Cromford Canal, Leawoods Pump House, Derbyshire
Friday was just a perfect September day…. not quite the heatwave as promised, though perhaps a better temperature for a canal side walk. The canal selected was the Cromford Canal…. one of my favourites for a walk. The only disappointment is that it is no longer navigable by narrowboats. None the less there is much to see and much to remind you of the importance to our industrial heritage that this small part of Derbyshire played. Now part of the UNESCO Derwent Valley World Heritage Site.
The canal was opened in 1794 primarily to serve Arkwright’s and Smedley Mills amongst others at Cromford and the Lea Valley. At the time Cromford Canal linked up to the Erewash Canal, ultimately the River Trent and then the greater English canal network.
At Cromford where the canal begins its journey south are two of the original warehouses. Like all the buildings we pass along this canal, they are rather fine architectural buildings, much finer than todays utilitarian industrial buildings.
Progress came fast in the 18th/19th century industrial revolution. The canal was soon to be joined by one of the very first railways, the Cromford & High Peak Railway. Opened in 1849 it provided a faster link across the Derbyshire Peak District northwards. The task being to create a reliable link to Manchester and the Port of Liverpool.
This walk takes you past many of the old railway buildings, engineering sheds, warehouses and wharfs…..
I have to admit to once again pausing and taking a peak inside the railways workshops at High Peak Junction.
The highlight though is the famous Leawoods Pump House built by the Lea Aqueduct. It is a steam lift pump that was used to ‘lift’ water from the River Derwent to keep the canal ‘top up’.
The best part of the legacy left by the canal is the towpath… a peaceful walk through woodland and some expansive Derbyshire views. At this time of the year, before autumn sets in, is the rich foliage along the bank side that is the star. Tall grasses wafting in the lightest of breezes mixing with wildflowers and herbs, banks so full that they hide the elusive Water Vole and provide hidey-holes for Dab Chicks. Today the bright low sun is making the greens glow, glow much more like spring than autumn.
All in all….not half bad for a once hectic industrial landscape.
(C) David Oakes 2019