Cromford - The Cromford Canal
Part 02 - High Peak Junction to Cromford Wharf
w/e 17 May 2009
All this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

As we walked by the side of the Cromford Canal from Leawood Pumphouse to High Peak Junction we were following the former route of the Cromford and High Peak Railway but now having crossed the canal at High Peak Junction we continued the remainder of the walk to Cromford Wharf along the canal towpath.

Derwent Valley Line

That was not the end of the railway though for now we could see the tracks of the Derwent Valley Line which runs between Derby and Matlock and along this stretch we were also treated to tantalising glimpses between the trees of the River Derwent on the other side of the tracks. We even caught a fleeting glimpse of the minor road beyond the river between Cromford and Lea - three parallel "r"s running down the valley, rail, river and road.

It is only about a mile between High Peak Junction and the end of our walk at Cromford Wharf and much of it is through scenery such as this. With trees overhanging the canal from both sides it is almost tunnel-like in part but is still very popular with walkers and not only on pleasant days like this when the sun shines through the leafy canopy.
Restored Canal

Nearing the northern end of the canal the trees become fewer with the promise of more extensive views. The section of the canal between Cromford and Ambergate was acquired by Derbyshire County Council in 1974 and much restoration work has been done by the Cromford Canal Society and the Friends of Cromford Canal.

Cromford of course is known as the cradle of the industrial revolution and owes this description due mainly to the influence of Sir Richard Arkwright who built the world's first successful water powered cotton spinning mill in the village in 1771. The canal followed and was an important transportation aid opening in 1793, a year after Arkwright's death. Ultimately with the onset of rail and road links, the canal lost its importance. Today heavy lorries can be seen travelling along the A6 higher up the hillside on the left.
Cromford Meadows

To the right meanwhile the valley floor levels out and in the Cromford Meadows are cricket and rugby pitches. This is where Matlock Rugby Club play their home games and it seems they have recruited the local sheep to act as environmentally friendly lawn mowers to keep this pitch in good order. I trust they check for and remove any organic fertiliser prior to kick off though.
Stone Bridge

The Cromford to Ambergate section of the canal was built in the 1790s by William Jessop and was finally abandoned in 1944. An old stone bridge crosses the canal and presumably this provided an original access route to the meadows from the road high up on the left.
Cromford Wharf

Soon after passing under the stone bridge the end of the canal at Cromford Wharf comes into view. The building on the left dates from about 1794 and was originally a warehouse. A crane is still in situ at the end of the building. On the right is a similar warehouse, this one dating from about 1824. As well as the raw materials used in Arkwright's cotton trade, passengers were also carried from here on faster boats. A weigh bridge at the far side of the building and a canopy over the canal still exist but today the buildings are in use but tourism and adventure activities are their main functions.
Relaxing By The Canal

Note the canoes at the side of the canal which are used for just one of the activities enabling dads and lads to have fun together (and mums and daughters too no doubt). Refreshments are now served from the older of the two buildings and as we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate, we thought that there's no better place to sit to watch the ducks on the canal; to see another coach load of excited children arrive; to peruse the two cottages opposite built in 1796; to dream of the stables for canal horses and the smithy that once stood where the vehicles now park or just to enjoy the Derbyshire countryside.

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