Derwent Reservoirs Circular (Dambusters Challenge Walk)
This is an epic Peak District walk covering almost 24 miles of moorland above Ladybower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs made famous by the Dambusters during World War 2. Taking in some of the more well known Peak District peaks such as Win Hill, Alport Castles, Back Tor and Lost Lad, this is a great long Peak District walk.
This walk is based on the Dambusters Challenge walk devised by Journeyman Guides and featuring in Dark Peak Challenges for Walkers and Fell Runners which is a brilliant book if you like a challenge walk. We added in a detour to Bridge-End Pastures and explored The Tower in Alport Castles but kept the rest of the route pretty much the same as the book.
During the Second World War the crews of 617 Squadron practiced their flying over the dams of Derwent in preparation for Operation Chastise, also known as the Dam Busters Raid.
We were so incredibly lucky with this walk. We had booked a couple of nights stay at The Snake Inn which meant we could be up and out really early to make the most of the shorter amount of daylight. We were out of the house for 6.30am and when we got to the top of Win Hill we were met by a spectacular cloud inversion and a beautiful sunrise. The walk also showed us two fogbows and my first Brocken Spectre, which was really exciting!
Our walk starts in a lay-by near to The Yorkshire Bridge Inn. We wanted to park near the pub so we didn’t have far to walk for a beer when we’d finished the walk! We crossed over the Ladybower dam wall past the Ladybower Reservoir plugholes and headed into the woods, to climb Win Hill via Parkin Clough. It was really misty when we set off, with really poor visibility, but as we climbed above the trees we were treated to the most spectacular sunrise and cloud inversion.
After taking 11 billion photos and getting enough social media content to last me a lifetime, we headed off over Hope Brink, following the Roman Road to Hope Cross.
From Hope Cross we turned right and down into the woods, crossing the bridge and climbing up to meet the Snake Pass. We crossed the road and continued to climb up the hillside towards Hagg Farm. We took a detour to Bridge-End Pastures, following the path as it ran alongside the woods, to the rather unspectacular summit. Joel was happy though as it was one of his Peak District 75s that we could tick off! We were also treated to the first of the fogbows we would see on the day.
From Bridge-End Pastures we retraced our steps back along the path and then picked up the rough track to Rowlee Pastures. We left the track and climbed up the hill to the stile. We stopped for a cup of tea before heading over the stile and onto Rowlee Pastures.
The path winds along Rowlee Pastures for a lot longer than you think before reaching Alport Castles. We headed down into the main part of the landslip to explore around The Tower, then climbed back up onto the top to Birchen Hat. Here we headed down the hillside towards Ditch Clough Plantation.
There was lots of tree work going on when we did this walk, and the paths around the reservoir near Fox’s Piece were closed. We had to cross Ditch Clough following a footpath diversion and then pick up the path going clockwise around Howden Reservoir towards Slippery Stones.
At Slippery Stones we crossed the ancient packhorse bridge and chatted to a lady who had been for a dip. This is a brilliant place for wild swimming in the Peak District but I’m definitely not as brave as she was – it was freezing!
We continued to follow the reservoir path until we reached Abbey Tip Plantation. Here we started to climb up the hillside, past Abbey Brook which has some beautiful waterfalls (not that we could see them in the mist!) and Cogman Clough. We followed a track up near Sheepfold Clough to Lost Lad.
The climb up to Lost Lad is very boggy in places, and seems to go on forever! From Lost Lad we headed south-west to Back Tor, then south past the Cakes of Bread, Dovestone Tor, the Salt Cellar, White Tor and then south past to the Wheel Stones and Whinstone Lee.
From Whinstone Lee we headed south over Lead Hill, following the path down the hillside to Ladybower Woods. The trail comes out behind The Ladybower Inn (sadly closed). From here we walked back over the Yorkshire Bridge then back along the edge of the reservoir to the car and pub for a well earned tea.
This was a really brilliant long walk in the Peak District, exploring the moors above Ladybower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. The Dambusters Challenge walk is definitely a challenge but there’s no better place to spend a day in the hills.
Dambusters Challenge Walk parking:
We parked in a lay-by near the Yorkshire Bridge Inn. There is also the nearby Heatherdene car park which is pay and display but has some toilets.
Facilities: Toilets in the car park at Heatherdene
Walk Time: 8-10 hours
Distance: 23.8 miles (38.3km)
Trig Points Bagged: Win Hill, Back Tor
Peak District Peaks Bagged: Win Hill, Back Tor, Lost Lad
Peak District Ethels Bagged: Win Hill, Back Tor, Lost Lad
Dambusters Challenge Walk Map:
You can click on the map to download the GPX file from Komoot.