Distance: 10.3 miles
Time: 3-4 hours (walk); 1 hour (bike ride)
Terrain: A mix of country lanes and off-road trails with some uneven ground
Accessibility: Generally well-made tracks, some gates, no stiles, short stretches of uneven ground
Facilities: Cycle hire, bike wash, toilets, café, gift shop
Start and Finish Point: Grid Reference SK 17247 – Postcode S33 0AQ – /// drove.professed.bunkers
This lovely circular walk or bike ride begins and ends at Fairholmes Visitor Centre, run by the Peak District National Park. The route completes a circuit of both Derwent and Howden Reservoirs, with a beautiful old packhorse bridge as a great halfway point and picnic stop. There is stunning countryside along the way, and for the most part the route uses well-made paths and lanes.
This is a walk or bike ride of just over 10 miles. Although it’s a fair trek the terrain is relatively flat and gentle with only a short section of uneven ground, and it should be accessible for most walkers, cyclists and those in all-terrain wheelchairs. There is a cycle hire station at the start with a wide variety of bikes for the whole family to hire, as well as a small shop, takeaway café and toilets. Some free parking is available along the route, but if you choose to park in the designated car park at the Visitor Information Centre for a small charge, your money goes towards maintaining the facilities in this stunning area. Allow 3-4 hours to walk this route at a moderate pace, or 1 hour to cycle it.
1 . From Fairholmes Visitor Centre, turn right and walk or ride out on to the road that leads to the Dams. This road is closed to traffic entirely at weekends and is usually fairly quiet during the week. You will quickly pass the magnificent Derwent Dam on your right, and the start of Derwent Reservoir.
2. The construction of the dam and reservoir began in 1902 and took more than 1,000 workers over 14 years to complete. As you continue along the road, you will pass the remains of the town constructed for the workforce, known as Birchinlee or ‘Tin Town’. Take time to read the notice boards giving information about the building of the dams.
3. As you continue along the road, you will next see Howden Dam to your right. This marks the division between Derwent Reservoir and Howden Reservoir. Howden Dam was completed slightly earlier than Derwent Dam, in 1912.
4. After approx. 8km, you will reach the end of the road and pass through a gate on to a track, heading slightly uphill through woodland. The reservoir ends at this point, and peters out to the River Derwent on your right. The high slopes of Ox Hey rise up to your left.
5. At the 9km point the path forks. Head for the smaller gate to your right, which leads down to the beautiful packhorse bridge over the River Derwent, as it tumbles over rocks and creates small waterfalls. The bridge originally spanned the river by the main gates of Derwent Hall, and was rebuilt stone by stone when the Hall was demolished in the creation of Ladybower Reservoir during the Second World War.
6. Cross over the bridge and turn right, following the well marked Cycle Route, signposted to Derwent Valley. The path is easy to follow as it snakes through the hills.
7. You soon meet up with Howden Reservoir again, this time on the other side, with trees lining your path. Watch out for Howden Dam once more, and continue following the path as it leads beside Derwent Reservoir.
8. The path eventually reaches a junction with a quiet road, just before which you will see a sign for Fairholmes Visitor Centre. Turn right on the road and follow this downhill towards the mighty Derwent Dam, which towers in front of you. Follow the road as it bears left in front of the dam, and returns to your start point at Fairholmes Visitor Centre directly ahead.