The earliest occupation of the valley, now filled by Carsington Reservoir, dates back to around 2000 BC. Evidence of this was found by archaeologists when they discovered human remains, flints and knives from a Bronze Age burial mound, during a dig near where the Carsington Visitor Centre is now located. Two Roman sites were also found, prior to the reservoir being built, one where lead working had been carried out.
Carsington Water was officially opened by HM the Queen in 1992 and instantly became one of Derbyshire’s most important tourist attractions. The original estimate of three hundred thousand visitors per year soon had to be revised to over a million. Further evidence of the popularity of Carsington came when the East Midlands Tourist Board awarded it the ‘Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in 1993.
The reservoir was built at a cost of one hundred and seven million pounds and increased Severn Trent’s raw-water capacity by ten per cent to meet the growing demand for water in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Without the reservoir there would have been a very serious water shortage during the dry summers of 1995 and 1996.
Water is pumped from the River Derwent at Ambergate Pumping Station and piped to Carsington Water when the river level is high, then stored in the reservoir and released when the weather is very dry.
Open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, the visitor centre contains a soft play area for children up to 12 years of age. Also situated in the main building are the Severn Trent Gift Shop, the Henmore Room which is used for lectures, a restaurant and the administration offices. Outside, in the courtyard are shops and a recently extended cafe. There is also a classroom offering schools that have pre-booked, a full day of activities to complement class based work on a variety of themes relating to water and the environment.
The Kugel Stone, whose name comes from the German word for ball, is a sphere, made from Bavarian granite. It weighs over one tonne, and revolves on a thin film of water under pressure, providing a memorable centre piece for the courtyard. It can be moved with the touch of your hand!
Stones Island, erected in 1992, is only a short stroll from the visitor centre. It follows in the long tradition in Derbyshire of hill-top monuments. The objectives of the site are, to present a notable feature within the landscape when viewed from a distance and, when reached to attract attention back to the surrounding countryside. Holes have been pierced in each of the stones to enable visitors to focus on particular features rather than just on the area as a whole. The heights of the holes have been varied so that even small children can enjoy the experience.
A circular path guides walkers around the reservoir, and takes in the attractive conservation villages of Carsington and Hopton, There are slightly different routes, for cyclists and horse riders. Bikes can be hired from the Carsington Watersports and Cycle Hire Centre. If you want something a little more adventurous, windsurfing boards are available, or even a two day power boat course can be booked. In addition there is a very active sailing club, facilities for anglers and bird watchers. A varied progamme of events is run by the centre, throughout the year, with something suitable for people of all ages.
Only a short easy walk from the main car park is the wildlife centre where you can watch Carsington’s birdlife in warmth and comfort. The weight of the turf-covered roof holds the building together without the need of screws or nails. Along the bankside towards Carsington village are three bird-hides where a fascinating hour can be spent seeing how many different bird species you can spot.
Severn Trent has planted half a million trees and shrubs in woodlands, copses and hedgerows; the result has been not only to enhance an already beautiful landscape, but to create many new habitats for wildlife. This was recognised in 1995, by the receipt of a Forestry Centre of Excellence award for using the ‘highest standards of woodland management’ at Carsington. The woodlands are managed by a team of wardens to maximise their potential for wildlife and the landscape. Their headquarters was once a chapel.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Carsington Water Visitor Centre, (Tel. 01629 540696) a great place just to relax by the water’s edge, but do leave time to look round the Visitor Centre with its shops and exhibition area. The more adventurous can hire a sailing dinghy, or a mountain bike. Alternatively, if you have plenty of energy left, why not walk the seven miles or so round the reservoir? Open daily all year.
Wirksworth Heritage Centre, (Tel. 01629 875225) where the ‘Wirksworth Story’ is told, taking you on a fascinating journey through time on three floors of the centre. The special displays are excellent and for something different you can always try a computer game. Telephone for further information.
North End Mills, (Tel. 01629 824731) is one of the largest factory shops in the country which sells clothes. Visitors to the Mills can still see hosiery being made, have a coffee and admire the display of old photographs of Wirksworth. Open 7 days a week.
Miners Arms (Tel. 01629 540207) was a popular pub for lead miners in the 1700s. This cosy little pub serves good homemade food daily. Open every day at lunchtime and in the evenings, apart from on Monday evenings in the winter. Food served lunchtime and evenings, apart from Mondays in the winter. Open all day Sunday in the summer. Outside there is a beer garden and mini-adventure playground.
Carsington Water Tea Rooms (Tel. 01629 540363) there is a restaurant and tea rooms on the first floor of the visitor centre. There is also an outdoor food facility in the Courtyard. Open daily all year.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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CARSINGTON WATER WALK
A delightful walk round Carsington Water, one of Derbyshire’s most important tourist attractions since it was opened by HM the Queen in 1992. It is an area noted for its wildlife, with a Wildlife Centre and bird hides en route.
Severn Trent has planted half a million trees and shrubs in woodlands, copses and hedgerows; the result has been not only to enhance a beautiful landscape, but to create many new habitats for wildlife.
The walk visits the attractive conservation villages of Carsington and Hopton. They are inseparably linked and lie in a wooded valley with Carsington Pasture rising steeply to one thousand feet to the west, behind a row of attractive little cottages that line the roadside.
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