest waterfall in the Peak District. The dam with its distinctive towers was used by the famous Dam Busters Squadron during training for the wartime raids on the Möhne and Eder dams in the Ruhr. The same dam was used in the film of the courageous exploit and vintage Lancaster bombers repeat the flight on special occasions. • Bear right with the surfaced road, uphill and past scattered houses until it reaches Grindle Clough where the road becomes a wide gravel track following the reservoir bank. A plaque at the side of Mill Brook tells the sad story of the lost village of Derwent. All that remains is a poignant pair of ancient gateposts now almost lost amidst the undergrowth, but once showing the way to Derwent Hall and its village. Until it was destroyed for reasons of safety, the church spire used to become visible during periods of drought. A graceful packhorse bridge which once stood near the village now crosses the River Derwent at Slippery Stones towards the valley head. • Continue to follow the gravel track all the way back to the main road where the layby is to your left, opposite. There is another drowned village lying roughly beneath the viaduct. This was Ashopton, once reached by a steep tree-shrouded lane below the A57. Its tranquility ended in 1943 when the sluices were shut and water drowned an idyllic valley together with its farms and moorland hamlets. A couple of slightly more modern houses on the hillside to your right still bear the proud name of Ashopton.