29 May 2014

The reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley

We frequently pass Ladybower Reservoir on our way to towns and villages in Derbyshire and it's also a favourite place to spend the day or even a few hours.  We were there again on Saturday with my cousin and her husband who had been holidaying in North Yorkshire and had stopped by to visit us before travelling back down to Berkshire. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good and we retreated back to the Strines Inn in our local Bradfield Dale where there was a roaring log fire and we enjoyed a delicious, freshly cooked hot lunch - very different from the filled bread roll and salad sitting outside in the sunshine during the previous weekend! However, my cousin's husband, who's a keen hill walker, was pleased to revisit the beautiful Upper Derwent Valley with its reservoirs, the Howden, the Derwent and the Ladybower.  The top reservoir is the Howden which is on the border between S. Yorkshire and Derbyshire, then the Derwent Reservoir and finally the Ladybower that has long stretches of water that form a Y shape).

Here are some photos of our time at Ladybower Reservoir on the day we enjoyed our last lot of really sunny weather!

We started off at the Ladybower Fisheries where there's some parking spaces by the roadside so that we could look out towards the Ashopton Viaduct before driving over it and along the road beside the long stretch of water that leads to the Derwent Dam and Reservoir then the Howden.

During WWII the Howden and Derwent Reservoirs and Dams were used by pilots of 617 'Dambusters' Squadron for training and practising low level flying before operations in the Rhur region due to the similarities to the German dams.  Occasional flypasts take place and there's an exhibition and memorial in the museum in one of the Derwent Dam towers.  The month of May being the anniversary of the operation, there was an 8-mile charity walk organised that weekend, this time in aid of leukaemia and lymphoma cancer research. 

The countryside here looks so tranquil that it's hard for the visitor to imagine what this valley must have been like before it was flooded in order to construct the reservoir (although it's almost within living memory and there are archived photographs).  Above is the present day area and a sketch of the village of Derwent whose ruins lie beneath the water (taken from an illustration on the site poster). Ladybower was built between 1935-1943 to supplement the other two reservoirs that had been constructed at the beginning of the 20th century in supplying water needs of the East Midlands. The building work was delayed during WWII and then it took months to fill the reservoir with water before it was opened in late 1945.

The two villages of Ashopton and Derwent that had been on the packhorse route were 'drowned' during the flooding of the valley.  Ashopton was demolished to make way for the Ashopton Viaduct whereas Derwent Village remained submerged under the water including Derwent Woodlands Church and Derwent Hall.  At one time the church tower could be seen during dry Summers when the water was low until it was demolished due to safety reasons when people would try to reach it. The 1914-18 war memorial to the men of Derwent Woodlands who died in the Great War can be seen by the roadside on the bank side opposite the 'lost village' and Ashes Farm on the opposite bank and part of the village still stands and is a National Trust property on managed NT land where there are important wild life habitats and archaeological sites.

We enjoy the woodland walks during different seasons of the year. There's a bus service that passes along this stretch of the water all the way to the Visitors' Centre near Derwent Dam which is also a popular picnic area.

You can just see a tower of Derwent Dam through the trees.

Derwent Dam and a meadow where we come to have a picnic in the summer holidays. 

I understand that the water has been flowing over the top of the wall into the overflow channel due to heavy rainfall that we've had this year and it must be a sight to see although we turned around before we got to this point and took the bank side road back to Ashopton Viaduct.  

The water was sparkling in the sunshine and I just caught a sight of a big group of Canada Geese that seem to like this spot as we've seen them there before.  

26 May 2014

Lea Gardens, Derbyshire and surrounding area

A visit to Lea Gardens and Nursery has been something I've wanted to do for a long time, but I've been saving it for good-weather day. Considering the weather has not been so good over the last few days we picked the right time last weekend to see the rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom.

There are many trees in the grounds that provide a sheltered canopy for the masses of colourful, mature rhododendrons to flourish. There are beautiful vistas from the higher ground on these south-facing slopes overlooking the Pennine peaks and there are shady, enclosed areas as the meandering pathways take the visitor through the gardens at different levels where the mature shrubs have grown to a great height. On the lower level there's also a woodland walk  The River Derwent flows in the valley below in an area where several mill owners lived and developed their textile mills.

John Marsden-Smedley was not only the local squire but a manufacturer of quality woollen garments located in the village of Lea. He was also a lover of plants and much of his land was given over to the planting of trees.  In the 1930s Smedley, then in his late sixties, started growing his collection of rhododendrons and azaleas on a specially-appointed and prepared site whose sheltered position allowed these ornamental specimens, including less-hardy varieties, to survive and thrive. During the next few decades he built up a collection of over 350 varieties on a 2-acre site before his death at the age of ninety-two.  When the estate was divided up the gardens were acquired by the Tye family who have continue to extend and develop them by introducing new plants, ornamental shrubs and trees. By opening the gardens to the public the present owners share their love of horticulture, garden design and expertise with those who enjoy gardening and visiting such places .

After enjoying some refreshments in the tea room I left my husband to sit in the sunshine and went to have a wander around the gardens.  Below are some of the photos I took to give you give an idea of the beauty I encountered.  As I didn't see half of the gardens during our time spent there we shall have to return when we're in that area of Derbyshire as there are collections of plants and interesting tree specimens other than the rhododendrons and azaleas.  Next time I will have my booklet in hand rather than a camera as it gives much information about the development of the gardens, a plan of the site and the names of many of the plant and trees to look out for on the walk.

 Looking up to the tea room and then looking across the valley from the seating area of the tearoom (below).

The tearoom, glasshouse and nursery

The lane up to the gardens and surrounding countryside (below)

We passed through the village of Lea where John Smedley Ltd. still produces fine knitwear today before stopping for a late lunch near Matlock Bath.

The mill buildings and mill pond

The fields above Matlock Bath with heavily wooded Masson Hill .The alpine-style cable car system
 takes visitors up to the summit called The Heights of Abraham.

19 May 2014

A restful few days

The weather forecast promised sunshine so we decided that we would take a break from some of the household routine of the last week and the ongoing building project in the entrance hall.

On Friday morning we went over to Ladybower Reservoir.
I love the combination of water and countryside 
and the walks along the many reservoirs in our area
are a good way of enjoying both.

The banks and woods along the Ladybower
are still covered in a haze of blue.

On Saturday morning I took a walk in the walled garden next to our local library.
There's so much to see and enjoy in every corner of it, including the kitchen garden.
 I also went into the woodland area just beyond the walled garden, which is always a quiet spot
for wild life.

On Sunday DH and I drove down to the Matlock Bath area
in Derbyshire to visit Lea Gardens and Nursery. They looked wonderful.
 The rhododendrons and azaleas are a speciality
of the owners of the garden and woodland set over several acres
in the heart of the countryside.

I do love white blooms so I added to our garden collection
with this azalea 'Alba' (below).

Our own small garden is bursting into bloom and the vegetables also are
coming on well. If the sunshine continues that's where I shall be
in the next few days in between some indoor projects.