HIGH PEAK JUNCTION
High Peak Junction Visitor Centre is an excellent place to start or finish a walk along the Cromford Canal or High Peak Trail. There is a wide selection of books and maps available, as well as an interesting railway video to watch. Light refreshments can be purchased and there are picnic tables outside.
The best way to explore High Peak Junction itself is by hiring an audio guide from the Visitor Centre. Normally open weekends only during the winter and everyday in the summer, further details may be obtained by telephoning 01629 822831/823204.
The High Peak Junction Workshops date from the earliest days of the railway, being built between 1826 and 1830. They remain virtually unchanged since their railway days, with tools, railway artefacts, joiner's bench, forge and bellows. The cast-iron, fish-bellied rails on either side of the inspection pit could be the oldest length of railway line in the world still in its original position. A leaflet has been produced to enable visitors to identify the large array of memorabilia on display.
Completed in 1794, the Cromford Canal stretched 14.5 miles to Langley Mill, where it joined the Erewash Canal. With a tunnel and two aqueducts, the canal was built to carry limestone from quarries at Crich to the iron foundry at Butterley. It was extended to serve Richard Arkwright's Cromford Mills, and it became very busy and profitable as a result. There was, though, the need to find a much shorter route to link the East Midlands with Manchester. The original intention had been to construct a canal to connect William Jessop's Cromford Canal with Benjamin Outram's Peak Forest Canal. Difficulties, however, in ensuring an adequate water supply on the limestone moors led to the scheme being dropped.
Proposals were then put forward and accepted to build a railway, which was built on a similar alignment to the abandoned canal project. This involved steep inclines, up and down which wagons were hauled on cables by steam-driven winding engines.
The construction of the Cromford and High Peak Railway line was considered to be an engineering masterpiece which attracted railway enthusiasts, not only from this country but all over the world. It linked High Peak Junction at two hundred and seven-seven feet above sea level with Whaley Bridge at five hundred and seventeen feet. In the middle it rose to over a thousand feet at Ladmanlow. Stretching for thirty-three miles in length, the line was fully opened in 1831, when it was used to transport minerals, corn, coal and other commodities from one canal to the other.
Initially, horses were relied on to pull the trucks along the flatter parts of the route, but steam began to replace them in 1833 when the first locomotive came on the scene. However, it was some thirty years before horses were entirely replaced by locomotive power. The line continued to play an integral part in linking the canal system until 1853, when it was connected to the rapidly expanding railway network and became a branch line serving local needs.
Following the closure of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, it was purchased jointly by Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Park Planning Board and in partnership with the Countryside Commission converted into the High Peak Trail. At the bottom end of the trail is a catch pit, built following an accident in 1888, in which two wagons jumped across both the canal and the Midland Railway! The last accident occurred in the 1950s and the wreckage is still in the pit.
On the opposite side of the canal from the visitor centre, a short distance to the south, is Leawood Pumphouse. It was built in 1849, following water shortages, to pump water from the river to the canal. It has been extensively restored by volunteers and is capable of lifting approximately five tons of water each minute, up to a height of 30 feet. Open to the public on 'steaming days' during the summer.
Cromford Canal supports an abundance of wildlife and because of its value as a natural habitat, it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The southern end, from Whatstandwell to Ambergate, is managed as a Statutory Local Nature Reserve by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Arkwright’s Cromford Mill (Cromford Mill Tel. 01629 823256, Masson Mill Tel. 01629 760208) is the world’s first successful water powered cotton-spinning mill. It is now a world heritage site and guided tours are available. There is a whole food restaurant, a number of shops and free car park. A not to be missed attraction for visitors to the area, along with Masson Mill situated about a quarter of a mile away on the A6 that has been converted into a shopping village and working textile museum. Open daily.
The National Stone Centre: (Tel. 01629 824833) tells the story of stone, its geological and industrial history. The exhibition inside the centre shows how advanced technology makes use of stone in an incredible number of ways. Outside the visitor centre, the quarry trail takes you back over three hundred million years. Open all year seven days a week.
Middleton Top Visitor Centre: (Tel. 01629 823204) light refreshments available, picnic lawn outside and picnic tables located at convenient points on the High Peak Trail. The visitor centre tells the story of the Cromford and High Peak Railway and provides information, maps, walk leaflets, books, gifts and refreshments. There is a car park, toilets, cycle hire centre, engine house (telephone for details of opening days) and picnic site. Open daily from Easter to beginning of September, Weekends only during the winter.
Wheatcroft’s Wharf Café and Wildlife Shop (Tel. 01629 823256) is situated on Cromford Wharf, on the opposite side the road from the car park at Cromford Mill. Hot snacks and a selection of filled rolls and cakes are available. There is large collection of countryside and walks books on display. Outside seating is available overlooking the canal.
The Greyhound Hotel (Tel. 01629 822551) at Cromford is an historic hotel, built by Sir Richard Arkwright, it was restored to a high standard in 1999. Open daily. Meals served all day from Tuesday to Sunday.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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HIGH PEAK JUNCTION WALK
Outstanding views and constant reminders of the area’s industrial past are all part of this fascinating walk. After a short ascent up High Peak Trail, the walk takes you through woods and along Intake Lane, before climbing up Cromford Moor to Bolehill.
Following a short steep climb Barrel Edge is reached, the outstanding view from the trig point making the effort worthwhile. The final stage of the walk takes you down the High Peak Trail, passing Sheep Pasture Engine House on the way.
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