Cromford Canal, Whatstandwell, Derbyshire
Yesterday was a day full of promise, nor did it disappoint. It started with fog lifting to mist, but it was mid morning before the sun broke through. By that time the sun was high in the sky, so didn’t produce any magical mists so loved by photographers.
At the beginning of the walk, along the towpath beside Cromford Canal, one of the oldest in the country, was engulfed in long shadows. This part of the Canal passes beneath Leawoods, now a Nature Reserve with some magnificent trees.
As mentioned the day had a misty start but once the sun came out to play the Canal side and woodlands came to life. Signs of new spring vegetation both alongside and in the water, rather early but also encouraging. With the trees bare of leaves it does allow the sun to reach the canal, despite long shadows from a low sun, giving a different perspective to this stretch to that in the summer.
The tall Chimney above is at Leawoods Pump House. It is a steam powered pump that was used to pump water up to the canal from the River Derwent that flows beneath this aqueduct. Leawood Pump House does have ‘Steam’ weekends when you can see this Victorian engineering feat in action. At the moment the roof is covered with scaffolding and the building undergoing restoration work.
Just beyond the Pump House you find much more of our Industrial Heritage. Whilst Cromford Canal is one of the earliest in a network of canals that covered the country it is also the location of one of the very first Railway networks…. Why here, well Arkwright had selected Cromford and the Derwent Valley to establish his Factories or Mills as they were known and is where the industrial revolution started. First the canal, then the new fangled steam railways were used to transport materials in and good out from his Cromford Mills. Middleton Junction was were the railway started, but whilst the canal went south the railway was built to go north to eventually link Arkwright’s Mills to Manchester, Liverpool and the seas and the World beyond.
This chapter in English Industrial history will be preserved for ever as the Derwent Valley from Matlock down to Derby, including numerous Mills along the river was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(C) David Oakes 2019