Surrounded by wonderful Dark Peak Countryside, Ladybower Reservoir was constructed in 1943 when the Ashopton and Woodland valleys were flooded. It was officially opened in 1945 by George VI and is a remarkable feat of engineering, continuing the line of dams downstream from Howden and Derwent. Famously, the reservoirs were used to train The Dambuster bomber crews during WWII, as the towers and dams bore an uncanny resemblance to their targets in Germany; filming for The Dambusters movie also took place here.
Ladybower Wood, managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, is one of the few remaining examples of upland oakwood, (which here also includes silver birch and rowan) in the Peak District. Look for lichens (more than 75 species!), woodland birds, such as the redstart and pied flycatcher and, where the reserve meets the moor, red grouse along with mountain hare. More widely, look out also for rare birds of prey, including goshawks over the forests that border the reservoir.
Ladybower offers some of the most wonderful walking country in the whole of The Peak District, with the craggy escarpments of Derwent Edge and Bamford Edge offering spectacular views of the forests and open waters, while Win Hill is like a mini Everest rising triumphantly from its ridge.
At the National Park’s centre, situated at the Fairholmes Car Park, you can hire cycles of all descriptions on which to explore the bridleways – most of which are really easy as they skirt the banks of the reservoirs. There is an excellent information centre there, also.
Ladybower’s one public house is The Yorkshire Bridge Inn, at the hamlet of the same name, which was built at the same time as the dam in order to house its workers. No longer simply a humble inn, The Yorkshire Bridge is an award-winning four-star country house hotel, but walkers, drivers and cyclists are still very welcome in its public bars.
The nearest village to Ladybower is Bamford, where there are a few local shops and two excellent pubs serving food – The Angler’s Rest and The Derwent Arms (though the latter is currently up for sale).
Just to the south of the village is The High Peak Garden Centre, which incorporates an antique shop, a second-hand bookshop, a specialist aquatic supplier, (including plants and fish) and a little café called The Bay Tree, serving snacks and home-made cakes. The railway station at Bamford also provides the area with a fast public transport connection, linking Manchester and Sheffield through the beautiful Hope Valley and Edale.