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The hunter waits patiently for the birds to emerge at Ladybower Reservoir. There is a rustle then the grouse break cover, their wings thrumming and beating their escape. Unable to get a shot but hardly disappointed, the hunter climbs from the tuff and stone blind and surveys the landscape around him. His blind high on the heather covered moors overlooks some of the most beautiful countryside in the United Kingdom. Patchwork fields dotted with small farms and ringed with stone walls cover gently rolling dales in a pattern dating back to medieval times. The sparkling reservoirs that fill the valleys, however, are more recent and only add to the beauty of the Peaks District. Ladybower Reservoir is the largest, and surrounded by the moors, dales, and quintessential English countryside, the view is well worth the hike with or without the grouse.
Ladybower Reservoir or Ladybower Lake as it is also known is one of three reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley. Established in 1899, the Derwent Valley Water Board was charged with providing a safe and stable water supply for Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, and Sheffield. Construction on Howden and Derwent Dams began almost immediately creating two water storage reservoirs on the River Derwent. Ladybower Reservoir was added later with construction beginning in 1935 and finishing in 1943. The reservoir drowned both Ashopton Village and Derwent Village. Villagers were relocated to houses at Yorkshire Bridge. Miss A. Cotterill of Gwinnett House was the only resident that refused to move. She lived in her home until her death at 99 years old in 1990. By that time Ladybower Lake's water was touching her front garden steps.
Gwinnett House is still visible as are the last remnants of Derwent Village. Visitors can see them from the walk that rings Ladybower Lake. The beautiful, ornate waterworks buildings below Ladybower Dam are also visible from the walk as are the two bellmouth overflows. Known locally as plugholes, the overflows are one of the reservoir's more interesting features. About 80 feet in diameter the overflows act as giant drains letting excess water cascade into them as they narrow to 15 feet at their outlet at the base of the dam.
Construction on Ladybower Reservoir had been slowed but not stalled by World War II. The Upper Derwent Valley reservoirs played an important role in the war. The similarities of the Derwent and Howden Dams to the Mohne and Eder Dams in Germany made them the ideal training grounds for the 617 Squadron of the RAF also known as "the Dambusters." The Dambusters flew runs over the dams so close to houses and farms they rattled shingles loose and inhibited milk and egg production. Today visitors can tour a memorial and museum in honor of the Dambusters and Operation "Chastise" at the Derwent Dam. By 1945 World War II was over and Ladybower Reservoir had filled completely. In celebration of both, King George II and Queen Elizabeth presided over the opening ceremony for Ladybower Reservoir on September 25, 1945.
Ladybower Lake is at the heart of the Peaks District National Park. Drawing more than two million visitors a year, it is one of the United Kingdom's most popular national parks. The Peaks district can be divided into three regions, White Peak, Dark Peak, and South West Peak. The landscape ranges from gristone rock ledges that draw climbers from across the world to high moorland full of grouse, goshawk and mountain hare. Blanket bogs made up of sphagnum moss and heather covers the moors. There are woodland forests used for timber and wildlife, and farms scattered across the gently rolling hills. Footpaths and bicycle trails cross the park, and hikers of all skill levels will find paths through the beautiful English countryside. The Peaks District National Park is 555 square miles and covers parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Cheshire Counties.
Boats are allowed on parts of Ladybower Reservoir, and there are boat rentals available. Power boats, however, are restricted. The lake is a popular place to fly fish from the bank or by boat, and anglers will plenty of trout to challenge them. The trout season extends to the end of November with size restrictions and daily catch limits. Anglers can fish for pike through the end of February.
After a day spent on the water or tromping through the moors, there are several lakeside restaurants for dinner or a pint. There are lakeside and lake view vacation rentals, and various accommodations in Bamford Village, the only original village left in the Upper Derwent Valley. Sheffield, the United Kingdom's fifth largest city, is just fifteen miles from Ladybower Reservoir with any amenities a visitor might need along with real estate for sale for those wishing to extend their stays.
At Ladybower Reservoir, visitors can step out of their doors and into the settings of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Its storybook charm makes it the perfect Peaks District destination.
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