Autumn in the Peak District

The east track of Derwent Reservoir in autumn. Upper Derwent Valley. Dark Peak. Peak District National Park
Down the East Track towards Derwent Dam 2016

The first day of September and there is a cool breeze coming through my open window.

Autumn is on its way.

Scout at the vets. Scout is a trainee search and rescue dog with me in Mountain Rescue.
Scout at the vets.

I have just taken Scout to the vets to be neutered, its not a thing I have been looking forward to and advice I have sought has gone either way, leaving me constantly thinking if I have made the right decision. It is not a good feeling. I decided to get the operation done now because I myself am laid up with a sprained ankle after slipping on limestone chipping in the Yorkshire Dales. So all in all its an odd time.

Monty standing guard
Monty standing guard and giving me accusing looks

Monty, one of our other dogs, sits across the landing from my office door just looking at me. Its as though he is asking me what have I done with Scout? Where is he?

I love this time of year in the Peak District National Park, the colours, the smells, birds scratching in the fallen leaf for food. Its a time of slowing down, shorter cooler days, longer shadows. The crowds soon stop coming into the Upper Derwent Valley leaving it to those who love to explore its hidden corners.

As nature shuts down for winter the landscape changes, it feels, smells and sounds different. Leaf is the first to fall, carpeting the ground in hues of brown, red and yellow. One of the greatest delights is the drive down the larch tree lined Derwent Lane to Fairholmes ranger centre in the valley on successive days and weeks and notice the colours turn from green to a vivid, almost fluorescent, yellow before the needles coat the floor in deep drifts.

 

 

Derwent Valley Autumn

It’s beautiful in the Upper Derwent Valley right now. The Beech, Oak and Larch are putting on a fantastic display of colour. The valley is probably one of the best places in the Peak District to see autumn in all it’s glory.

Thankfully the planners and builders of the reservoirs and the present day custodians saw fit to plant glorious woodlands including natural species, hence the colour.

The East Track is the easier walk, no traffic so you can amble along taking in the colours and that wonderful aroma of autumn.

The drive into Fairholmes from the Snake Road has to be one of the best in the country in autumn, a bit like New England, all golds, yellows, reds and browns.

The Derwent Reservoirs

thumb_img_2185_1024
The original plan for the Derwent Valley Water Board Reservoirs

Here is what the Upper Derwent and Woodlands Valley should have looked like. Originally there were set to be five reservoirs, Howden, Derwent, Bamford, Ashopton and Hagglee, each with a dam spanning the relevant valley.

The first two, Howden and Derwent were constructed at the turn of last century. The Derwent Valley Water Board also had the rights to the water in the Woodlands valley and developed plans to construct three huge reservoirs stretching up the Woodlands valley, consuming the Snake Road and most of the farms and Hamlets on either side.

The major problem with the plan was the Snake Road, one of only two trans Pennine routes, the other being the Woodhead Road. Re-routing the Snake was a major construction project with huge cost implications. To reduce the cost an alternative proposal was put forward. If you have to move the road, why not just construct one enormous dam spanning the Derwent Valley at Bamford and rising to the top of Bamford Edge and across to Win Hill. Both the Derwent and Howden dams would have been consumed  beneath the waters.

Eventually, cost and the inter war years moved the focus on to a third reservoir, Ladybower, stretching from Yorkshire Bridge up to Fairholmes, flooding the villages of Derwent and Ashopton.

Of course if one huge dam had been built there may not have been the Dambusters raid in Germany, no Four Inns walk and the start of Peak District Mountain Rescue, no Upper Derwent Valley.

So there you have it, that’s why the Upper Derwent looks like it does today.