First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A still cold day in South Yorkshire, with a crack of blue over the western moors. From the graveyard of St Nicholas Church at High Bradfield we looked across the cleft of Dale Dike, up pasture slopes squared with black gritstone field walls.
Sheep cropped the churchyard grass and lay on the old inscribed gravestones that flagged the path. High on a bank stood a tall stone commemorating the deaths of James and Elizabeth Trickett and their four children on 12 March 1864. The Tricketts died, along with some 270 others, when the Dale Dike dam just up the valley burst in the middle of the night and released a roaring tsunami higher than the tallest mill building.
Gold tear-shaped leaves of silver birch lay underfoot as we followed a steep path downhill to Agden Reservoir. In the 19th century the city of Sheffield, a few miles down the dale, swelled like a frog in a fable as its steel and cutlery production rocketed. The population had quadrupled by mid-century, when a string of reservoirs was built in Bradfield Dale to cater for over 200,000 thirsty souls.
Today Agden Reservoir lay as flat and gleaming as Sheffield stainless steel, picture-pretty with hills and trees mirrored in the still water. We passed the sphagnum tuffets of Agden Bog, crossed the head of the reservoir and dropped down the fields to where Dale Dike Reservoir curved southwest among its trees.
The great sloping wall of the dam was flanked by a gracefully curved spillway, down whose steps white water came dancing. We followed a path, seamed with sinewy roots of ash and oak, along the north bank, until it turned across a footbridge at the head of the reservoir.
The homeward path ran along the southern slopes through pastures with tumbledown walls of dark gritstone. Looking down on Annet Bridge, we pictured the scene on that awful winter’s night when 700 million gallons of water came thundering through the dale.
Survivor Joseph Ibbotson of Bradfield reported: ‘It seemed as if … some unheard-of monster were rushing down the valley, lashing the hillsides with his scaly folds, crunching up buildings between his jaws, and filling all the air with his wrathful hiss. Trees snapped like pistols, mills and houses stood and staggered for a moment, and then disappeared in the boiling torrent.’
Start: Sands car park, Low Bradfield, near Sheffield S6 6LB (OS ref SK 262920)
Getting there: Bus 61, 62 from Sheffield
Road: Low Bradfield is signed off B6077 Loxley Road (A61, A6101 from Sheffield)
Walk (7¼ miles, field paths, OS Explorer OL1): From car park entrance, right along walled lane. At footbridge follow ‘High Bradfield’, keeping stream on right. At 2nd bridge, cross stream (262921); up steps, across road (264923, gate); on up (‘Sheffield Country Walk’/SCW). Through wicket gate (yellow arrow/YA); fork right on path, up to High Bradfield church (267926).
At church tower, left (west) on path with wall on right. In 200m, left downhill (265926) with wall on left to Smallfield Lane (262925). Right; in 350m, left (262928, ‘Permissive Path’/PP, ‘Run Routes’) along north bank of Agden Reservoir. In 1 mile at bench and bird feeders (250929), ahead on path (‘Windy Bank Wood’) to road at Wilkin Hill (249928). Right to Mortimer Road (245927). Left for 80m; left (‘bridleway’) down to Dale Road (247920). Right; in 100m, left (‘footpath’) on path. In 350m near dam, fork right (244919, PP); in 100m through 2 kissing gates by dam. Follow path along north bank of Dale Dike Reservoir for 1 mile.
At top of reservoir, left across footbridge (234906); left beside stream. In 150m fork right across wall stile (PP, green arrow); left along wall (SCW, stone stiles), then through plantation, for ¾ mile to Blindside Lane (244912). Left; in ¾ mile, just before Annet Bridge, right (255918, wall stile, SCW) on field path to Mill Lee Road (263916); left into Low Bradfield).
Accommodation: Royal Hotel, Dungworth, Sheffield S6 6HF (0114-286-1213, royalhotel-dungworth.com)