A Derwent bivvy trip

A recent bivvy trip to Derwent reservoir should have been far grander affair. Thanks to Ronald Turnbull’s excellent Three Peaks Ten Tors, my intention was to complete the Derwent Watershed in two days.

This 39-mile loop takes in the gloopy tops of the Derwent Basin in the Peak District. Although feet are protected from much of the peat these days by excellent flagstone paths, there are still plenty of options to ruin your trousers and sink up to you knees in the black stuff.

A view along Ladybower Reservoir from Stanage Edge
It would be tough, no doubt, but I thought I had the legs for it. What I didn’t account for was the weather. The tops had been baked for a couple of days and decent water supplies (never that great in the Dark Peak) were even more sketchy than normal.

After about 15 miles or so, I reached my watershed moment and realised that this watershed was a step too far in 30 deg C temperatures. Nevertheless, it was still a memorable trip and gave a taster of this hefty trek for next time…

Edale start

Sheep grazing in EdaleThe Watershed is a circuit and consequently can be picked up anywhere along the route. I started in Edale, though, as I fancied a decent pub to collapse in at the end.

Leaving the train, I followed a familiar route to Hollins Cross. Those mean old cows were guarding the path again at Lower Hollins Farm and I tiptoed around them as they nonchalantly chewed the cud.

I soon reached the ‘Cross and headed east along the well trodden ridge over Back Tor and Lose Hill. To the right, the silhouette of Castleton Cement works had an almost ethereal charm in the early morning light – a rare transformation for this ugly industrial cathedral. Perhaps I was just blindly happy to be outside walking again.

Dropping down towards Hope, the heat of the valley soon hit, an oppressive precursor what was to come.

I crossed Townhead Bridge and headed to Fullwood Stile Farm before heading south across field to the entrance Twitchill Farm. The gradient steepened and I climbed across fields and moorland until I reached the summit of Win Hill.

Here, my route and the scale of the challenge became apparent. The moorland plateau extended far north and I wondered just how far I’d get before rolling out the bivvy that night.

Staying on an easterly bearing, I dropped down Parkin Clough. This is a miserable descent and not recommended. There are more agreeable ways to reach Yorkshire Bridge that are far easier on the knees. If I come this way again, I’ll go the long way round.

Crossing the Derwent at Yorkshire Bridge

I crossed the River Derwent at Yorkshire Bridge and stopped. I was about to ‘walk around’ this river catchment and I sized up the opposition while replacing lost fluids.

I crossed the A6103 and headed up New Road, again battling with the heat of the valley. A rather beautiful young lady climbed past me an on a not-quite as beautiful racing bike. Perhaps it was a better day to be in the saddle after all.

A hill climb car meet was tearing up Leeside Road and drivers bade me a cheering wave and they tumbled back down New Road to the start in Bamford.

Derwent Reservoir at dawnI clambered onto Stanage Edge and paused at High Neb (excuse my plotting error on the Google route below). My Travel Tap bottle was nearly empty again and I refilled it with grim looking water, which I gave an initial ‘filter using a Buff.

The bottle struggled to deal with unappetising suspension as I struggled to quench my increasing thirst.

Heading towards the A57 I turned left and dropped down to a better stream to fill my bottle. Again the filter was hard work and I began to question the efficacy of this excellent product when the need for refreshment was so great.

Twitter encounter

Crossing Derwent Moor, I soon reached the edge, familiar from a previous walk, and headed north. Here

I bumped into @PilgrimChris whom I’d met at the Monsal Head meet.

We chatted for a while and, ever the active social media doyen, he snapped my picture and posted it. I look quite knackered in this shot, which is no surprise given the conditions.

Wishing Chris and his other half a fond farewell, I accepted that the Watershed was a trudge too far. I was walking against the clock and not really enjoying it. I paused at (another) Back Tor and cracked open my nighttime water supply, which I’d been lugging just in case I couldn’t find a campsite with decent water.I filled my titanium pot and replenished my depleted stores. I immediately felt better.

Pressing on slowly north east along a well constructed path, I soon turned west and skirted the worst of the Cartledge Brook drainage channels to reach Featherbed Moss. Here, a stalking path provided much easier passage to a Land Rover track heading southwest. The map suggested plenty of flat ground to rest my weary bones but all I found was hummocky heather and grass.

Losing the light, I settled in one of the ruts of a distinctly underused branch track and got comfortable. I initially set up the poles of my Big Anges bivvy but quickly dispensed with them and slept ‘cowboy style’.

The stars were superb and I enjoyed the best of nights in the bag.

Morning glory

Sunrise taken from Nether Hey

The sky was aflame when I awoke. Packing quickly, I headed down to Derwent Reservoir and enjoyed a blissfully quite stroll.

Reaching the bike hire station at the head of Ladybower, I cleaned up, washing salt stains off clothing and generally de-griming after yesterday’s effort.

I resolved to take my time from now on… it was Sunday after all. I’d enjoy a long breakfast on the shores of Ladybower and head over Hagg Side to Edale.

After several cups of tea, porridge, Snickers and a crafty bacon roll from the food hatch I moved out.


I climbed along forest roads and paths to reach Lockerbrook Farm and navigated a mild confusion of paths before dropping down to
cross the A57 again. Across Haggwater Bridge, I headed to Jaggers Clough and the path back to Edale. I stopped again at the head of the valley and enjoyed the warmth of the morning. The balmy conditions were now friend rather than foe.

I enjoyed a delightful stroll along Vale of Edale and soon reached the Old Nag’s Head. Over two pints of excellent ale, I rationalised the minor disappointment of failure against a superb night under the stars.


15 thoughts on “A Derwent bivvy trip

  1. Sounds like you deserved your two pints at the end! It was soo hot last week, but I’ve heard the gritter’s out in the North Pennines today. Mad weather!

    1. I went camping in Teesdale last weekend. Walked the three miles from Barnard Castle to Cotherstone and collapsed in a heap! Then it had the cheek to rain the next day 😦

  2. Thanks for the comment, Matt… Yeah it was about 28 miles give or take which is not bad. The sunrise was lovely. Makes up for all those murky, muddy mornings.

  3. Mad weather indeed, a long walk in late september and get 30 degree heat – you just can’t plan for that. The Derwent Watershed was a challenge we often talked about in my university days in Manchester (we even planned to try it in winter once) but after the the 4th or 5th pint it kind of lost it’s appeal. Cracking area though and as you say all worth it for a stunning night under the stars

  4. I kinda’ underestimated just how warm it would be on the plateau. I haven’t thrown in the towel yet, though. My experiences haven’t put me off…

  5. Nice one. Wondered if you made it or not. Was humid, eh? Good on ya for giving it a go and besides – better to be out than in, eh? 🙂

    Know what you mean about the Travel Tap – ditched mine in favour of their inline filter mate. Much quicker and even by gravity feed it’s good too.

  6. Thanks for the comment Terry… Yep, too warm, but I haven’t sacked the idea of this walk in two days yet!
    Interested to hear that the in-line filter is a better option. I might give that a try. I love the idea of the Travel Tap, but this trip really highlighted its shortcomings.

  7. Thanks Goat… and they are gloopy when it’s been raining. Many a time I’ve been in it over my knees. 🙂

    It was a great trip and I can’t wait to get out there again. Might be taking the tent next time though as this really was freak weather.

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