Alongside the Derwent reservoir is a tourist information sign that describes Derwent village, and it’s flooding in the 1940s. Cheryl and I have passed it countless times, and we’ve frequently pondered what it would be like to see the remains. As we only go up once every couple of months, we assumed we’d never get the opportunity.
Recently however, we’ve been able to devote more time to hill walking, and last weekend decided to visit the area to follow our typical walk from Fairholmes to Alport Castle, and back via Lockerbrook. We got up early, enjoyed an athlete’s breakfast at McDonald’s, and made good progress to Ashopton. As we approached Fairholmes, Cheryl noticed the low water level in the reservoir and teased that we might get to see the flooded village.
As we changed into our walking boots, we decided to change our route, opting for the low road around the reservoir just in case we could see the church steeple pictured in that tourist information board. We speeded to the eastern shore of the reservoir, and as we approached the sign, we noticed numerous people walking on the mud flats and wondered why.
All became clear as soon as we approached Wellhead. Building ruins were clearly visible, and people were exploring them. One such family chatted with us by the sign, and eagerly pointed out the pile of rubble that used to be the church and a set of more distinctive walls belonging to the former hall. We chatted for a few minutes and then deviated from our planned route, and down onto the reservoir bed.
We spent around an hour wandering around. We were amazed at how well preserved many of the features were. The year 1867 was clearly etched into a brick from the church. Lintels from windows were easily identifiable. The most rememberable feature, however, was a beautiful stone bench near the old hall. We found the surrounding mud a little too tricky to negotiate for Cheryl to gain access to it, but we did witness a father and son recreating a photo they took on the bench during the last appearance in 1995.
Once satisfied that we’d explored the entire site, we walked up to the perimeter road, and back to that tourist information sign. It appeared so different after seeing the ruins. We were happy we’d seen them, but felt sad for the loss of such a beautifully located village. However, we really weren’t expecting the last surprise of the day.
As we chatted with a couple of families around the sign, we tried to visualise the village, and establish exactly where we were in respect to the board’s map. And then we got schooled. An elderly chap seemed bemused, listening to our incorrect interpretations. He stepped forwards and confidently explained that we were all wrong. He justified his statement by stating how he used to live in the village, and how his family was relocated during the valley flooding. As if any more proof was required, he followed up by summarising his career for the water company tending to that very reservoir! We all chatted for another five minutes before he left, and Cheryl and I completed our walk around the reservoir and back to Fairholmes.
Delighted in the day’s exploration, and hungry from walking for four hours or so in such beautiful weather, Cheryl and I tucked into a jacket potato and hot dog respectively at the hole-in-the-wall, before driving home.