The rather macabre title of this walk across the Derwent Moors links back to a grim day in 1635 when a traveller was found with his throat slashed from ear to ear. Amazingly he was still alive, but unable to speak and tell his rescuers who he was. Possibly he was a merchant making his way along the then pony track between Sheffield and Manchester, but for what reason is another mystery; any money or goods he might have been carrying was long gone, stolen no doubt by his attackers. He was taken to Bamford Hall where, after a day or so, he died.
The road he was travelling on is now the A57 Snake Pass road and the narrow pack horse bridge beside which he was found was widened in 1821 when the then Duke of Devonshire improved the road over the pass named with his family crest. If you look over the north side of the bridge you can see the early Victorian arch, but on the south later widening is carried by a mundane concrete girder.
From the notorious bridge the way is over the southern section of the Derwent Moors, high above the still waters of Ladybower Reservoir. We did the walk on a fine day in late April when the cuckoo was telling us he was going about his nefarious business, tempting his mate to join him and lay her eggs in some unsuspecting tiny woodland bird’s nest.
The walk gave us a chance to experience the moors and edges at close hand. The wide path climbing from Cutthroat Bridge is easy to follow and predates the busy A57. Reaching a three-way path junction on the airy col below Lead Hill, a breathtaking view takes the eye all the way across to Win Hill one way and along the flooded Derwent Valley to the higher reaches of Bleaklow. Dropping down from here to the waterside and then climbing into mature pine woods, the path which carries the final leg of the walk, conveniently passes the welcome sight of the Ladybower Inn.
6½ miles (10.5km) of moderate walking on rocky moorland paths and waterside tracks with 469ft (143m) ascent and descent.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Map, Sheet 1 The Peak District, Dark Peak Area.
Public Transport: Train via Sheffield to Bamford (Hope Valley line). Hulleys 274 service from there to Cutthroat Bridge.
Car Parking: Roadside in the layby a few yards uphill from Cutthroat Bridge.
Refreshments: Ladybower Inn.
- Walk down the road from the car park, cross over and go through the narrow gate on the right immediately after the bridge.
- Go beneath power lines and follow the rocky path uphill, with the stream on your right. Ignore a path bearing away on your left soon after starting the walk, but make a mental note of it because this is the way you will come on the last part of the walk.
- The path climbs steadily, winding its way leftwards away from the stream and across the slopes of Derwent Moors until it reaches a three-way footpath junction, marked by a National Trust sign.
Even though you may be expecting it, the view below and to your left and right, will take your breath away. To the left stands Win Hill, its conical peak, a rarity in the Peak District, towers above its forested lower slopes. At its foot is the western arm of Ladybower Reservoir crossed by the graceful arches of a viaduct carrying the A57 Snake Pass road. Directly opposite and across the reservoir’s northern arm are the twin tors of Crookhill, the start of a broad ridge leading up to Lockerbrook Heights. Derwent Dam is hidden, but this is where restored Lancaster bombers occasionally re-enact the Dambusters Squadron’s attack on the Ruhr Dams. Swinging right the view is along the heights of Derwent Edge with its curious outcrops of gritstone boulders; first are Hurkling Stones and then Wheel Stones that look exactly like a coach and horses when viewed face on from across the valley.
- Turn sharp right at the junction, to follow the path swinging gently right and then left as it gradually descends away from the moorland escarpment.
- Go forwards at the next path junction and then turn left after about 100yds to go through a narrow gate.
- Walk downhill across the moor and then beside a woodland boundary.
- Ford a small stream and go through another gate to reach a group of three stone barns, part of the ancient farmstead at High House.
The barns have been restored by their owners the National Trust and the group has an almost alpine feel. This alpine similarity is further enhanced by the steep hay meadow below the barns which has been encouraged to grow as a wildflower meadow.
- Follow the slabbed path steeply down to the valley bottom.
- Turn left through a gate to join the reservoir track and almost immediately go through a wide metal gate.
- Follow the water-side track for a couple of miles all the way to its end almost at its junction with the main road.
The reservoir drowned two lovely villages, Ashopton and Derwent. All that is left are the houses you will pass when climbing away from the valley – they still bear the proud name of long gone Ashopton.
- Go through a metal gate and bear left on to a rising macadamed lane serving a few houses and a farmstead.
- Climb up into a mature pinewood.
- Where the surfaced track ends go through another gate and follow the rough moorland path high above the noise of traffic on the busy A57.
If it is your intention to seek refreshment at the Ladybower Inn and who wouldn’t, don’t despair if the path seems at first to be avoiding the pub. Access to it from a side path turning sharp right and downhill a little way beyond the building.
- Ignore a path turning left (the undecipherable sign at the junction acts as a waymark). And go slightly to your right to continue across the moor and above swathes of old trees.
- Where your path joins the outward route, clamber down a small outcrop.
- Turn right and follow the slabby path back to the bridge and the A57.