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Alport Castles & Ladybower Reservoir

With a good day weather wise, we decided to head off to the Peak district again, and visit one of our favourite places, Ladybower reservoir . We arrived in the Fairholmes visitor centre (streetmap) by Derwent dam just after nine in the morning, this car park fills up very quickly on a nice day, so get there early. You will find all lovers of the outdoors up here, mountain bikers, climbers, walkers and also road cyclists all visiting this place in their droves. There is a small shop for hot food and drink and it is the start point for many walks. On this walk we took the west side of Derwent reservoir and headed North past Nabs wood towards Beavers croft, which is all on the flat. It was after a short while we found the remnants of Tin Town, this was the old town where all the workers that constructed the great dams lived.

Looking Towards Derwent Reservoir

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Tin Town

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Birchinlee, or Tin Town as it came to be known was a village built by the Derwent Valley Water Board for the workers (and their families) who constructed the Derwent and Howden Dams between 1902 and 1916. Most of the workers had previously been engaged in the construction, in Wales, of the Elan Valley Reservoirs where the accommodation was very basic. At Birchinlee, a model village was built; its infrastructure included hospitals, school, canteen, post office, shops, recreation hall, public bath house, police station, railway station, rubbish dump with incinerator, and much else. One of the shops was a well stocked store owned by the Gregory brothers from Tideswell. Village accommodation consisted of workmen's huts, foremen's huts and married workmen's huts. The latter were decorated to a high standard, as photographs from the period confirm. The population rose to 900 people.

Alport Castles

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After a while we passed Howden Dam and headed west towards the woods and the path (
streetmap) that would lead us up to the top of Alports Castles. The climb is very steep and you quickly gain the height needed to get to the top, but the effort is well worth it with one of the best views, we thought, of the peak district. Alport Castles (streetmap) is probably one of the most spectacular landscape features in the Peak District. Reputed to be the largest natural landslip in the UK, it shows the powerful forces of nature at work here in this dramatic location.
Imagine yourself standing at Alport Castles 300 million years ago, the scene would be very different. You would be in the middle of a massive river delta which flowed into a shallow tropical sea which then covered the Peak District. The mud and sand particles carried in the river were deposited in layers in the delta. Over millions of years these deposits were slowly compressed as layer upon layer gradually created the smooth, soft shale and coarse, hard gritstone rocks we see today.
The industry that was constructed here was on a massive scale and when you see the size of the dams and the reservoirs that lay underneath them you will appreciate the work involved. Its best to get a good day to fully explore this walk. In bad weather on the moors it can become a bleak place so make sure you have a map and compass at hand and know how to use them. Most of the paths on this walk are in good order but it can become a bit boggy in places. The views on this walk were spectacular and it was well worth the visit.
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