4 November 2015

Derwent

The east tower - Howden Dam
Don't worry. No more ranting about retired politicians today. Instead let me take you ten miles west of Sheffield to The Upper Derwent Valley. Until 1902 it was a peaceful cleft in the earth with moorland streams running down into the babbling River Derwent as it began its winding journey towards the city of Derby. There was a handful of  sheep farms and two tiny villages - Derwent and Ashopton but their remains are now hidden from view under three large reservoirs - Howden, Upper Derwent and Ladybower.

The construction of the reservoirs with their three sturdy dams took over forty years. It was a massive engineering project, punctuated by two world wars and the economic slump of the nineteen thirties, But finally on September 25th 1945, King George VI planted an oak tree near the head of Howden Reservoir to mark the completion of the work.

In the early years of work in the valley a temporary labourers' village was built near Birchinlee Farm and it was known locally as "Tin Town" for obvious reasons. Very little of that encampment remains but one of the tin huts was dismantled in the nineteen thirties and transported to the village of Hope where it is still used as a hairdressers' salon to this day.
Commemorative plaque at the site of Tin Town
On Monday I woke to bright sunshine even though the radio announcers were talking about widespread fog around the country with many flight cancellations and chaotic motorways. After my morning shower, mug of tea and toast with honey,  I was off in my car - westwards to the Upper Derwent Valley on the A57 road which crosses the Ashopton viaduct over Ladybower Reservoir. There was cloud in the valley and soon after I had turned right to travel north to Howden Reservoir, I  just had to stop to take this picture looking back at the viaduct:-
I completed two walks that day. The shorter first walk saw me scrambling like a commando through thick pine forest, fields of bracken and clinging brambles over barbed wire fences, knowing that if I fell nobody would find me for months on end. The second, much longer, walk took me along the River Westend and up on to the windswept moors which lie west of the Upper Derwent Valley. They are the haunt of grouse and blackface sheep. Up on the top the November sunshine was warm upon my skin and so I was pleased that I had chosen to leave my jacket in the car. But down below the Westend Valley was rapidly being plunged into shadowy darkness. It was time to head home.
The end of Ridge Clough
Remains of an old field wall now deep in a pine plnatation 
The track to Dry Clough - up to the moors
Guardian of The Moors
Grouse butt Number 9 on moorland above The River Westend 
Bob the Blackface Sheep says "Baaaa!"

23 comments:

  1. A grand place to wander at this time of year.

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    1. Especially as the BBC news was reporting widespread fog that day.

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  2. Stunning photos. My favorite is "Guardian of the Moors"...there's something about the light in that one that really speaks to me. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Yes Jennifer - when that one came up on my computer I was also drawn to it. I hope it gives something of an idea of the height I was at - up on that normally windswept and inhospitable moor.

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  3. I was so sure that because you planted the seed of thought about the oak tree King George planted, we'd see a picture of it. My favorite of this series is the end of Ridge Clough. I love that dark, forbidding sky behind the autumn brightness. Long life and many hikes to you, friend.

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    1. Thank you Jan but please take another look. That is not a dark forbidding sky - it is the shady forest on the other side of that particular arm of Howden Reservoir.

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  4. A fav place ofmine......i remember walking around it many times with collegues, friends and patients from spinal injuries at lodge moor

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    1. So it was you who carved "JG WOZ ERE" on the oak tree that King George VI planted!

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  5. You'll have to go roaming in the gloaming next so you can share some wonderful twilight images with us.

    I'm sure that sheep, Bob, follows you everywhere you roam!!

    Another group of lovely photos, Yorkie...thanks. :)

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    1. I hope you are not implying that I have a "relationship" with Bob! After all I am neither Welsh nor a New Zealander!

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    2. Hahahahaha! Not at all, Yorkie!

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  6. Interesting group of pictures. Is a 'grouse butt number 9' similar to a duck blind where hunters can hide from birds? And what do you suppose the ring on the wall of it is for?
    I love the pic of the stone wall in the forest....The passing of time.
    You British people seem to have an awful lot of sheep loitering about wherever you go.

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    1. Yes that's right a hiding place for hunters when the grouse fly over the moor - usually driven out by grouse beaters. I don't know what that ring is for. Your guess is as good as mine Hilly (Penelope?) And yes we do have a lot of sheep but probably not as many as we had in past centuries.

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  7. Three cheers for the Upper Derwent Valley; it beats the tripe out of a rant about a politician.

    The Soup Ladle Award for this week will be judged on photos from today's & tomorrow's posts. What a clumsy sentence!.

    Already there are two contenders.

    Ms Soup

    .

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    1. Having already won a prestigious Soup Ladle Award it would be a dream come true to win a second award. I will be keeping (almost) everything crossed!

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  8. All these pictures are great and make me want to go for a nice long hike there. But the most intriguing one is the bits of wall in the forest. You're sure it was a field wall and not part of a house that once stood there? I love the images my mind comes up with in connection with such pictures, also at the mention of the now submerged villages.
    The ring in the wall could be for a hunter to tie his or her dog to it, so that the hunter can wait with the dog patiently by their side instead of excitedly running around, sniffing out rabbit holes etc., and reveal the hiding place to the unsuspecting grouse.

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    1. Intelligent and probably accurate idea about the ring on the grouse butt.
      Yes that bit of wall was part of a field wall that is clearly marked on Ordnance Survey maps and I followed the course of it through the woods. There is a book about the deliberate flooding of The Upper Derwent. It is called "The Silent Valley" and shows photographs of the small communities that existed there below the water. Once, when the reservoirs were particularly low, I walked about the foundations of an old farm that is normally hidden from view.

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  9. Great pictures, especially the bridge over the lake and the guardian sheep. What on earth is a grouse butt?

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    1. Don't worry Steve - not the American use of the term "butt"! It is where tweeded toffs (grouse shooters) wait with their rifles to blast grouse out of the sky when scared from the rough moorland pastures by grouse beaters. On that particular moor there are a dozen butts and a couple of small shooting cabins too.

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  10. Any idea what the villagers who had to move out thought of it all? Were they happy with their cash / new house ? compensation, or did they fight to stay in the valley? I often think that of course these huge changes are done for the general good and everyone is happy, but now I know people personally over here affected by reservoir-building who have been forced out of their homes (for a pathetic compensation pay), or who are still fighting against what they see as daft plans, well, I have an open mind in the subject....

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    1. I can't answer that Brian but I know that in 1949 a former farmer from Ashopton made good use of the low water levels that dry summer to retrieve some stones from his old property to make a rockery at his new house. When we are pursuing "the greater good", the feelings of individuals are generally steam-rollered.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your photos. I have been trying to find out more information about Dry Clough, so it was wonderful to see your photo of the track leading there. My Great Grand parents and my Grandmother are recorded as living at Dry Clough in the 1911 Census. If you have another photo's of Dry Clough or information about the place, I'd love to know.

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    1. Thanks for calling by Michael. Do you live in Britain? The best thing would be for you to plan a hike up to Dry Clough yourself. It is a wild place on the edge of exposed moors. There may be other "Dry Cloughs" in Derbyshire. Are you sure this is the right one?

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