Part of the Ilkeston Cam "Days Out" Series

Middleton-By-Wirksworth - Part 01- Middleton Top
w/e 24 August 2014
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

Middleton Top header

Situated just outside Wirksworth, Middleton Top is a perfect and popular access point to the southern Peak District that satisfies both history and nature enthusiasts of all ages.

Car Park

The car park at Middleton Top provides access to the High Peak Trail along the route of a former railway that is now a cycle and pedestrian track.
Visitor Centre

There is also a Visitor Centre, including a toilet block, a cycle hire centre and several picnic areas.

Inside the Visitor Centre a large selection of books, leaflets, maps and souvenirs of the area can be found as well as the obligatory ice cream cabinet.

For the history buff one wall is covered with old photographs beneath which is a working model showing how wagons were hauled up and down the incline from Cromford when the railway was still active.
Engine House

Outside is the engine house that contained a steam engine built at the Butterley works at nearby Ripley to provide the power to pull the wagons up the Middleton Incline on the Cromford and High Peak Railway. The engine house was built in 1829, ceased operating in 1963 and is now designated as an Scheduled Ancient Monument. The engine house has the oldest railway winding engine in the world and the beam engines are the oldest rotative steam engines in the world still on their original site. The brick chimney is 80 feet high.

The boilers, for the technically minded, are of Cornish pattern with a single furnace tube and side and sole flues (whatever that means) and the 22 foot long boilers replaced the originals about 1869. The replacements were probably built at Crewe and whether or not they stood in the open like the originals or were roofed is unclear. During the summer months the engine house is open at weekends and when operated the engine is now powered by air pressure rather than steam.

An information board near the engine house gives a few more details about the Cromford and High Peak Railway including the fact that it was one of the world's first long distance railways and used nine inclines to cross the Peak District. It was originally constructed to link the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge, 34 miles away, providing an alternative to a longer route via the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Middleton Top

The 34 mile route was a series of almost level sections joined by nine inclines, five of which raised the line almost 1000 feet from High Peak Junction near Cromford to Buxton with the other four taking the line back down again 750 feet to Whaley Bridge. Middleton Top winding engine is the sole survivor of the eight engines along the line. The sign on the left of the image above warns cyclists of the approaching descent.

The view from the top of the incline doesn't look too steep in but the gradient is 1 in 8.25 for 708 yards, easy enough going down but I imagine a bit of a struggle coming back up for pedestrians let alone cyclists.

And as if to prove a point these two cyclists had just taken a breather by the restored wagon at the top before remounting the bikes to resume their ride along the High Peak Trail. The wagon is an example of those hauled up the incline initially by chain but later by an endless wire rope. See, I wasn't exaggerating about the history of the site! In Part 02 we'll look at some of the natural beauty of the area.

Forward to Part 02

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