After our exertions on Bleaklow the day before, a nice gentle walk around the upper reservoirs of the Derwent valley seemed like an ideal choice for Saturday. Well that was the plan anyway until I decided that an eleven mile circuit of both the Derwent and Howden was exactly what our definition of a rest day should be. Our starting point was the visitor centre at Fairholmes which itself turned out to be an unexpected wildlife haven. With the ground still covered in snow its collection of feeders were absolutely rammed with woodland birds whilst a flock of at least thirty Mallards were doing their best to deprive everyone in the car park of sandwiches. I photographed for a good half an hour or so before my fingers told me that I needed to move on and in fantastic light got some great shots including this Nuthatch and stunning Siskin. The male Chaffinch wasn’t bad either.
Following the very slippery path up to Derwent reservoir we were soon on the track that would lead us for the rest of the day. Despite a couple of vehicles having passed by it was still well covered with snow, as surprisingly was the ground beneath the tress. I guess it just shows how bad conditions were here the previous week.
In such beautiful scenery we came to the second reservoir, Howden, in no time and spent a few minutes marvelling at the engineering work that went into its dam. Somehow our modern utility structures just don’t have the grandeur of these magnificent old public works and for me at least, our country is much the poorer for it.
What I hadn’t expected from this trip was to get a new life bird tick, but that was exactly what happened just after I’d taken the photo above. Emma called out that there was a bird of prey heading our way but with no binoculars I didn’t expect to see much. However the bird in question came right overhead before doing an about turn and shooting off in the direction from which it had come. I did a quick mental run through of various species and their main characteristics, but in my mind I already knew the answer. After many years of wishing we’d finally clapped eyes on our first Goshawk! At almost Buzzard size but with a greyish back and white underside it was very distinctive and gave great views as it soared away from us across the treetops. Sadly those same trees curtailed our viewing and despite searching for the rest of the day we didn’t get another view.
At the very top of Howden reservoir (above) the landscape started to open up and we found ourselves once again on open hillsides. A couple of Ravens and the constant calls of Canada Geese were the only sounds we heard as the weather started to become increasingly changeable. One minute the sun would be shining only to be replaced the next with blizzards. In the end the showers proved to be short lived and by the time we finally clapped eyes on those Geese we were once more basking in golden rays.
As with most reservoirs I’ve walked, this one had an unexpected sting in the tale in the shape of a seemingly endless spur that added at least another couple of miles to our route. Its presence had somehow eluded us during a quick glance at the map but it certainly made itself felt on our by now tiring legs. Thankfully the ever changing vistas kept us motivated along with some interesting remnants of the temporary village that once housed the workers who built these dams. Definitely a place that I’d like to return to, if not for anything other than its connection to the legendary Dambusters who trained for their daring raids over Germany on these very waters.