Ladybower Reservoir is situated in the Upper Derwent Valley at the heart of the Peak National Park, in an area often referred to as the “Lake District of the Peak”. It is surrounded by magnificent countryside where water and woodland, topped by high moors, predominate. In recent years forestry has become an important factor and the sides of the valley have been clothed in conifers. Not surprisingly, the area has become so popular that over two million people visit each year.
These photographs of mine were taken literarily within a space of a week from a dry period to having the really heavy downpours of rain and days of snow, the rivers and dams have been fit to bursting again.
The valley was a very attractive location for the storage of water, with its long deep valley and narrow points for dam building. This combined with a high average rainfall, low population level and heavy demand for water from the industrial towns that surrounded the Peak District, made the case for reservoir construction. The Derwent Valley Water Board was set up in 1899 to supply water to Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester and the Howden and Derwent Reservoirs were constructed shortly afterwards.
At that time the demand for water was satisfied and although plans existed for further reservoirs, no further action was taken. But demand continued to grow and the decision was taken to build one very large reservoir, to be called Ladybower. This though entailed the flooding of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent and caused considerable unrest. However, the project went ahead and the villagers were moved to houses built specially for them at Yorkshire Bridge.
The packhorse bridge that stood near to the gates of Derwent Hall, which had a Preservation Order on it, was moved stone by stone and rebuilt at Slippery Stones at the head of the Howden Reservoir. All the graves in the churchyard were excavated and the bodies reburied in nearby Bamford churchyard. A few properties built on slightly higher land, including the Shooting Lodge and former Roman Catholic School, survived. But the majority were demolished and flooded, leaving the church spire eerily poking out above the waters. The flooding was completed in 1945, and the opening ceremony was carried out on Tuesday September 25th 1945 by King George VI. Two years later the church spire was blown up.
The tiny village of Yorkshire Bridge, which lies in the shadow of the dam wall of the Ladybower Reservoir, with its neat, regimented rows of houses was used to house those rendered homeless by the flooding of the valley. One person though refused to move, Miss A Cotterill of Gwinnett House. She remained there until she died in 1990, at the age of 99, the waters of the reservoir lapping at the front garden steps.
The Derwent Dams were used during the Second World War to perfect the ‘bouncing bombs’ technique which in 1943, breached the Ruhr Valley Dams, in the heartland of industrial Germany. A plaque and memorial museum in the west tower of Derwent Dam retells the story of the Dambusters. The museum is open most Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the year.
text courtesy of : derbyshire-peakdisrtict