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A Guide to Gaddings Dam

A Guide to Gaddings Dam 

When speaking of the best places to visit, dams are seldom mentioned—I mean, when was the last time you’ve visited one, eh? But dams are pretty captivating attractions; aside from being an indispensable feature in storing water, they are a sight to behold. 

Fortunately, there’s a particular dam that’s less than an hour’s drive from Manchester: Gaddings Dam! For me, this Yorkshire beach surrounded by picturesque scenery is worth the trip, even if it’s difficult to access and has no facilities.

If you’re considering heading out for an adventure at Gaddings Dam, then here is everything you need to know about it so you’ll know what to expect. I’ll also tackle the best things to do when visiting to make your time there much more memorable!

Image credits Steve Patridge
Image credits: Steve Patridge 

Where is Gaddings Dam?

Gaddings Dam can be found in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, at the heap of a plateau that runs from Todmorden to Walsden. At 80 feet above sea level, it is dubbed as the highest beach in England.

Aside from being popular for its panoramic views and hiking trails, it features sandy banks that makes it a peculiar but popular spot for wild swimming. 

Opening Hours24/7
Nearest Vehicle Access PointShepherd’s Rest Inn, Lumbutts Road OL14 6JJ
From marc rowlands

What to Expect, See, and Do at Gaddings Dam

I hope you’re excited to go on a trip to Gaddings Dam—you’ll be surprised at the sheer number of activities to do and interesting tidbits to learn while you’re there. Let’s get started!

Todmorden Beach is an excellent place for wild swimming.

Swimming is allowed at Gaddings Dam. In fact, it’s one of the go-to wild swimming options in the UK and it has very few restrictions. 

In fact, Gaddings Dam has been a well-kept secret for both locals and visitors alike for many years.

The dam boasts breathtaking views, excellent hiking paths, a sandy beach perfect for lounging, and one of the top wild swimming areas in the county. It’s no surprise that Gaddings Dam is becoming increasingly popular.

Todmorden Beach is an excellent place for wild swimming's Homepage
Gaddings Dam, Lumbutts, Todmorden” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by adelle

On my final trip there, I packed a lot of essentials with me like trunks, goggles, and towels. Heading to the beach taks about a little less than an hour through walking. You can start from the Sheperd’s Rest Inn for lodging and it’s about a 25-minute walk from there. 

Once you’re at the dam, there is about a perimeter of around 900 metres that encircles the whole area. This is a lot considering it’s one of the more isolated bodies of waters in the outskirts of England. 

What’s great about it is you can expect sandy beaches by the shorelines which you can do just about anything under the sun (literally) like sunbathing, building sand castles, and playing fetch with your pet dog (row 105, Things to do in Manchester with a dog). 

Local Tip: When at the beach, most people love to dive and see the magnificent views of ocean life like different colourful fish and the bizarre patterns and textures of coral reefs. Unfortunately, Gaddings Dam’s waters are shallow which means there aren’t a lot of diving spots to enjoy while swimming. The good news is, the temperatures can rise to a pretty comfortable level that makes it great for skinny dipping!

Gaddings Dam’s slow growth through the centuries 

Gaddings Dam's slow growth through the centuries' Homepage
Image credits: Bill Boaden

Gaddings Dam was built in 1833 mainly to supply water for the nearby inhabitants. During this period, there were huge areas of puddled clay in the area that came from a nonporous core which mostly comprised the whole dam itself. 

Slowly, the dam experienced a series of overhauls that made it look more modern and efficient for today’s time. One of its most significant changes came during 2001 when facilitators decided to drain all the natural water down due to poor conditions. 

Fortunately, certain local groups and activists wanted to preserve it and it was eventually saved from closing. At that time, the dam was also tarnished due to weather increments that forced nearby coordinators to repair some of its facilities.

Gaddings Dam is difficult to access

To access the reservoir, you’ll need to be prepared for a challenging hike up the steep moors, as there’s no vehicle access available. 

It’s important to note that there are no facilities at the dam, so visitors should be experienced in fell walking and equipped with the necessary gear to ensure their safety and navigation. 

While some may refer to it as the ‘highest beach in England,’ this is actually quite misleading. In reality, the ‘beach’ is a small area of dirty sand located in one corner of the reservoir that’s often submerged.

Local Tip: If you’re looking for the easiest route to the reservoir, consider taking the Pennine Way and parking at the White House pub on the A58. From there, follow the PW trail north until you reach Warland Reservoir, then take the footpath that branches off westward to reach the dam. It’s also worth noting that approaching from Lumbutts can be quite challenging due to a lack of parking and a footpath that’s become eroded, so this route is not recommended.

There are no basic facilities in Gaddings Dam.

There are no basic facilities in Gaddings Dam's Homepage
Image credits: Jason Wong

Basic facilities like public bathrooms, parking spaces, and even help centres are grossly absent at Gaddings Dam. I didn’t feel the need to mention them previously because I honestly believe they aren’t a big deal. 

If you really need to go to the toilet or any indoor plumbing facilities, I’d go to the nearest inn or convenience store which isn’t too far from the dam. 

For the absence of parking spaces, I’ve also mentioned that you can simply park your vehicles somewhere near the dam like the adjacent reservoirs or inns that will accommodate you. 

To be honest, you don’t need help centres because you can search online for area maps and nearby facilities that’ll be marked by these applications. But I feel like you should at least know that these basic facilities are nowhere to be found when visiting the dam. 

Gaddings Dam is surrounded by notable sights and attractions.

While there are some small drawbacks about it, I would personally attest that Gaddings Dam also comes with loads of benefits aside from its beautiful site and the fun opportunities to be had like swimming and spending time with your family.

A huge plus about this place is the adjacent areas that are also worth visiting. Since you’re already there, you might as well stop by these few vicinities. 

1. The Basin Stone 

The Basin Stone's Homepage
Image Credits: Phil Champions

The basin stone is eerily similar to the stonehenge and is a historical site I believe is quite overlooked by most people. This place is located on the outskirts of Walsden Moor that’s not too far from Gaddings Dam itself. 

What’s interesting about it is it’s an exposed outcrop of the quernstone that has gone through extensive weathering throughout the years. To me, this process only made the rocks look more beautiful and grand in scale. 

While there aren’t a lot of things to do here unlike other places I’ll mention later, it’s a site I want to personally visit for recreational purposes. I can simply sit back and look at this marvel thinking how it got here in the first place. 

2. Heptonstall 

Heptonstall's Homepage

I don’t know about you, but I love abandoned locations that left an impression in areas that still loom today. One of these places is the Heptonstall which is a ghost town of some sorts that still has a few relics of history like the ruins of an old church. 

In fact, it’s not entirely a ghost town since there are still local villagers who reside in the area. Only a portion of the land is officially abandoned and I reckon that it’s still worth checking out alongside the townhouses that stand nearby. 

What I personally love about this place is its interesting history. By visiting here, you can take a peek of the past and see what life was like during the mediaeval period to the late 19th century. 

You can find all tombstones, ransacked structures, and ageless marble sign posts that still linger. I believe that this place is a forgotten piece in our rich culture and history, and you should definitely stop by here for pictures and a quick chat with the local neighbourhood. 

3. Top Brink Inn

Top Brink Inn's Homepage
The Top Brink Inn (Pub) Lumbutts, Todmor” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by mrrobertwade (wadey)

So far, I’ve only mentioned two historical sites that I feel are worth a visit. However, if you’re hungry for some delicious meals and some hospitable services, look no further than The Top Brink Inn. 

What’s great about this restaurant is the whole establishment is operated by a family which means the food is cooked from a family recipe. There’s something about this that makes you feel like home and never travelled in the first place— which is spectacular. 

From appetisers, main course, to desserts, you can’t go wrong with the wide selection of dishes to delve into when eating here. The best part to me is its ambient interior design that feels comfortable and light when you visit. 

4. The Sheperd’s Rest Country Inn 

The Sheperd's Rest Country Inn 's Homepage
Image credits: Bill Boaden 

I always say: You can never go wrong with a few options. Just like The Top Brink Inn, the Sheperd’s Rest Country Inn is a wonderful diner and resting place if you happen to be in Gaddings Dam. 

If I had to pick between the two, I would probably go with the former than this one but that’s not to say that this is not a solid option at all. In fact, this amazing restaurant/inn has a lot going for it if you love delicious entrees and a cosy room. 

It certainly has a local and classic aesthetic compared to the Top Brink— which again, I still prefer the former— but I’d argue that it pretty much has about the same quality of food on the table. 

You can expect the regular menu to have a versatile range of meals from standard British dishes like fish and chips to the fancier medium-rare steaks. 

I’d advise you to either dine in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in both restaurants separately to have varied experiences when it comes to food. 

5. Waggons and Horses 

Waggons and Horses' Homepage
”The Waggon and Horses” (Pub) 786 Rochda” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by mrrobertwade (wadey)

The Waggon and Horses pub is literally a time capsule that has existed for many years and is still continuing to provide quality food and entertainment to visiting people. The pub has a lot of great food and local beverages that make the place the classic gettogether avenue for friends and family. 

What makes this pub more unique than any other places I’ve listed is the occasional live band who’ll play incredible music while you’re sitting there eating their yummy courses. 

Since I love music so much, this is a huge plus for me and I think that you’ll enjoy the ambience of this place too! 

5 Useful Tips When Visiting Gaddings Dam

5 Useful Tips When Visiting Gaddings Dam

When at Gaddings Dam itself, there are a few reminders you have to remember from the point of going there to staying in the place itself. This will help you ready for any precautionary measures and activities that you’re planning to do when visiting. 

1. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the hike

Unfortunately, the dam has no easy access to roads which makes it a tad more difficult to cross paths and enter it. You can only reach by walking for about half an hour on either of the high posts between the two rugged paths. 

Choosing your footwear is crucial here, and I highly suggest sporting comfortable sandals and hiking shoes to make the experience much more manageable. 

When it comes to the clothes you need to bring, I’ll definitely bring with me warm pieces of clothing because the dam may be excruciatingly hot— or at the very least, warm. I’d also bring some sunscreens and lotions to avoid burns when I get home. 

2. Pack efficiently since there are no facilities in the area

In relation to my first point, I would also highly suggest packing things more efficiently. Remember, you’ll most likely be hiking your way to the dam, so bringing moderate stuff with you is a huge plus in my books. 

Secondly, you also need to remember that there are no basic facilities like toilets. This means bringing extra essentials with you is a difference maker if you wish to stay more than one night at the dam. 

3. Follow the marked paths on the way to the dam

When you’re on your way to the dam, please make sure that you follow the marked path for safety traversal. Dam coordinators have placed a direct path to the dam that makes it a lot easier to cross, but it’s still not as optimal as driving your car there.

This is absolutely crucial so you can prevent unwanted and preventable accidents that require rescue teams to pull you out of safety. 

4. Use public transport going to Gaddings Dam

If you’re not so keen on walking, you can use public transport to get to Gaddings Dam. There’s an hourly bus that’ll take you to the dam which is the T6 or T8 buses that will lead from Todmodorden to the footpaths. 

Depart around 10 minutes before the hour to reach the buses on time. 

5. Park responsibly 

It is crucial to refrain from parking on the western side of Lumbutts Road, specifically the long stretch between the Pub and the drystone walls, as it will obstruct the path of emergency vehicles and buses. 

It is essential to exercise caution when parking in this area since parking space is extremely limited on Lumbutts Road. 

If you are unable to park at the small parking lot by the gate opposite the Shepherd’s Rest, you may consider parking on the moorland side of the road.

However, it is crucial to leave passing spaces to prevent the road from getting congested. 

Again, it is imperative to avoid parking on the western side of Lumbutts Road, specifically the long stretch between the Pub and the drystone walls, as it will block access for emergency vehicles and buses.

You can also park in Todmorden then hitch a commuter bus through the Walsden Circular bus station— the ones I mentioned earlier about the T6 and T8 buses. 

Going back to your vehicle will also require you to wait at least 10 minutes before the bus arrives to lead back to Todmorden. 

5 Fun Facts about Gaddings Dam

  1. Gaddings Dam is the highest beach in the country which soars at a whopping altitude of 300 metres above sea level. 
  2. The dam is built to bring water mills to nearby residents which was the sole source of water during the mid-18th century. 
  3. Some locals believe that a ghost haunts the dam. The ghost was believed to be a boy named Tommy who drowned during the 20th century. 
  4. In 2017, the dam’s industrial and environmental progress earned it a designation of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) after some rare plants and wildlife appeared in the surrounding areas. 
  5. During the latter parts of the year, the dam’s water freezes which gives it a rather spectacular sight. 
Image credits Bill Boaden
Image credits: Bill Boaden

Now that you know more about Gaddings Dam and some neighbouring attractions that you can explore while you’re there, I hope you and your companions will have an easier time on your trip! 

There are tons of interesting historical pieces, restaurants, and reservoir locations (row 198, reservoir walks manchester) that you can explore while you’re at Gaddings Dam. While it may not look like a lot at first glance, I’m certain that you’ll find some interesting ways to spend your day there! 

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