Perfect Sunday walk around Dale Dike and Strines Reservoirs (Part 3)

This post continues from Part 1 & Part 2.

The woodland floor is coming back to life (nearly a fortnight ago now). Perhaps these are bluebells?

Another toad has found a good hiding place in amongst the leaf litter.

A nice holly (Ilex aquifolium) that actually has a decent ‘tree’ shape – which is fairly unusual for holly.

Reflections on Dale Dike Reservoir. The current dam was completed in 1875, but there was an earlier dam on the site which was completed in 1864. Tragically the original dam collapsed on the night of March 11th 1864 causing the catastrophic Great Sheffield Flood in which 244 people were killed and terrible destruction was wrought all down the Loxley valley and into the centre of Sheffield. The story of the disaster is one I remember well from my childhood.

Briefly: On the night of a storm, a crack was discovered in the earth embankment and the chief engineer, Mr Gunson, was sent for from Sheffield. When Stephenson Fountain, the son of one of the contractors at the dam, was dispatched to fetch Mr Gunson, the crack ran for fifty yards along the embankment. When he arrived at Dale Dyke, Mr Gunson was met by the contactors Mr Fountain and Mr Swinden. The crack was inspected and was wide enough to admit the engineer’s hand; it was in the centre of the embankment. Mr Fountain ordered gunpowder to be brought to blow a hole in the masonry of a weir (this must be the overflow) in order to lower the water level in the not-yet-filled reservoir; the valves were already fully open. The gunpowder was lit, but it failed to go off.

[The following paragraphs are an excerpt from The Dramatic Story of the Sheffield Flood by Peter Machan (1999).]

He [Gunson] and Swinden returned to examine the crack once more, Gunson still unsure about its cause. He wondered if the cracking extended into the puddle clay core, so the two men set about measuring the distance to the top of the wall to establish if the water in the dam was at the same level. Intent on making careful measurements Mr Gunson was stooping over his lantern at one end of the crack. On glancing up again he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. A foaming white sheet of water was flowing over the embankment. It rushed towards him and plunged down into the widening gap. Thinking quickly he shouted to George Swinden. “I’m going to the valve house to see how much water we’re losing.” He made his way, more cautiously now, down the embankment and into the small building. The others were following down the slope but realised they were no longer safe. Swinden shouted a warning to Mr Gunson to come out and, as the engineer emerged he looked up, his whole life of fifty five years seeming to have led up to this moment. As if in slow motion a central segment of the top of the wall, about thirty feet wide, was collapsing and with a great rumble a white torrent taking its place. Gunson stood transfixed. Swinden was fortunately close enough to grab his arm and pull him out of the path of the surging water and, as they fled across the base of the embankment, the ground shuddered and the whole central portion was swept away.

As they ran another loud explosion above them revealed that the gunpowder had ignited, blowing a now pointless hole in the waste weir. The volume of water crashing through the breach in the dam was awesome. It was as if the great basin of high Pennine moorland was tilting, tipping its contents down into that narrow wooded channel. … John Gunson, as he stood now gazing on the widening breach in impotent horror, was only too aware of the menace that now roared down the valley. He felt the blood draining from his face and released a gasp, experiencing a sickening churning in the pit of his stomach. “It’s all up! The embankment is going,” was all that his dry lips could utter. …it was exactly midnight.

Tangled birch roots.

A couple of oaks lean dangerously over the reservoir, mesmerised by their own reflections.

A fine oak growing on the other side of the path…

…and another oak, dipping its branches in the water.

After the walk, a pleasant meal at the Old Horns in Upper Bradfield to nicely top off a perfect Sunday.


Posted in Gone for a walk










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