Around Bradfield




5.75 miles (9.25kms)

500ft (152m)

About the walk

Just before midnight on Friday 11 March 1864, when the Dale Dike Dam tragically collapsed, 650 million gallons (2,955 million litres) of water surged along the Loxley Valley towards Sheffield, leaving a trail of death and destruction. When the floods finally subsided, more than 250 people had been killed and hundreds of properties destroyed.

The Bradfield Scheme

During the Industrial Revolution Sheffield expanded rapidly, as country people sought employment in the city's steel and cutlery works. This put considerable pressure on the water supply. The 'Bradfield Scheme' was Sheffield Waterworks Company's ambitious proposal to build massive reservoirs in the hills around the village of Bradfield, about 8 miles (12.9km) from the city. Work commenced on the first of these, the Dale Dike Dam on 1 January, 1859. It was a giant by the standards of the time with a capacity of over 700 million gallons (3,182 million litres) of water, but some 200 million gallons (910 million litres) less than the present reservoir.

The disaster of 1864

Construction of the dam continued until late February 1864, by which time the reservoir was almost full. Friday 11 March was a stormy day and as one of the dam workers crossed the earthen embankment on his way home, he noticed a crack, about a finger's width, running along it. John Gunson the chief engineer turned out with one of the contractors to inspect the dam. They had to make the 8 miles (12.9km) from Sheffield in a horse-drawn gig, in deteriorating weather conditions, so it was 10pm before they got there. After an initial inspection, Gunson concluded that it was probably nothing to worry about. However, as a precaution he decided to lower the water level. He re-inspected the crack at 11.30pm, noting that it had not visibly deteriorated. Then the engineer saw to his horror that water was running over the top of the embankment into the crack. He was making his way to the bottom of the embankment when he felt the ground beneath him begin to shake and saw the top of the dam breached by the straining waters. He just had time to scramble up the side before a large section of the dam collapsed, unleashing a solid wall of water down into the valley below towards Sheffield. The torrent destroyed everything in its path and though the waters started to subside within half an hour their destructive force swept aside 415 houses, 106 factories or shops, 20 bridges and countless cottage and market gardens for 8 miles (12.9km). Few were spared and some whole families were wiped out, including an 87-year-old woman and a two-day-old baby. At the inquest the jury concluded that there had been insufficient engineering skill devoted to a work of such size and called for new standards to be met when constructing large scale structures in the future. The Dale Dike Dam was rebuilt in 1875, but it was not brought into full use until 1887.

Walk directions

Exit the car park and turn right on to the road. At the second junction go right, signed 'Strines and Derwent Valley'. Follow this road uphill passing, on the right, a former inn, Walker House farm and Upper Thornseat. When the road turns right, with Thomson House below, turn left on to an overgrown track, signposted 'public bridleway'.

From here go through a gate in front of you and on to Hall Lane. Follow this along the edge of a wood then through another gate and continue ahead on the farm road. Another gate at the end of this road leads to the entrance to Hallfield.

The right of way goes through the grounds of Hallfield, but an alternative permissive path leads left through a gate, round the perimeter of the house and through another gate to rejoin the bridleway at the back of the house. Follow the bridleway through a gate and then past Stubbing Farm.

The next gate leads to Brogging Farm and the dam at the head of Strines Reservoir. Look out for a path near the end of the farmhouse and turn left before reaching the dam. Go slightly downhill, through a gate, following the path before crossing through another gate to follow the path in the woods.

Cross the stream by a footbridge, go right at a junction immediately afterwards and straight on at the next, keeping left with the stream on your left. Follow the path straight ahead along the bank of Dale Dike Reservoir to the dam head. From here continue through the woods, down several sets of steps and continue on the path looking out for the memorial on your right, near the road, to those who were killed in 1864.

Follow the path until it reaches the road. Cross through a gate and turn right on to the road, proceeding to the road junction. Turn right onto Blindside Lane, cross the bridge then look for a public footpath sign just before the entrance to Doe House. Cross the stile on the left and follow the path all the way to its end on Mill Lee Road, opposite The Plough. Turn left and follow this road downhill, through the village and back to the car park.

Additional information

Minor roads, bridleways and forest paths, few stiles

Woodland, reservoir and meadows

Keep on lead near livestock

AA Walker's Map 1 Central Peak District

Car park by Low Bradfield cricket ground

Next to the village hall in Low Bradfield, signposted from the car park

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About the area

Discover South Yorkshire

Traditionally a steel and coal producing centre, the decline of both industries in South Yorkshire has been replaced to some extent by tourism based around the area’s beautiful Pennine countryside. The county claims part of the Peak District National Park, whose hills and dales provide welcome space for the large urban populations.

South Yorkshire is made up of four districts: City of Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham. Barnsley is the county’s administrative centre, located on one of Britain’s richest coalfields. The town has an entry in the Domesday Book and was built on land belonging to the priories of Pontefract and Monk Bretton. Doncaster, originally a Roman station, is set on the River Don. It is known particularly for its racecourse, best known for the St Leger in September. In 1875, Charles Dickens watched it from the 18th century Italianate grandstand at the Town Moor racecourse. The Lincolnshire Handicap is held in March. The town also boasts fine Georgian architecture and Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.