The Ladybower Dam in the Peak District

Three reservoirs in the not so Silent Valley

9, May 2017 | Peak District

The Silent Valley Book cover

Derwent, Ladybower and Howden Reservoirs

Following reading a fictional story by a local author, Mark Scott, The Silent Valley, it reawakened interest in the history of the Upper Derwent and the lost villages of Derwent and Ashopton. These were submerged following the construction and flooding to form Ladybower Reservoir in the 1930s.
The three stunning reservoirs, which now sit within this valley, are the Derwent, Ladybower and Howden. All were created in the early part of the 20th Century. At the time this was a great feat of engineering but caused local controversy. They were needed due to the ever-expanding population of Sheffield and the East Midlands. Now, they look as they have always been there, enhancing the natural beauty of the valley with its steep sides, rugged outcrops and heather and bracken.Ladybower reservoir plug hole

During the creation of the reservoirs two villages were flooded, Derwent and Ashopton. The residents were relocated to villages surrounding the reservoirs. The water level in the Ladybower reservoir during a dry spell can drop that much that the remains of the lost village of Derwent reappear (drought conditions in 1976 and 1989 1976, 1989, 1996 and 2003 uncovered much of Derwent stonework).

The Ladybower Dam design is unusual in having two totally enclosed bell mouth overflows (locally named the “plug-holes”) at the side of the wall. These are stone and of 80 feet in diameter with outlets of 15 feet diameter. The bell mouths are often completely out of the water and are only rarely submerged, often after heavy rainfall or flooding.

Howden Dam on upper Derwent

Watercolour painting of Ladybower damDuring the second world war (1939-1945) the 617 Dambusters squadron regularly used Derwent Dam to fly over practicing ahead of the bombing raids in May 1943, on the dams of Germany’s Upper Ruhr with bouncing bombs invented by Barnes Wallis. A museum can be found in the western tower of the Gothic castellation of the dam commemorating the squadron.

Wildlife is in abundance in this valley, the reservoirs are home to native brown trout and the hillsides are used by sheep, deer and the occasional mountain hare. It is also a bird watcher’s paradise with Merlins zooming across the moors and skylarks singing the hearts out across the valley. Other birds you will see are woodpeckers, swallows, swifts and sand martins and red grouse. A great place for walking and exploring.

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