Carvers Rocks and Formark Reservoir.

A five/six-mile walk around Carvers Rocks and Formark Reservoir in South Derbyshire.

This gentle walk takes you through some of the lovely rolling farmland and woodlands both ancient and more recently planted that surround the Formark Reservoir.  The reservoir lies between the two charming villages of Milton and Ticknal in South Derbyshire and the walk circumnavigates it from the south in a clockwise direction with the last part of it passing through the interesting and atmospheric Carvers Rocks nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest under the supervision of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

The walk is both pleasant and varied and mainly follows bridle tracks, woodland rides and footpaths with the exception of one short section of half a mile or so on road.

Towards the end of the walk there’s a short section of boulder hopping and scrambling around the shore-line of the reservoir, Option A, though this can be avoided by taking Option B.  {This is described within the text.}

Start by parking on the large parking area next to the junction of Coal Lane and the A514 Hartshorne to Ticknal road.

OS Explorer Map 245, The National Forest.  SK 334 220.

Drinks snacks and toilets can be found at the café on the main reservoir car-park situated at its north-east end.
The café can’t be relied upon to be open all year round, the toilets usually are.

Pubs that do food can be found in the two villages mentioned above and in addition, there’s a very good café called the Scoff and Shop, in the centre of Ticknal.
{Excellent Cake!}

The Walk

Start by crossing the busy A514 and keeping an eye open for speeding traffic head for the bridle track opposite, {north}.  

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This track is the drive to Buildings Farm.  Walk along the track for some 120 metres or so and take the opening through the hedge on the right onto a path in the forestry planting, a footpath finger-post is hidden in the hedge.  After 15/20 metres you come to a fork in the path, take the left-hand branch and carry on along this ride until you come to a wide meadow/clearing, picnic bench over to the far left.

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I did this walk in early May and the meadow was a picture, studded as it was with the bright old gold of Dandelion flowers.
dandelions are one of my favourite wildflowers, bees, butterflies and most nectar loving insects adore them and they make a spectacular sight when they take over a whole meadow such as this.

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Follow the path that you’re on around the clearing sticking to its right-hand side and swing round to the meadows far-right corner, then carry straight on down the wide ride in front of you through the woodland.  Walk on gently downhill and after a short uphill section, the ride bends to the right, keep plodding on until just before a pair of gates on the left, bear right again to take the path immediately on the left through a gap in the hedge.  Turn left and follow the ride straight ahead ignoring a path and stile on the left and the wide ride to the right, keep straight on with the old hedge-line to your left and the pleasantly mixed young woodland to your right until you arrive at a T junction.

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In may the edges of these rides come alive with Brimstone butterflies seeking out their food plant the Blackthorn that grows in the hedges and copses surrounding you.  The odd Peacock, Orange Tip and especially Speckled wood butterflies can also be seen at this time of the year.

Turn to the left and walk uphill to a five bar Gate with a horse mounting block situated to its left.  Take the wide ride to your right passing on route a couple of horse jumps, until after a third of a mile or so a telecommunications tower comes into view, carry on until the ride turns to the right and leads slightly downhill.  Shortly you will come to a five-bar gate in the hedge on the left.  Fastened to it on its far side is an old white sign saying Bondwood No Entry!  Ignore this and pass through it then immediately turn to your left to walk a short distance uphill on a railed in, concessionary footpath.  Go through a wicket gate and carry on close to the hedge-line to a second, wicket’, pass through this and turn right onto a narrow metaled road.  Keep on this road for about half a mile, passing Bondwood Farm on the right and the telecommunications tower on the left until you come to a fork in the road.

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From this point standing with the conifer woods of Repton Shrubs behind you, over to the north-west you get some fine and unobstructed views across the Trent valley with the five cooling towers of the now decommissioned Willington power station in the foreground.  On clear days in mid-winter especially after a hard frost and with a light covering of snow, in the far distance its possible to make out the outline of the hills of the south peak that lie above Ashbourne.  If the light is exceptionally gin clear and crystal sharp you can even make out the profile of Thorp Cloud standing guard over the entrance to Dovedale.

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After taking in the view follow the roads right-hand branch, by-passing the entrance to Fair View Farm to reach a metal farm gate crossing the ride, pass through the wicket gate on its right and carry on down the bridle track.  Keep on this for about 3/4 of a mile or so with good views over the hedges to your right of the Boating Club buildings standing beside the reservoir.  This lovely old sunken lane eventually winds its way down through high banks with trees and wildflowers on either side until you arrive at a gate and a group of buildings, Brookdale Farm.  Pass through the wicket gate to its right and carry on to by-pass the rather posh barn conversion of Brookdale Barn, until you meet the Milton/Ticknal road at the delightfully named Spurs Bottom.

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The next section of the walk while passing through a lovely stretch of farmland is spoilt by having to walk along the road for a good half mile or so until you come to the entrance of the main Formark Reservoir car park.  This road can be quite busy at the weekend, also in the early mornings and late afternoons, so care should be taken to keep an eye open for speeding traffic !!

At this point, you are about halfway around the walk.

Turn right and walk along the road passing over Orange Bridge and on past Bendals Farm until you arrive at the main drive leading up to the reservoir car park.  Walk up this and carry on passing the barriers and car park pay point until you pass a red caution sign on the right and dogs on the lead sign on the left.  Between the trees and shrubs to your right, you will see a large open area of grass, walk uphill into this and as it narrows bear slightly left until you reach the brow.  After about 100m you will come to a low fence/barrier, pass this on its left and turn right on to the road.

Walk along the road and at a speed bump with a rock placed on either side of it, step left on to the grass and cut diagonally right to the corner of a fence next to a low concrete structure.  Pass through the gap in the fence and walk straight ahead {south}, by-passing a group of young Oaks, carry on through the grassy area in front of you and soon you will arrive at a metaled footpath, pass straight over this and walk on until you arrive above a small beach beside the reservoir.

To your right is a bench, this is a nice spot to sit, linger and enjoy a view of the whole length of the reservoir leading south towards your destination, the Carvers Rocks nature reserve.  If you look to the north over the dam and the day is still bright and clear, once again in the distance on the far horizon you can just see the hills above Ashbourne and Matlock.

Follow the edge of the reservoir southwards until you arrive at a large wooden star/hexagon shaped picnic bench with scenes from the National Forest engraved upon on it.  This is another good view-point and as the café and toilets are just behind you a convenient spot to stop for a brew and a sandwich.  {If open}

After you’ve eaten your sandwich and drank your brew, carry on along the metaled path leading south-eastwards from the bench to pass through trees onto a stone ride.  Turn right to pass through more scattered trees, bushes and open areas with glimpses of the reservoir and its beaches on the right.
Keep on the ride until it enters the forest,  just after the ride bears to the left you come to a National Forest finger-post, take the right-hand fork and walk along the wide ride to the next finger-post and a sign pointing up to Scaddows Farm.  Ignore the Scaddows path, keep right and follow the ride through the now
semi-mature mixed woodland for about a quarter of a mile to a National Forest information board.  Ignore the path to the left and walk down the steps in the path.

If you would like to see a Badger set, at the bottom of the steps, turn to your right and scramble some fifty metres down through the under growth into the woodland and you will find some quite extensive Badger earth works.

After your explorations return to the path and follow it through the forest to the next finger-post, ignore the path to the left, {Scaddows,} and take the steps steeply downhill, keep on as it curves to the left to more steps leading you steeply uphill on to a raised board walk section. Follow this pleasant walkway until you arrive at another National Forest information board, this one displaying a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

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Ahead and to your left, you will see a large old Oak standing above an open bogy woodland glade with an observation point leading out into the mire.
If the sun is shining and if the Chiffchafs and Willow Warblers are singing this is a lovely tranquil spot to linger for a while.  There are some old and decaying mature trees in the area and you can often hear the woodpeckers taking advantage of them and if you’re lucky you may even see one.  Just to the left of the observation point and hidden in the undergrowth is an old stone cattle trough and after a wet spell, close by you can hear a spring bubbling away.

From here walk out of the woodland into a large grassed open area, turn immediately right and keep to the right-hand edge of the clearing until you arrive at a gap in the post and rail fence.  Enter the wood and walk on under the trees until you come to a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust information board.

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Option A and option B start from this point.

Option A

At the information point turn right on to the path {north} through the birches and follow it until you see down to the left an inlet rising up from the reservoir.  Turn left off the track and steeply descend a narrow path on the inlets left hand side to reach the beach.

Follow the beach leftwards until it closes off at some gritstone outcrops hugging the edge of the water.  Aided by the odd branch and small tree scramble and edge your way around the rocks and boulders just above the water line for a short distance and soon you will arrive at a boulder beach.  You are reaching the end of the reservoir now and at its narrowest point.  Continue boulder hopping to start with and then make your way along the beach until you arrive at an old concrete block, Ram-Pump house.  You will be leaving the reservoir at this point so follow the path to the left of the pump-house and hop over the little stream to take the path uphill and soon you will see a wooden foot-bridge crossing the small stream to your left.  Ignore this and carry straight ahead to a
finger-post.

Options A and B meet at this point.

The scrambling involved in Option A depends on the level of water in the reservoir.
When I did the walk in the spring the level was quite high and consequently, I was forced to hug and scramble round the edge just above the water line.  In the autumn of 2018 the level was low and it was simply a matter of following the sandy beach round to the old pump-house.

Option B.

From the D’W’T’ information board turn left, {south} and follow the path through mature Birches and old Hazel coppice to cross over a small wooden bridge.  Keep going with the path taking you over the outcropping gritstone pavement to drop down to reach a large wooden bridge over a small stream, cross and walk up to the finger-post at the junction with option A.

From this point over to your right {west}, you will see a wooden bridge/walkway crossing the apex of the reservoir and it’s well worth the short detour to enjoy the grand view northwards up the reservoir from this end.  Particularly so in the autumn when the Birches have turned to gold.

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If you were to continue on past the bridge it would take you into the other half of the Carvers Rocks nature reserve and with its acidic soils, it’s a great place to go fungus foraging at that time of the year.

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Retrace your steps back to the finger-post and turn right onto the path taking you through the trees to climb steeply up to a cross path, take the left one and this will bring you out at the right-hand end of the old gritstone quarry of Carvers Rocks.

The stone from this quarry was used to build and repair many of the local churches,  St George in nearby Ticknal being one.  On top of the quarry, there’s a small area of Heather heathland, this is an unusual feature in Derbyshire this side of the Peak District and its this Heather that gives Carvers its triple SSI.  If you wish to see the Heather it’s possible to find a path round to the right of the rocks taking  you up and over the top of the outcrop to descend by its far end.  I prefer though to walk under the quarry in the dappled shade of the Birches and close to the emerald-green of the moss and fern covered rock walls.  In the spring this combined with the sound of the Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and the Cuckoo, make a lovely and atmospheric end to the walk.

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Just past the end of the rocks, pick up a stone ride and walk steeply uphill to a wicket gate, turn right and walk along the drive curving right until you come to a pair of wide metal gates.  Pass these on the left, turn right and walk the last few hundred meters back to your car.

 

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