A visit to England’s oldest National Park had me reflecting on bravery, sacrifice, and the need for waterproof trousers.
England has many protected outdoor areas, each with their own character, and the Peak District National Park showcases the highs and lows of visiting rural Britain. This splodgy area between the industrial cities of Sheffield and Manchester contains history, outstanding natural beauty, local character and sporting activities. Yet the wind and water that lurk in the clouds still derail so many plans…
We drove through the Midland countryside from Bristol to our base at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, passing the twisty tower of Chesterfield church and the home of the synthetically tasty Bakewell tart. Blessed with sunshine on our first day, we skirted around the Ladybower reservoir, watching the luminous grass banks host olive-green smudges of colour from the shadows of the overhead clouds. It’s hardly original to describe a sense of peace when reconnecting with nature but it is honest. Memories of cramped city commutes, computer screens and conference calls dissolve when even mobile phone reception fails.
Ladybower, however, is not as ‘natural’ as she first seems. This is an entirely man-made reservoir, created in the twentieth century to relieve the water shortages in Sheffield and around. Two villages, Derwent and Ashopton, were systematically flooded to create this peaceful scene and their ruins still lie below the water level. A giant plug-hole sits on the west bank, poised to manage overflow. In these parts, torrential rainfall is only ever just around the corner.
Win Hill rises up from the reservoir edge, accessible from a number of footpaths and bridleways. From the exposed, windswept peak, I appreciated for the first time the rugged nature of the Peak District. The rocky outcrops, the reservoirs – and the creamy cement factory, which somehow blended into the experience.
The first thick drops of rain chased us back into the valley, to shelter in that traditional British institution, the pub. Back within warmth and safety and sipping a pint of honeyed Yorkshire Pride I gazed at the photographs displayed between the ceramic jugs and “Gardener of the Year” awards. A lonely church spire rises out of the lake, the last sign of this Derbyshire Atlantis.
Water takes no prisoners in the Peak District.
Read Day Two in the Peak District here.