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