The Hopes

Today the lovely, narrow valley of the Hopes is a popular summer picnic area where hill walkers mingle with flocks of sheep and look across the quiet waters of the Hopes reservoir. Few live in this quiet valley apart from farmers and waterworks workers and access to it in wintertime can be a difficult task even for a 4 x 4. The reservoir, lying at the southern extremity of the valley, was constructed from the stones taken from the Calton Gaol when it was demolished in 1930.  The construction construction of the dam was completed in 1933.

Training in the valley of the Hopes

Above the Hopes reservoir and

across to the Hope Hills [DH]

The Hopes Reservoir

Training in the Hopes - George Dixon


The valley’s relative isolation was, however, useful to the military for training purposes of one kind or another. During the war years George Dixon lived with his parents in the Water Board’s house half a mile below the dam.  George’s father was the Water Superintendent throughout the war and he and his family sometimes found their peaceful existence disturbed and themselves in the middle of a number of military training exercises.


One dark winter’s night George and his family were woken up by the RAF practising bombing runs down the valley.  Whether bombs were dropped or not is uncertain, but George remembers the vivid flashes that accompanied the over-flights of the aircraft. These were the photoflashes dropped to enable photographs to be taken of the accuracy or otherwise of the bombing.

The RAF Regiment

George described how members of the RAF Regiment encamped at Hopes House and trained with a variety of weapons throughout the area.  He found some of the flares employed and proceeded to remove their parachutes and throw them onto a fire, thankfully without any nasty results! Jack Tully-Jackson was one of the soldiers involved.

The Polish army

George remembered that on one occasion a Polish artillery regiment using a live firing range on the other side of the hills from the Hopes, miscalculated and sent a significant number of live shells and smoke shells over the valley top and into the valley itself.  This went on all morning until George’s father was able to contact the police who sent an officer up to the guns to put a stop to their dangerous inaccuracies!

George Dixon being interviewed by

Jack Tully-Jackson by the Hopes dam