Derbyshire's most controversial modern reservoir is now a magnet for wildlife.
Distance 8 miles (12.9km)
Minimum time 4hrs
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Surfaced and unsurfaced waymarked paths, a few stiles
Landscape Reservoir and low pastured hillsides
Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 24 White Peak
Start/finish SK 241516
Dog friendliness Severn Trent Water ask that dogs be kept on leads
Parking Carsington Reservoir visitor centre car park
Public toilets At car park
1 From the visitor centre follow the signposted bridleway southwards past the sailing club and across the huge dam, which holds back 7.8 billion gallons (35.5 billion litres) of water. When full the reservoir is 100ft (30m) deep covering an area the size of 700 football pitches. At the far end of the dam the tarmac path reaches Millfields, where there is a refreshment kiosk (seasonal). From here a path with yellow markers continues close to the reservoir shoreline, passing the car park and reacquainting itself with the bridleway on several occasions. After crossing a footbridge over wetlands the path comes to a narrow tarmac lane by Upperfields Farm.
2 Turn left along the lane, then right at a gate, following a track, signposted to Hopton. The winding track dips and climbs high above the sinuous lakeshore, passing through pastureland and into the shade of woodland. The track turns left at the northern end of the lake, then left again parallel to the main road. Cross the road, before continuing along the track on the other side. This leads northwards into Hopton village, where you turn left into neighbouring Carsington.
3 The Miners Arms doesn't look much from the road, but you walk through the car park and find that the front is at the back and it's a good looking pub with a pleasant beer garden. The walk continues south on a track just beyond the pub's car park. Turn left along the lane behind the pub, then right past Wash Farm and back to the main road. Across the road, follow the left fork path, which leads to Sheepwash car park.
4 Take the waymarked path between the metalled car park loop roads and continue south west, by-passing the conservation area. Beyond the second of the waterside birdwatching hides here, the path meets and then joins the bridleway, but gives it the slip again to cut a corner round one of the inlets. The ways continue to flirt with each other like this until you reach the wildlife centre, where you should opt for the the bridleway to take you back to the visitor centre.
Planned in the 1960s and argued about well into the 1970s, Carsington Water reservoir was finally inaugurated by the Queen in 1992. Built in a shallow valley with a poor catchment area, the reservoirıs main supply is pumped from the River Derwent at Ambergate and conveyed 6.5 miles (10.4km) down a pipeline. When the Derwentıs water levels are low, water is pumped in the opposite direction. Early on in the walk you cross the huge dam, which holds back 7.8 billion gallons (35.5 billion litres) of water. When full the reservoir is 100ft (30m) deep covering an area the size of 700 football pitches.
Severn Trent Water has built a state-of-the-art visitor centre, a sports and activity centre, a restaurant, shops and a sailing club. Thereıs plenty of information about their good conservation policies and clean water, but although youıre allowed to sail and canoe on the surface of the water youıre not allowed in it ı thatıs strictly for the wildlife. There are separate walking and cycling trails around the entire reservoir which, although coexistent in places, do have their own routes. Look for the orange footprint waymarker and you shouldnıt go wrong. At the northern end of the reservoir you have the choice of walking the lane through the villages of Hopton and Carsington, or staying on the traffic-free trail alongside the road. The advantage of the former is that it visits the only pub on the walk ı the Miners Arms at Carsington. On summer weekends most of the car parks will be sporting refreshment kiosks or ice-cream vans as this is a popular destination for all manner of visitors.
Beyond Millfields, at the far side of the dam, the shoreline becomes more wooded and peaceful and youıll have a better chance of enjoying the natural history of Carsington. However, there are dedicated bird hides on the north western shoreline towards the end of the walk, including ıthe watchtowerı, built as an observation post during World War II and now a great vantage point for birders. Not far from the visitor centre is the wildlife centre, a well equipped hide with telescopes. You can also control a CCTV camera mounted on a small island nearby in order to get a different view of the birdlife. Wigeon, pochard and tufted ducks regularly winter at Carsington, while in the summer you will probably see great crested grebes. The large area of water also attracts migrants and passing rarities, including ospreys which regularly stop off on the journey to the mountains of the north.
The visitor centre has a fascinating exhibition demonstrating the value of water and the reliability of its quality. There's a water feature, the Kugel, where a 3ft (90cm) sphere of Bavarian granite revolves mysteriously on a socket. Water pumped from the socket, lubricates the sphere, allowing it to revolve on the slightest touch. On Stones Island there's a monument, cut from Derbyshire gritstone. It was designed by the landscape architect, Lewis Knight and erected in 1992.
The Miners Arms is a pleasant 400 year-old pub with a large beer garden. It serves good sandwiches and bar meals. You can gaze across Carsington Water while you eat at the visitor centre's Barrowdale Restaurant. It is licensed and serves morning coffee, pleasant lunches and afternoon teas.
The American ruddy duck, which has a reddish back, white cheeks and large blue bill, is a regular on Carsington Water. The little duck escaped from the Wildlife Trust and is now threatening to overrun native species, such as the European white-headed duck.