My research led me to Ashopton at the end of the A57. This opens up into Ladybower and Derwent reservoir. My interest in Derwent was sparked from something my dad mentioned whilst we were on a bike ride around Ladybower’s waters. He mentioned an urban myth of a church tower that used to emerge from Derwent reservoir when the water got low enough, giving it the appearance of rising up and out of the water.
As my research stated, the church existed and did indeed emerge from the river as memorial to the flooded villages. However it was demolished in 1947, shortly after the flooding. I wanted to see if I could find any trace of these forgotten villages.
All that now remains of Ashopton’s legacy is this plaque evidence of the viaduct.
This comparison shows the old village of Ashopton under the viaduct, and the reservoir today. Both sights have a distinct and individual kind of beauty and relationship to the bridge; one grandiose and communal, the other scenic and vast.
Whilst on the bridge (now just a road) the concrete slab sides felt very cold and unwelcoming. The freshly lain tarmac distanced me from the otherwise serene and beautiful countryside and left a sinister taste in the air.
The above and below photos were taken in the same spot, just at 180 degree angles from each other. The warmth of the past and the harsh cold of the present are felt immediately.
This unwelcome vibe continued with these signs that brandished every gate and possible entry to the waters below. The river, referred to as “The Unknown” feels almost insulting. The sunken villages literally sink into obscurity.
“reservoirs are a hybrid of nature and machine, hugely impressive feats of engineering disguised as natural lakes”
These curved shadows created by the water’s varying depths gave me a feel for the immense scale of these bodies of water and a real sense of this large scale engineering, and helped me understand why the flooding of two villages was necessary to bring water – something we take for granted daily – to the people of Derbyshire and Sheffield.
Over the side of the viaduct a washed up tree lies defeated against a rocky bank. The curve of the reservoir erodes said rocks like concentric circles growing up the bank.
The revealed roots of a tree where the grass came away got me thinking about the rising and falling of tides in a man made setting. When we think of tides we think of beaches, of seasides, but this moon led phenomenon is still present in artificial bodies of water; rising and falling.
This reminded me of the church at Derwent that led me here in the first place and that I may be standing very near the site where is stood.
The low-tide meant i was able to make my way on to a clearing of rocks alongside the Derwent reservoir. The clearing was strewn with flat rocks.
It occurred to me that the flat stones around me may once have been part of the demolished buildings, walls or even of the church itself that once stood along the narrow strip that is Derwent reservoir.
I began arranging the rocks; balancing and restructuring the flat stones, favouring the more triangular shapes in an attempt to pay tribute to the spire of Derwent church that once emerged from the water at this site.
I was fond of the rocks’ form, but the impact was minimal. I considered making lots of these small monuments, to commemorate the villages, but I feared they would, in turn, be knocked over and lost, or even looked past and forgotten, likening them to the sunken villages’ legacy.
It wasn’t until I found a curved, long rock with a broken base – similar to the shape of a grave, only smaller – I was reminded of the graveyard at Derwent. 285 bodies were buried in the churchyard, and later exhumed to Bamford shortly before the drowning of Derwent. The idea of disturbing the dead gave me a sinister feeling, similar to the one felt on the bridge, of a change in the natural flow of a place.
Inserting the “gravestone” into the arch to create a third wall and placing the sculpture in the water made it stand out – both literally and metaphorically. The piece could be both seen and noticed as unusual and not following the order of the random shore. I was reminded again of the rising tide and that the small sculpture would, in a few hours, be engulfed by the water, just as the church had been.
As the sun shone down and refracted into the water, light was reflected back in through the open “fourth wall” of the piece allowing a glistening on the inner walls, only seen through the gaps.