Ladybower - an outdoor adventure near Sheffield and the Peak District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 November 2018
A ten-minute drive from the western edge of Sheffield brings thrill-seekers to a Derbyshire valley where outdoor activities are thriving.
The paths that criss-cross this corner of the Peak District are among some of the national park’s most inspiring.
There’s something for everyone, from the low-lying riverside stretches along the Derwent Valley Heritage Trail to some of the most challenging hikes in the country. From the edge of Ladybower Reservoir you can make your way to the summit of Win Hill, Back Tor, Alport Castles and Kinder Scout. These read like a Who’s Who of notable hills, each one providing walkers with stunning views and an amazing sense of achievement when they crack open a picnic at the top.
Matthew Battye is a seasoned walker who loves stepping out in this neck of the woods. He told me: ‘Climbing up a hill like Kinder is strenuous exercise and is good for you, plus you get the views that go with it as well.
‘It’s much better than going to the gym. This environment and the challenge of the climb develops all different kinds of well-being.’
While Matthew climbs the Peak’s highest summit, there are thousands of people discovering that the Dark Peak is a haven for a wide range of other outdoor activities.
One of them is Neil Holt, whom I caught up with in the Derwent Valley just after he had hired a bike. On holiday from North Yorkshire, he had seen the cycle path around Derwent Valley recommended in a book and decided to give it a go.
‘I like the way there are so many off-road cycle routes in the Peak District, including this one around the three reservoirs, and I’ve also been on the Monsal Trail further south.
‘It’s great for families because you don’t have to worry about cars whizzing past. The Yorkshire Dales is great for bikes, but many of the most popular routes are on country lanes.’
Not so at Ladybower. Although a small access road heads partway up the west side of Derwent and Howden Reservoirs, this is closed to traffic at weekends. The rest of the outward route and all of the return track is a biker’s dream.
Some fairly rough terrain and the odd steep climb make this just challenging enough for a family outing and great exercise for experienced cyclists who want a fast ride in the countryside. There’s an idyllic bridge at the far side with a perfect picnic spot and even a temptation to paddle in the stream at a place known as Slippery Stones.
Bridleways over the hills to Langsett offer tough extensions for those needing to push themselves a little further.
As well as the fantastic walking and cycling opportunities enjoyed by thousands in the Derwent Valley, more extreme sports are thriving – especially at a residential centre located up the valley side amid the pine tree forest.
Lockerbrook Farm Outdoor Centre is owned and operated by The Woodcraft Folk. Its mission is to provide outdoor educational experiences for young people at a converted barn that dates back to the middle of the 18th century.
With stunning views, wild adventures on the doorstep and an incredible night sky if the clouds clear, Lockerbrook is the stuff of dreams for school kids hungry for memorable escapades.
Nights spent away from home and days devoted to nature; hundreds of young people have been inspired here by the extreme sports that the Peak District gloriously provides.
Further down the valley, fabulous gritstone edges appear high up on the hill. These are a magnet for the climbing fraternity who tackle them armed with mats, ropes and carabiners. But brave youngsters also traverse the dangerous drops the other way, abseiling down and making that all-important leap of faith over the top.
The dazzling gritstone tors have been eroded into mysterious formations over thousands of years, exposing an intriguing network of gaps, cracks and tunnels that invite exploration. These provide the perfect environment for youngsters to scrape and squeeze their way through on sessions of rock hopping and weaselling.
Another popular activity in this beautiful landscape is stream scrambling. This can be done on its own or as part of a lengthy walk. Walking up the hillside in the stream is something never to be forgotten – as long as you remember your wellies and don’t mind that the water is chilly whatever the time of year!
On fine days above Mam Tor it’s likely you’ll see a flock of hang gliders majestically weaving around in the sky. It’s a popular place for them to take off and some venture further afield if they can catch the right air current. The extreme opportunities of the Dark Peak are not restricted to the land.
Indeed, there are also opportunities for children, families and adults to get below the surface in a range of caving and cavern experiences within a short drive of Ladybower.
Katie Parkin is a teacher at Nook Lane Junior School, which looks out onto the eastern edges of the Peak District. She has taken groups of Year 6 children on many residentials and loves spending time with them in the Derwent Valley.
‘It’s one of the most beautiful, idyllic places and everybody has a good time. It’s inspirational and the children are calm and peaceful when they are out there,’ she said.
The Lockerbrook Centre proves to be a fabulous location for Mrs Parkin’s class. She added: ‘The activities and the outdoor spaces really help the children to thrive. It’s a week of the year that I really look forward to and they develop and become more independent in this remote location.’
Generations of young people have had fun exploring the outdoors along the valley that houses Ladybower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. Thankfully, there’s no sign of that coming to an end.