It had been a while since I’d done any walking from the Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District where the Ladybower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs are to be found. This is an area as wild as any in Britain with a real sense of remoteness despite its general proximity to Sheffield and Manchester. I duly left home for the drive up the Derwent valley intending to make for Kings Tree at the north end of the reservoirs, prior to a walk onto Bleaklow. However, when I reached the visitor centre at Fairholmes, I found that this plan was thwarted by a road closure for forestry work so had to rapidly rethink. I chose a walk from Paul Besley’s ‘Dark Peak Walks’ that would take me onto the Howden Moors up Margery Hill and then along the top south to Back Tor before descending back to Fairholmes, a distance of 21km.
I parked at the free car park overlooking Ladybower about 400m from Fairholmes, which is expensive to park at, and set off under rather grey gloomy skies, threatening rain, which fortunately didn’t result in anything much. The autumn colours looked amazing, especially with the colours saturated by the light rain. I made rapid progress north along the east side of Derwent Reservoir, noting how low the reservoirs were, passed Howden dam, marking the start of Howden Reservoir and reached the start of Howden Clough.
I followed the path up the clough and then cut up onto the moorland of Upper Hey. The route had suddenly become pathless and very rough underfoot making progress quite arduous. After about a kilometre of rough going, I reached the top of Cranberry Clough and eventually the well worn bridlepath from the Upper Derwent Valley to Langsett. A little more climbing saw me reach the broad ridge and after walking a further 500m south east, I reached the summit of Margery Hill, 546m high, a hill with a real feeling of remoteness, a feeling enhanced by the fact I’d passed no other walkers. I didn’t linger as the weather was still overcast and feeling chilly in the light winds.
I followed the good path south close to the edge before cutting east over Featherbed Moss, more pathless and rough terrain. After tramping for 2km during which I startled a hare, I reached the main path leading to Back Tor, much of which is paved with gritstone slabs. Back Tor was visible on the horizon and looked a long way away, but I made good progress walking on the slabbed path. Back Tor, 538m is a very fine vantage point and was a good spot for lunch. I encountered a few other walkers here, as it is a popular objective along the Derwent Edge to the south.
It wasn’t long before I was feeling cold and started the descent to the Derwent dam in brief periods of sunshine admiring the amazing tree colours around Fairholmes. It wasn’t long before I was down at the dam and back where I’d parked the car.