Cromford Canal – Cromford to Langley Mill – History Walks

This is the first video in a series i’m going to call History Walks, this instalment sees me walk the entire length of what was once the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire. The Canal once stretched some 14.5 miles from Cromford in the Derwent Valley to Langley Mill in the Erewash Valley. The 33 minute video documents my journey along this iconic waterway, I traced the original route as closely as possible and show you some of the highlights along the way. I hope you enjoy it πŸ™‚

If you would like to find out more about the canal then I would highly recommend you head on over to the Friends of Cromford Canal’s website at http://www.cromfordcanal.info

http://www.shareyouradventure.com/map/perma/47285/iframe

Lets start with a little bit of history for you, which I have procured from the Wikipedia website and appears hear under the creative commons license πŸ™‚

The Cromford Canal ran 14.5 miles (23.3 kilometres) from Cromford to the Erewash Canal in Derbyshire, England with a branch to Pinxton. Built by William Jessop with the assistance of Benjamin Outram, its alignment included four tunnels and 14 locks.

From Cromford it ran south following the 300-foot (91 m) contour line along the east side of the valley of the Derwent to Ambergate, where it turned eastwards along the Amber valley. It turned sharply to cross the valley, crossing the river and the Ambergate to Nottingham road, by means of an aqueduct at Bullbridge, before turning towards Ripley. From there the Butterley Tunnel took it through to the Erewash Valley.

Canal Wharf at Cromford
Canal Wharf at Cromford

I began my walk today at Cromford Wharf where the legendary Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mill is located. The mill was built in 1771 and is renowned as being the worlds first factory. I have heard conflicting stories about this fact though, as the Derby Silk Mill claims to have been the world’s first factory too but sadly the original building there is no longer standing. The Cromford Mill however, is there in all it’s glory for all to come and see, learn and experience… right, onwards.

Wheatcroft's Wharf cafe at Cromford
Wheatcroft’s Wharf cafe at Cromford
Cromford Wharf
Cromford Wharf

From the Wharf at Cromford I travelled the short distance down to the first point of interest along the way, the High Peak Junction. It is here that the High Peak Railway meets the canal and begins it’s journey over the Peak District towards Buxton. Now days it is an excellent Cycle Trail and I would Highly Recommend giving it a go, just like my friend Ray and I did in the video below.

Plaque at the High Peak Junction
Plaque at the High Peak Junction
High Peak Junction where the canal meets the High Peak Trail
High Peak Junction where the canal meets the High Peak Trail
The former railway transhipment buildings at High Peak Junction
The former railway transhipment buildings at High Peak Junction
There is lots of Wildlife to be seen as you journey along the Canal
There is lots of Wildlife to be seen as you journey along the Canal

After you pass the High Peak Junction the next place you come to is the Leawood Pump House, which once pumped water from the River Derwent below to top up the levels of the Canal. You can however see the pump running on various day throughout the year, if you would like to find out more then you can do so at http://www.middleton-leawood.org.uk

Leawood Pump House
Leawood Pump House
Crich Stand comes in to view
Crich Stand comes in to view
Railway aqueduct 7 south of Leawood on the Cromford Canal, constructed in 1849, when the the railway was built from Ambergate to Rowsley
Railway aqueduct 7 south of Leawood on the Cromford Canal, constructed in 1849, when the the railway was built from Ambergate to Rowsley

The first tunnel you come to as you follow the canal from Cromford is the Gregory Tunnel, It was here, by the southern entrance that I met Stuart Brady, he was a listener of the Peak Routes Podcast, A walker, Cyclist and a thoroughly nice chap. It’s always nice to meet people who are aware of what i’m doing over here at PeakRoutes.com and it’s a great insentive to keep going.

Northern Entrance to the Gregory Tunnel
Northern Entrance to the Gregory Tunnel
Sign post at the northern end of the Gregory Tunnel
Sign post at the northern end of the Gregory Tunnel
I was really pleased to meet Stuart Brady, he is a listener of the Peak Routes Podcast, A walker, Cyclist and a thoroughly nice chap.
I was really pleased to meet Stuart Brady, he is a listener of the Peak Routes Podcast, A walker, Cyclist and a thoroughly nice chap.

The canal comes to a very abrupt end when you arrive at Ambergate, the section from Cromford to here is only 5 miles long but it is one of the crowning jewels in the UNSECO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The canal was cut short here long ago and there is now a detour around the Ambergate Works, it is such a shame that “Progress” wipes out historic features from our past.

The Pea Soup, A small section of the canal that still remains in Bullbridge
The Pea Soup, A small section of the canal that still remains in Bullbridge

No it’s not a huge bowl of Pea Soup, it is the small section of canal that remains in Bullbridge. The canal route has now become people’s gardens and houses as you follows it’s course through Bullbridge towards the old Aquaduct.

Houses and Gardens where the Canal once flowed
Houses and Gardens where the Canal once flowed
Looking back along the top of the run up to the old Bullbridge Aquaduct
Looking back along the top of the run up to the old Bullbridge Aquaduct
Heading down the path which is at the site of the old Bullbridge Aquaduct
Heading down the path which is at the site of the old Bullbridge Aquaduct
A information sign next to the A610 at Bullbridge that tells the story of the old Aquaduct
A information sign next to the A610 at Bullbridge that tells the story of the old Aquaduct

As you cross the railway line before heading over the A610 you are now at the site of the old Bullbridge Aquaduct. It once carried the canal over these two obstacles and survived up until 1968 when the decision was made to demolish it due to the traffic chaos it was causing on the road underneath. It is such a shame as it was destroyed despite opposition by 2 national waterways groups who had proposed widening the road.

The footpath across the railway at Bullbridge which the Aquaduct once carried the canal over
The footpath across the railway at Bullbridge which the Aquaduct once carried the canal over
Crossing the A610 at Bullbridge where the old Aquaduct once stood
Crossing the A610 at Bullbridge where the old Aquaduct once stood
The canal runs along the back of houses at Sawmills towards Buckland Hollow
The canal runs along the back of houses at Sawmills towards Buckland Hollow
An information board at the Sawmills Gauging Spot
An information board at the Sawmills Gauging Spot

The next feature you arrive at is the Sawmills Gauging Spot, the canal narrows here which was used to gauge the payload of the boats passing through in order to calculate the toll to be paid.

The Tunnel under the B6013 at Buckland Hollow
The Tunnel under the B6013 at Buckland Hollow

After you pass under the B6013 in the tunnel at Buckland Hollow the canal swings to the south at the site of the Excavator Pub. It then passes underneath an old railway line before heading towards a point on the map called Starvehimvalley, reading that name makes me feel hungry πŸ™‚

The gate to allow me to get back on track behind the Excavator Pub at Buckland Hollow
The gate to allow me to get back on track behind the Excavator Pub at Buckland Hollow
The little Oasis marked as Starvehimvalley on the detailed OS Map
The little Oasis marked as Starvehimvalley on the detailed OS Map

The little Oasis at Starvehimvalley is thoroughly delightful and is a great place to sit on those warm summer days, it was on such a day that I first visited here, long before I knew of it’s connection to the Cromford Canal.

The Starvehimvalley Bridge
The Starvehimvalley Bridge
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay

After passing over farmland where the canal completely vanishes, it then reappears at Lower Hartshay where you can begin to follow it’s course once more.

The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
The canal bed at Lower Hartshay
Approaching the A610 once again at Lower Hartshay
Approaching the A610 once again at Lower Hartshay

Sadly the A610 has been built right over the top of the Canal at this point so you are required to climb up and over while the water flows underneath.

Climbing up and over the A610 at Lower Hartshay
Climbing up and over the A610 at Lower Hartshay
Walking back down towards the canal on the northern side of the A610 near Lower Hartshay
Walking back down towards the canal on the northern side of the A610 near Lower Hartshay
The canal disappears underneath the A610 near Lower Hartshay
The canal disappears underneath the A610 near Lower Hartshay
On route towards the Butterly Tunnel near Lower Hartshay
On route towards the Butterly Tunnel near Lower Hartshay

The Butterly Tunnel is one of the most impressive parts of the Cromford Canal in my eyes, It amazes me that such things were possible over 200 years ago and I was thoroughly impressed when I learned of it’s existence. The Butterly Tunnel once carried the Canal some 1 and 3 quarter miles underneath the Butterly Reservoir towards Golden Valley. The Butterly Reservoir was built for the canal to keep it’s levels topped up. One of the most impressive features of the tunnel is that it had an underground wharf where there was an adjoining tunnel which connected it to the local Carr Pit. There are also Air Shafts spread along it’s length and a side entrance above ground which is guarded by a thick steal door (which you can see below.) If you would like to find out more about this great tunnel and see images then head on over to this page on the Friends of Cromford Canal Website.

Arriving at the Butterly Tunnel, I was too busy recording video and forgot to take a picture closer up. sorry :-)
Arriving at the Butterly Tunnel, I was too busy recording video and forgot to take a picture closer up. sorry πŸ™‚
The Waymarked section of the Canal walk at the Midland Railway near Hammersmith
The Waymarked section of the Canal walk at the Midland Railway near Hammersmith
The Midland Railway at Butterly
The Midland Railway at Butterly

The path from here is way marked as you pass through the Midland Railway Butterly, which is another very interesting place that you may wish to visit. If you would like to find out more then you can visit http://www.midlandrailway-butterley.co.uk. Here is an AudioBoo I recorded a few years ago of the engine 73129 owned by Midland Railway Butterly

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An entrance to the Butterly Tunnel hidden in the trees beside the Butterly Reservoir
An entrance to the Butterly Tunnel hidden in the trees beside the Butterly Reservoir
The path down to the entrance to the Butterly Tunnel hidden in the trees beside the Butterly Reservoir
The path down to the entrance to the Butterly Tunnel hidden in the trees beside the Butterly Reservoir
The Butterly Reservoir with the Midland Railway line in the distance
The Butterly Reservoir with the Midland Railway line in the distance
The former Butterly Company works
The former Butterly Company works

After walking along side the Butterly Reservoir you then arrive at the former Butterly Company works. It sadly closed it’s doors for the last time back in 2009 and has an illustrious list of achievements in it’s 219 year history. It was founded in 1790 by William Jessop and Benjamin Outram who engineered the Cromford Canal. Sadly all that is left of it now is it’s legacy of projects and a few buildings that have a preservation order. There is a new development of houses which has street names like Falkirk Avenue (The Falkirk Wheel), St Pancras Way (St Pancras Station Barlow train shed) and Spinaker Close (The Spinaker Tower) which are a nod to some of the great things the Butterly Company worked on over the years.

New developments at the former Butterly Company works, The street names like "Falkirk Avenue, St Pancras Way and Spinaker Close" are a nod to some of the great things the Butterly Company did in its 219 year history
New developments at the former Butterly Company works, The street names like “Falkirk Avenue, St Pancras Way and Spinaker Close” are a nod to some of the great things the Butterly Company did in its 219 year history
The Derbyshire Police Headquarters, I was on my best behaviour along this section ;-)
The Derbyshire Police Headquarters, I was on my best behaviour along this section πŸ˜‰
An Airshaft for the Butterly Tunnel
An Airshaft for the Butterly Tunnel
The canal in Golden Valley looking back towards the Tunnel Entrance
The canal in Golden Valley looking back towards the Tunnel Entrance

The Cromford Canal eventually reappears out of the Butterly Tunnel at Golden Valley which is in the Erewash Valley. If you have followed the same route as I have then you will need to walk back on yourself ever so slightly and pick up the footpath beside the former Newlands Inn which leads down to the eastern portal of the Butterly Tunnel.

The Eastern Portal of the 1 and 3/4 mile long Butterly Tunnel
The Eastern Portal of the 1 and 3/4 mile long Butterly Tunnel
The Eastern Portal of the 1 and 3/4 mile long Butterly Tunnel
The Eastern Portal of the 1 and 3/4 mile long Butterly Tunnel
The canal in Golden Valley heading towards the former Newlands Inn from the Butterly Tunnel
The canal in Golden Valley heading towards the former Newlands Inn from the Butterly Tunnel
The Golden Valley Light Railway
The Golden Valley Light Railway

The Golden Valley Light Railway is another feature that you may wish to find out more about, you can do so at http://www.gvlr.org.uk.

The remains of the Newlands Inn at Golden Valley
The remains of the Newlands Inn at Golden Valley
The remains of the Newlands Inn at Golden Valley
The remains of the Newlands Inn at Golden Valley
The Codnor Park Reservoir
The Codnor Park Reservoir

From Golden Valley you then follow the canal to the Codnor Park Reservoir and it is at this point where a branch of the canal once travelled up to Pinxton, only a small sections of this arm now survives but there was no time to explore as it was race against the weather today. I will return in the not too distant future to find out more about the Pinxton Arm and will link to it here… stay tuned.

The former entrance to the Pinxton Arm of the Cromford Canal at the Codnor Park Reservoir
The former entrance to the Pinxton Arm of the Cromford Canal at the Codnor Park Reservoir
One of the Canal Locks at Ironville
One of the Canal Locks at Ironville

After the Codnor Park Resevoir you pass a series of Locks which carried the Canal boats down the slope as you drop down in to the bottom of the Erewash Valley.

The Cromford Canal near Jacksdale as it bends southwards towards Langley Mill
The Cromford Canal near Jacksdale as it bends southwards towards Langley Mill

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The canal is now a wildlife haven near Jacksdale and the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve
The canal is now a wildlife haven near Jacksdale and the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve
The entrance to the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve
The entrance to the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve

At this point the river Erewash marks the boundary between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire as you pass through the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve.

The Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve
The Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve

Once again the course of the canal has been totally wiped out by farmland here in the Erewash Valley, you really do struggle to find any signs of it’s existence whatsoever. There is only one small section of what looks to be a canal like body of water remaining before you arrive at the A610 Woodlinkin Bypass.

The final part of canal in the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve before you cross underneath the A610 Woodlinkin Bypass
The final part of canal in the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve before you cross underneath the A610 Woodlinkin Bypass
The final part of canal in the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve before you cross underneath the A610 Woodlinkin Bypass
The final part of canal in the Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve before you cross underneath the A610 Woodlinkin Bypass

Sadly, here you are limited to following the road down towards Langley Mill as you are unable to follow the canal due to the A610 and various other features. I eventually picked up the canal once again at it’s very end…. The Great Northern Basin.

The Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill where the Cromford Canal meets the Nottingham and Erewash Canals
The Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill where the Cromford Canal meets the Nottingham and Erewash Canals
The Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill where the Cromford Canal meets the Nottingham and Erewash Canals
The Great Northern Basin at Langley Mill where the Cromford Canal meets the Nottingham and Erewash Canals

The Great Northern Basin is just a short walk from the centre of Langley Mill and it is here that the Cromford Canal once linked up to the Nottingham and Erewash Canal’s. The Nottingham Canal, as you can imagine, headed towards Nottingham but it has now suffered a smilier fate to the Cromford canal as it has been filled in places along it’s length. The Erewash Canal however is still navigable today and carries you to the Trent and Mersey Canal from it’s northern most point here at the Great Northern Basin.

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The AudioBoo above is from a visit to the Great Northern Basin a week before today’s walk which initially spurred me on to get around to doing this route. I had been planning to do this route for a few years after I learned more about the Cromford Canal for a self imposed local history project which began in 2012.

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Langley Bridge Lock at the Great Northern Basin in Langley Mill
Langley Bridge Lock at the Great Northern Basin in Langley Mill
An information board at the Great Northern Basin
An information board at the Great Northern Basin
Langley Bridge Lock at the Great Northern Basin in Langley Mill
Langley Bridge Lock at the Great Northern Basin in Langley Mill

All in all my journey along the Cromford Canal was 16 Miles, as you can imagine, even though the Canal is only 14.5 miles long I had to make a few detours around areas where it is no more and also above the Butterly Tunnel. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and it was great to link up all these places in one day, I have been learning intensely about the history of the canal for a few years now so it was great to get this route in the bag. I hope you enjoyed following along, weather it be via the video or by reading and looking at the images. I hope to return some day soon and bring you more in-depth details about certain features, as you can imagine if I had gone in to great detail in this post the page would have ended up being longer than the canal itself… thank you for visiting PeakRoutes.com

9 thoughts on “Cromford Canal – Cromford to Langley Mill – History Walks

  1. Well done, this is an excellent piece of work. Some years ago we produced a booklet of this walk, but it is good to see it with modern technology. Mike Kelley, former Chairman of Friends of the Cromford Canal

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    1. Hi Mike, thank you so much for commenting. I am fascinated by the Cromford Canal and it’s history so it was great to finally walk it’s length, i’m hoping to make my way to Pinxton in the next week or so and wander along that part. You and your colleagues are doing an excellent job with the preservation work and I take my hat off to you all. Once again, thank you for taking the time to comment. Dean

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  2. Hello Dean, An excellent website. I am planning a ride from Buxton to Nottingham in the near future and wondered how much of the Cromford canal is cyclable between High Peak Junction and Golden Valley. Any help would be appreciated.

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    1. Hi Tony, you’ll have no problem from Junction to Ambergate and then it branches off on a footpath which would be doable with a MTB. From Bullbridge to Buckland Hollow it then goes back in to nice trail. After the Excavator Pub it goes over fields and would get tricky all the way to Heanor. There are some good bits of trail mixed with footpath that would be passable if dry, you’d have to lift your bike over a few stiles. All in all I’d say it’s doable with a bit of lifting πŸ™‚

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  3. Hi Dean, just found you walk of the Cromford canal today and found it very interesting, I’ll plan to do it myself someday but probably longer than 6 hours! At the Langley Mill end the canal takes a right turn and passes over the river Erewash and takes a route slightly different to the one you were on, you can still see some of the stonework on the path and the remnants of Limekiln lock, it then went under a bridge at the bottom of Stoney Lane (no longer there) and headed off for the basin at Langley Mill. You’ve probably had this info already but just thought I’d pass it on as you did ask in the video!

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    1. Thanks for the info Tim, I’ll have to look for some old maps too and see if I can find anything at Ripley Library perhaps. My partners grandfather mentioned this to me a few days ago and he remembers it all before the bypass and has even been inside the tunnels at Butterly πŸ™‚

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  4. Thank you to all who work to maintain the canal. I live in Ripley and have frequently walked via the codnor monument down to catch it at Jacksdale through to the Great Northern for a quick refreshment and have walked Cromford to Ambergate many times. We have also done a walk around Heage Windmill which picked up the canal at sawmills and Ladybrook (and a refreshment at the Excavator). Tomorrow we plan to walk from Ripley (Butterley Res) to Ambergate and found your video really informative to get the proper route. Also, the previously mentioned leaflet – it’s great to know about our local history.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Mandy, it’s a great route to walk and I really enjoyed digging back in to our not too distant past. The things that have come and gone over the years fascinate me, I’d always wondered where the Canal went when it suddenly ends at Ambergate πŸ™‚

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