Cromford - The Cromford Canal
Part 01 - Leawood Pumphouse to High Peak Junction
w/e 10 May 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

It was a lovely day, we had nothing planned so we answered the call of the Derbyshire countryside with a trip up to Cromford for a walk along the canal towpath. We had visited the southern end of the Cromford Canal at Langley Mill last year and on this walk will eventually see the northern extremity. Much of the intervening route has been lost over the years although the Friends of the Cromford Canal have been campaigning long and hard to have the whole route restored.


Cromford is steeped in industrial history and we shall touch on a little of it during this walk. With the sun beating down on us it felt quite warm in the sheltered valley despite a cool wind. We started at Cromford Wharf, headed in a south-easterly direction towards Lea Bridge as far as the aqueduct that carries the canal over the River Derwent, a distance of about a mile and a half. Crossing the canal via this footbridge we began our return journey along the western (left) side of the canal.
Leawood Pumphouse

Most of the images therefore with the sun now behind us were captured on the return journey but this is one taken on the outward leg as we passed Leawood Pumphouse (also visible in the first image on this page). Inside there is a steam-powered beam engine made in 1849 at the Milton Ironworks at Elsecar, South Yorkshire. The engine which can be seen working on various "Steam Days" throughout the year raises water from the River Derwent up to the canal.
Towards The Wharf Shed

From opposite the pumphouse another building right on the edge of the water can be seen. This is the Wharf Shed. It was at the Wharf Shed that goods such as coal were transferred from the canal boats to railway wagons and vice-versa.
Overhanging Roof

As well as coal, the goods carried also included raw cotton, lead, iron, limestone and gritstone and it was under the overhanging shed roof that the transfer took place between the boats and the Cromford and High Peak Railway wagons.
Shed Comparison

The path we walked along was the route of the old railway lines and just beyond the shed is an information board that contains a photograph from an earlier time. Standing in approximately the same place, I captured the above image and if you roll your mouse over it you will be able to compare the view today with the earlier photo.

The railway lines continued for a little way to this building, the High Peak Junction Workshops where they branched off left to rise up the steep incline to Black Rocks, Middleton Top and eventually to the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge some 33 miles away thus connecting a gap in the canal network. This enabled the coalfields of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to be linked with the developing industries around Manchester and provided a vital integrated transport system.
High Peak Junction

The Cromford Canal was built in the early 1790s followed by the railway which was fully operational by 1831, the workshops dating from about 1826. Today the former railway lines have been converted into trails for walkers, cyclists and horse riders and are managed by the Peak District National Park Authority. Meanwhile the workshops have been restored to how they would have looked in the 1880s and together with a picnic area, toilets and a gift shop, many people make this a starting point for further exploration of the area.

It's not all about industry on the Cromford Canal though - there's plenty of wildlife to be seen too such as these Moorhens and you advised to keep a lookout for water voles. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the water in the canal and it is often possible to see pike swimming along this stretch. We had crossed the canal again at High Peak Junction and were now on the eastern bank and still had nearly a mile to go to the end of the canal at Cromford Wharf.

Forward to Part 02

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