White to Dark Day 3 (Part 2) – Moscar Moor to Hope

Published 6 October 2019

Moorland near Moscar House and the A57 road
Over Moscar Moor and Moscar Fields, and walking near Moscar Lodge. All in all, there’s a lot of Moscars.

Created to celebrate 25 years of Country Walking Magazine, the White to Dark is a 27 mile walking trail through the Peak District. The final day had started with a grave, and an extremely large amount of wind. And would end with a large reservoir, bouncing bombs, and a final hill with a view.

I was now heading towards the A57. For those not familiar with it, it’s a road running between Liverpool and Lincoln. And it cuts across the south of the Pennines, across the windswept moorland, on a section known as the Snake Pass. Its curious name comes from a pub on the road called the Snake Inn. Although to confuse things, the pub renamed itself the Snake Pass Inn. And that mean that the pub’s named after a road that’s named after the pub. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

A steady stream of traffic flowed along the road, heading to Manchester, Sheffield and beyond. I joined the road for a short way, enduring the litter filled verge that seems to be compulsory on such roads. Thanks motorists. It’s appreciated.

It was, at least, only a short section of road walking. Although I couldn’t escape the road. The path I now joined along the edge of Derwent Moors wasn’t keen to veer too far away from it for some reason.

Woodland near Ladybower Reservoir
Woodland near Ladybower Reservoir

There are other routes across these moors. Paths that the designers of the White to Dark could have chosen instead. Paths that would have escaped the road. And been a bit more picturesque. Although one that they picked did get to the Ladybower Inn much faster than the alternatives. Was someone in a hurry for a lunchtime pint when drawing up the trail’s route?

This pub wasn’t named after a road. Nor was a road named after it. Belief is that the name was a derived from the name of the Victorian era owners of the land, the Bower family. The name also lent itself to the nearby Ladybower Reservoir, the main focus of the next few miles of the walk.

Build started on this huge Y shaped reservoir in 1935, taking eight years to complete. And then it took another two years to fill it up with water. Two villages in the valley destroyed, and the residents relocated, to build it. The goal was, as is now, to the supply fresh, clean drinking water to the towns of the East Midlands. Water for Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester all comes from here.

The reservoir has another claim to fame. During World War II, bombing raids took place on several large dams in Germany. Operation Chastise led to major flooding, and the destruction of two hydro-electric power stations. An estimated 1,600 people died.

Ladybower dam
The dam at Ladybower Reservoir

The bombs used were specially designed, and became known as bouncing bombs. And it was over Ladybower than the pilots practised and made a lot of noise, much to the annoyance of local residents. The locals couldn’t escape after the war either. In the 1950s the planes returned. This time though, not for war, but for the movies. The Dambusters stared Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave. And much of the filming was at Ladybower.

From the pub, the official route of the White to Dark follows the main road along the side of the reservoir for a while. But I took a short detour via path that ran alongside. This took me through a car park equipped with a toilets, an oversized wooden bench, and a water fountain. A chance to taste fresh Peak District water? Well it would be rude not to.

Giant monument to the opening of Ladybower Reservoir
It looks like a war memorial, but these three large plaques celebrate the opening of Ladybower Reservoir.

After my worthy detour, rejoined the route proper next to a huge monument. It looked like a war memorial. But closer inspection revealed it was celebrating the opening of the reservoir. The stone slabs gave the names of the various aldermen of the Derwent Valley Water Authority. Each of them no doubt very enthusiastic about their role in the water business.

The Derwent Valley Water Authority got merged into the Severn Trent Water Authority in 1974. But the biggest change was to come fifteen years later when Severn Trent was flogged off by the Thatcher government. Because why should the provision of clean drinking water not be something you can make a profit on? But Ladybower remains an important water supply. Even if it is no longer owned by the people it serves.

A Peak and Northern Footpaths Society sign at the foot of Win Hill
There’s only one way to go! Well, okay, there’s two.

I crossed Ladybower’s substantial dam, and then found the path through the woods that went up Win Hill. It was a steep climb, one that would prove to be the hardest on the whole of the White to Dark. And one especially hard for someone who was a bit out of practise with hills. Someone who hadn’t done many hill climbs over a recent, cold winter. Someone like that. (Hello.)

The views weren’t much either. The trees blocked off most of the sights. On the plus side, they also softened those strong winds that had been battering me for most of the day. But as I approached Win Hill’s summits, both of those changed.

The trig point at the top of Win Hill
The trig point at the top of Win Hill

I stood at the white painted trig point that had been dumped on the top of the hill. If I looked in one direction, I could see the bold peaty moorland of the Dark Peak. To another, Castleton’s cement works.

Looking back behind me, I could see where I’d walked that day. Stanedge. Ladybower. Hathersage. And if I looked beyond that, some of the previous sections of the walk came into view as well. The mighty Eyam Moor, and beyond.

It was a stunning view. It was quite possible that it was the best on the whole walk. One I could have looked at for hours. Well, an hour. Give or take.

View of the Peak District from Win Hill
What a view from Win Hill

But it was too cold for such things. The wind was making sure of that. So instead I headed downhill. The heather topped moorland of Win Hill gave way to farmland, before I arrived in the village of Hope.

And before I knew it, I was stood outside the Old Hall Inn, opposite St Peter’s Church, and the end of the White to Dark.

No brass band was there to greet me. No one with a commemorative plaque or a bottle of champagne. But I’d done it. I’d walked from the White Peak and into the Dark. I had seen two different sides of the Peak District, all viewed and explored over three days. A worthy exploration indeed. But now I was done. It would soon be time to head home. But first a celebratory cake could be in order. A Bakewell Tart? Yes, that sounded rather like a plan.

The gorse lined path down to Hope
The gorse lined path down to Hope

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