One of the most beautiful sights during the festive season is the Christmas tree, bringing cheer to our towns and villages as well as our homes.

The pyramid-shaped conifer hasn’t always been part of our festivities, however.

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria are credited with bringing the tradition to our shores, but it was Queen Charlotte, the German wife of George III, who brought the first Christmas tree into the Queen’s Lodge at Windsor in 1800.

Since then, the British people have merrily followed suit. From Nordmann and Balsam firs to Blue and Norway spruce or Lodgepole pines, they bring joy in the darker days of the year as we decorate our chosen tree with tinsel, lights and baubles.

But there’s also something special about experiencing our evergreens outdoors in their natural habitat.

Get in the mood for Christmas and take a glorious walk through the conifer plantations of Ladybower.

Great British Life: Conifers on the water's edge below Woodlands Valley Photo: Helen MoatConifers on the water's edge below Woodlands Valley Photo: Helen Moat

1. Starting out from the free Hurst Clough car park (more paid parking available at Bridge End if full), drop down to the waterside path below the car park and turn left to reach Bridge End.

Along the wooded path, the beeches will have lost their leaves – opening out views of the reservoir, while the conifers provide a rich canopy of green.

2. At Bridge End, cross the road and follow the green public bridleway fingerpost, pointing you in the direction of the Hagg Side conifer plantation. Head uphill, taking in the layers of larch, fir and spruce.

3. At the top of the wooded hillside, turn right to follow a line of pine trees edging Hagg Side. On the other side, the moorland of Open Hagg offers the rambler far-reaching views of the Dark Peak.

Pause to identify some of the Peak’s much-loved landmarks: Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill – all on the Great Ridge.

Watch out for a pathway that drops down to a junction. Follow the wooden fingerpost signed for Hagg Farm downhill.

Mind your step as you descend through the wide path of rough stones, some loose – probably an old jagger’s lane that would have been used to carry lead or salt on packhorses across the moorlands. Rough stone turns to surfaced road, then hits the Snake Pass road.

4. Cross this busy road carefully and continue downhill into mixed woodland. Traverse the bridge over the River Ashop and turn immediately left to follow the pathway that gently rises and falls above the river.

On the other side, the conifers of Woodlands Valley rise above the fringes of broadleaf. Ignoring a second bridge, continue along the broader path to follow the Ashop.

Soon the river opens out to become Ladybower Reservoir. Ignore all paths on the right to continue close to the water’s edge, views opening out to Ashopton Viaduct, then Ladybower Viaduct, and finally the dam head north of Bamford.

5. Cross the dam with its lovely views of Crook Hill and the Derwent Moors on one side and the gentler vale of mature deciduous trees sweeping down to Bamford village on the other.

On reaching the A6013, cross the road to the plaque celebrating the opening of the reservoir by King George VI in 1945.

Climb the steps at the side of the monument and take the quieter pathway behind the road (heading north) with picnic benches along the way, a good place to stop for a drink and a snack. Heatherdene Car Park, at the end of the pathway, also has a toilet for those in need.

From the car park turn right onto the A6013. Follow the shared pedestrian and cycle path to Ladybower Viaduct, then turn left to continue over Ashopton Viaduct.

6. Once over the bridge, turn right onto the Fairholmes road, then immediately right again to go through a gate that drops down to the water’s edge. For a while you can enjoy the springy path of grass after the unforgiving pavement.

Pass the Valve House (admiring the attractive detail that the Victorians added, even to utilitarian buildings) and continue through the broadleaves and conifers to Hurst Clough, a helpful fingerpost reminding you where you need to climb up to the road once more.


DISTANCE: 8.5 miles


MAP: OS Explorer Map OL 1 Dark Peak

DIFFICULTY: Easy waterside walking with just one steep ascent and descent

REFRESHMENTS: None on route but there are plenty of benches with delightful waterside views along the way. You can detour to the Yorkshire Bridge Inn on the edge of Bamford, just 250 yards from the end of the dam head for pub nosh or a pint.