top of page


It’s more than 30 years since Carsington Water appeared like an oversized puddle snuggled into our Derbyshire hills. The early planning stages began in the 1960s, with the final official opening by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1992. Since then the site and its surroundings have matured magnificently.

The location for the reservoir was chosen because it sits in a natural amphitheatre of hills within a basin of clay soil that prevents seepage, and there were lots of stone quarries in the area to provide building materials and aggregates.

The reservoir is basically a giant holding tank for water taken from the River Derwent at Ambergate in winter, which is pumped up the hillside along a 6.5 mile long tunnel and aqueduct so that it can then be released back into the river when required during dry summer months.

I decided the 7.5 miles of trail around the reservoir’s perimeter was the perfect walk for this issue and set off with Nellie and two of my grandchildren to the Visitor Centre car park.

We walked clockwise on the trail as for me anti-clockwise somehow goes against the grain.

The bombing tower on route is a reminder that during the Second World War it was a look-out over surrounding remote farmland which was used for target practise.

It was the most magical spring day, devoid of rain for a change. Along the way we listened to the sound of birds with a cacophony of tweets, honks, squawks and twitters, whilst in some of the meadows new born lambs were bleating for their mums or jumping about and chasing one another.

All around was a riot of spring flowers, mainly yellow in colour. Celandine, cowslip, primrose and dandelion illuminated the ground with burst of sunshine, whilst in woodland we saw the first fresh opening florets of bluebell, soon to be a covering carpet of blue.

We popped into a couple of hides to observe birds on the water which have been known to include little grebe, great northern diver, Eurasian oystercatcher, feral barnacle geese, common tern and breeding common redshank.

The trail is an interwoven network of footpath and cycle routes that weave and meander passing through conservation areas and mixed mature woodland. It is said there are hundreds of homes around Carsington, not the bricks and mortar kind, but nest boxes, otter holts and bat hibernation boxes.

For some schools it was the last day of Easter holidays so a range of cyclists from young to old, family or just friends pedalled past us. There were a few joggers, a group of horse riders, a conga snake of school trip youngsters and their teachers as well as many other walkers, the majority with a dog in tow. For my excited little Nellie this meant lots of tail wagging and damp nose canine kisses.

On this particular day Carsington Water appeared to be full to the brim. Little fishing boats and paddle boarders were gliding across its calm surface as there was very little breeze.

At the top end there were lots of swampy bits with reed beds and tall phragmites australis grasses that act like giant filters, naturally taking out certain pollutants and purifying the water as it enters the reservoir. These also form an important and valuable habitat for certain wildlife such as water voles and harvest mice as well as birds.

Many trees were in blossom, some petals having blown into our path like a covering of snowflakes. The undulating path now rose to higher ground where there were several appropriately placed seats to rest awhile and drink in the watery views. There was even a carved wooden throne at one point to pose in, so Nellie and I had to give it a go.

We came across the little shelter like a living room filled with wooden fixtures and furniture, said to be made from recycled timbers from a farm before it was submerged when the reservoir was filled.

Eventually we arrived at Millfields car park from where a path with an avenue of trees led our eyes to the submerged draw-off tower that controls the release of water. From there it was a straight line walk over the dam wall and the final stretch for our tired legs. The path was like a seaside promenade with the jingle jangle sound of rigging rattling around on masts from moored up boats in the marina.

Sally Mosley

FOOTNOTE BY NELLIE: Out walking the other day Mum and I came across a man exercising his extremely clever search and rescue dog and it got mum thinking. Surely there could be a job for me somewhere as a sniffer dog. Not only can I detect the rattle of a biscuit tin from several rooms away but I can snuffle out a hidden hob-nob, ginger nut, digestive or rich tea within seconds, be it a whole biscuit or a crumb. There is only one little problem – I’d eat all the evidence!

Big slurps from Nellie x


bottom of page