Back in 2016, I wrote about the lost Derbyshire villages of Derwent and Ashopton – submerged under the waters of Ladybower Reservoir – and Birchinlee, the ‘tin town’ that existed only for the few years during which two earlier reservoirs were constructed. In the summer and autumn of 2018, a prolonged period of dry weather caused the water levels in the reservoir to drop until more of Derwent Village was revealed than at any time in the past twenty years. I’ve managed to get out to the various sites several times over the past six months, and have been fascinated to see just what’s left of the various demolished buildings and structures left over from the works of the early twentieth century.
On my first visit, in the middle of September, the waters of Ladybower were already low enough that the ruins of Derwent Church were fully exposed and accessible, and I was able to locate a foundation stone inscribed with the year 1867. The Mill Brook that still flows along its original bed through what was the centre of Derwent Village had been reduced to a tiny stream.
Higher up the valley, I found the paired cottages shown on some old maps as Water Houses, and was able to climb over remnants of the lower walls to identify doorways and hearths (and possibly also a set of stairs). Between Water Houses and the main village, the layout of the kitchen gardens of Derwent Hall was clearly outlined by old stones.
A month later, I explored the area around Derwent Reservoir and the site of Birchinlee. Up there, I found many pillars of the old railway viaduct, most of which are usually under water, as well as some structures I believe to be part of the station, usually inaccessible even when visible above the water. I also climbed down into the cellar of the Birchinlee Canteen, although it appeared to have long since been stripped of any interesting artefacts.
I returned to Derwent Village the following week, and was able to carefully walk out to the ruins of Derwent Hall, where I found the remains of fireplaces and carved stone building ornamentations. I was particularly impressed by carvings on the gatepost.
In the village itself, the waters had receded further from the church, and it was possible to identify the school beyond, although I only ventured a short distance along the remains of a path that once linked the two. Also tantalisingly out of reach was an old valve house on the other side of the reservoir.
My final visit was in December, on Boxing Day. By that point, we’d had some weeks of heavy rain. The Hall, Valve House, and most of the Church were submerged once again, and water was lapping at the walls of Water Houses.
I have a feeling it might be less than another two decades before the buildings appear again; however, I’m a little concerned how well they will survive given how many tourists they attracted this time around, not all of whom were adequately respectful of the area’s history.