Hello again humans. It’s Joe the Cocker again with another hiking blog. We decided to head for Derbyshire on a cold but dry Sunday morning. It was forecast to be another brief break in the otherwise wet weather. Sunday isn’t our preferred day for hiking because everywhere tends to be busier than on a weekday. But, to get outdoors for a longish hike without getting soaked to the skin was too tempting for my human dad. If we left fairly early we could ensure that we would be able to find a parking spot and avoid the crowds of weekend walkers. Where to go was a difficult decision for the indecisive one. After changing his mind several times he decided that we should head for the Upper Derwent Valley. He wanted to do a scenic but flattish hike around a lake that would be approximately twelve miles long. The route he chose was from the Fairholmes car park at the northern end of the Ladybower reservoir. It follows the cycle route that runs around the Howden and Derwent reservoirs. On a weekend the minor road that runs along the western side of the lakes is closed to motor vehicles to allow a more peaceful and safe experience for hikers and cyclists. So, with snacks, warm clothing and whatever else my dad can cram into the rucksack thrown into the boot of the car we set off for the day.
The sun was just about to appear in the clear sky as my dad scraped the ice off the car windows. I settled into my warm and comfy bed on the back seat of the car. I love having a chauffer. He should wear a chauffer’s cap instead of his ridiculous green bob hat. It was about an hour and a quarter to our start point for our walk. The car park is approximately two miles from the bridge that crosses the Ladybower reservoir on the A57 at the foot of the Snake Pass. Fairholmes car park is close to the Derwent Dam and near to the northern end of the Ladybower reservoir. The reservoirs and dams are famous for being the training area for the Dambusters during the Second World War. There is a small souvenir shop and takeaway food and drinks hatch here that must be incredibly busy during the summer months. The car park charge is £4.70 for a full day but if you are early birds, like we were, there a twenty or so free parking spots in a lay-by situated a couple of hundred yards before the pay and display area. Guess where the cheapskate parked? You guessed right. In the lay-by. Enough said, I suppose, about his tightfistedness! There were only a few other cars parked in the area and they all seemed to have cycle carriers on the back. It’s obviously a very popular area for mountain biking on Sunday mornings.
After a few minutes getting my harness on and my dad sorting out his rucksack we set off on our walk. The sky was still cloud free but the day’s forecast was for clouds and the chance of a shower later in the day. We had a mooch around the outside of the visitor centre while he read a few notice boards that provided a history of the Upper Derwent valley. The trail we were to hike was around the eleven mile cycle route that was waymarked from the car park. I pulled my dad up a flight of wooden edged steps back to the road where the cycle route started. As I previously said, this road is closed to motor vehicles at the weekend and was very quiet with only a handful of cyclists zooming past us. The hiking route is at the side of the road and was very slippery with a coating of dead leaves mixed with mud. My dad prefers this kind of surface to the tarmac of the road so he struggled along it, slipping now and again and cursing as usual. Potty mouth! I, on the other paw, ran around everywhere. My dad had let me off the lead because of the lack of traffic and there only being the odd cyclist around. When I say odd cyclist I mean the infrequent cyclist, not odd in the weird sense. I do find them a bit weird though in their skin-tight garish clothes. My dad told me that he used to be a mountain biker and a road cyclist and he wore all those types of clothes with a big plastic hat on. He looks bad enough now in his hiking gear. I am so glad that I didn’t have to be associated with him in cycling gear. He said that I should have seen him in the seventies with his long hair and hippy clothes. I don’t usually use internet slang but OMG and LOL! What an embarrassment?
The worst part of the day was just about to happen. Well, for me anyway. My dad, instead of singing, started to ‘der der der der de de der’. It was the Dambusters March. It wasn’t a song but it was a tune that would haunt me for the rest of the walk. I can’t put the sounds that he was uttering into words because there aren’t any. It was just as I said before ‘der der der der de de der’ over and over again. I wish that he would get laryngitis and lose his voice so that on one walk I can have some peace. He wouldn’t like it if I howled and barked all day. Maybe I should try it one time?
We soon came upon a minor detour to visit the foot of the Derwent Dam. There was a large grassy area at the foot of the dam where the massive wall dwarfs sightseers who click away on their phones and cameras. The reservoirs in the Upper Derwent valley were all completely full as indicated on the notice board. The overflow was stunning in the full light of the morning sun. So, it was photograph time and for a change this did not include me having to sit and pose. So, what did I do? I photo bombed his shots at every opportunity. Well, I am a Spaniel and we have a well earned reputation for being crazy. After my dad was happy with his shots from his mobile phone we continued our journey. He is not exactly an accomplished photographer but he does seem to stop and click away at every opportunity. We continued along the side of the Derwent reservoir using the path where we could with me finding every patch of mud and puddle to sprint through and play in. I was preoccupied by the birds in the wooded area as usual. I saw my first grey squirrel of the day as it climbed a Scots Pine tree at about one hundred miles per hour. I tried barking, jumping, screeching and running around the tree but could I catch it? No! We passed kilometre markers along the roadside that were obviously waymarkers positioned for cyclists to follow. I think that I prefer kilometres to miles as you seem to clock up distance quicker and achieve a bigger number. Or is that just me? Why should I care about stuff like that when I zoom around zig zagging or stopping to sniff or sprinting after stuff? I let my dad stress over stuff like that.
Along this section of the walk we came across the remains of ‘Tin Town’ as it was known locally. The hamlet of Birchinlee was constructed to temporarily house workers and their families who built the two dams at the beginning of the last century. The canteen or pub walls can be seen partly still standing. At one stage the population of this temporary village rose to over nine hundred. All around there is evidence of buildings that provided support for the workers such as a hospital, post office, shops, police station etc. Sadly, eighteen navies died during the construction which took fourteen years to complete.
We soon turned left and then right again as we passed around where Ouzelden Brook feeds the reservoir. As we then continued north the views both up and down the water was stunning in the morning light with the clear blue skies overhead. Before long we were next to Howden dam which held back the Howden reservoir. There were more stunning views along the water and of Back Tor across the reservoir to our east. We passed Beaver’s Croft which was once the home of the Chief Engineer in charge of the construction of the dams. It is now divided into holiday accommodation. We passed the dam and followed the road heading west along the banks of the River Westend. This river feeds the Howden reservoir and we crossed it over a stone bridge before heading east again on the opposite banks of the infeed river. It was just along here that the icy wind picked up speed as did my dad’s pace. We came across a conveniently positioned log that my dad sat on while we had our snack. I gobbled down my food as quickly as possible so that I could scrounge some off my dad. He doesn’t like me doing this but he always gives me some anyway. So, it’s his fault. Right? He gave me some of his ham sandwich and some of his cheese sandwich. I would have shared some of my turkey flavoured kibble with him but he didn’t seem to want any. His loss I suppose. He had some Heinz Tomato soup from his flask. He said that it was yummy and that it only tasted good in the outdoors on a cold winter’s day. That doesn’t make any sense to me as it is the same stuff whether you eat it indoors or outdoors. He offered me a taste but I took one sniff of it and thought that I would pass.
Once we had had our fill we set off again against the cold wind before we turned north again through the trees. There was an oak tree just ahead with a marker stone that indicated that King George VI had planted it in 1945. Obviously, I wanted to pee on the stone but my dad dragged me away mid pee. His timing can be a problem at times. Ahead there was a turning circle at the end of the road before we entered an area with a footpath on the other side of a gate. The surface changed to a stony path after we passed over Linch Clough. This area was starting to look a bit more remote as we left the woodland behind us. To our right was the northern end of the reservoir and to our left was open hillside. After passing through another section of woodland with the River Derwent, which was more like a large stream, on our right we came to Slippery Stones. The moss covered stepping stones tend not to be used these days as the river is crossed by a packhorse bridge. My dad took the obligatory photographs before we very soon turned south to head back towards Fairholmes along the eastern banks of the reservoir. I had to be put on my lead for a short while until we had passed through a grouse moor. I personally thought that this would be a great reason for me to be off lead. No such luck!
It was at this time that I was fascinated by a sparrowhawk soaring amongst a flock of starlings (I think) choosing which one to chase. My thoughts were that I have a lot in common with that sparrowhawk but he can fly to chase birds. Life can be so unfair. If only I could fly! The area was open now and the cold wind was in our faces. The sky was clouding over with some menacing black stuff in the direction that we were heading. To our left we could see four rocky outcrops protruding from the crest of the grass covered hills. More photographs! Luckily for me we soon came across a gate which lead us to a forestry track where I was allowed to run off the lead again. This lead to an incident! I was distracted by a squirrel and then by some birds. I had to chase them of course. I don’t think that my dad understands the shear necessity for me to do this. Off I went up a steep hillside into the trees. I could hear him shouting me and whistling. He even started clapping. Would I come back? Well, not just yet. He said that I was out of his sight on and off for five or more minutes. I don’t see the problem. I would go back to him when I had finished what I was doing. When I did get back to him he was decidedly unhappy with me. He made me go back on my lead and walk to heel. I did as he expected for a while. I knew that if I hung back for a while and kept my head down he would melt and forgive me. He kept giving me the look and was obviously giving me the silent treatment. This never lasts too long so I just rode the storm. Soon he leant over and unclipped my lead and told me to behave. He is a push over really but he did say that he was going to be stricter with me about my recall. We will see!
We crossed Howden Clough which fed the reservoir before we came to Howden Dam again. It was still quite deserted on this day and we had only seen a dozen or so cyclists and a handful of walkers. It was great for me so that I could stay off lead. Well, providing that I behaved, I suppose. The rush of water over the dam was quite deafening. The power of the water was evident and useful too as we learned at our next short stop. This was at the Howden hydro-power scheme plant. This is a small scale plant that can supply electricity to the National Grid. Further down the tree lined track we arrived back at the Derwent dam. We headed down a long flight of steps to the viewing area near the base of the overflow. Again, my dad took more photographs. There are some good information boards here that explain about the current uses of the dam, their history and notably the Dambusters story. My dad told me about how the bouncing bomb was developed at the end of WWII and flown in Lancaster bombers over the water at low level while the pilots trained for their mission. It meant nothing to me although he seemed to be fascinated. The only flying things that interest me are birds! We dropped down onto the grassy area below the dam to take even more photographs before we returned to the car which was just along the road.
There were a lot of cars and people in the car park area by now. I think that we timed our walk quite well. We avoided the parking problems. We avoided the crowds and as it just started to rain, we avoided the bad weather. Just as we arrived back at the car the rain started to fall quite heavily. So, after taking my harness off, a quick snack and drink of water, I settled into my bed again. As we set off and joined the A57 snow started to fall. This was fairly heavy as we drove up the Snake Pass but soon cleared as we drove over the highest point. I was asleep by then and I was happy that he was listening to the football commentary on the radio rather than ‘der derring’. It had been another good day in the outdoors and I was exhausted because I had been off lead for most of the day. I had been good for my dad except for one short sprint through the woods. I don’t see what his problem is myself. He is just a grump at times. He said that it was a good job that I had my GPS tracker on. I just think that he is a stress head!