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