The ruggedly picturesque Goyt Valley, surrounded by heather clad moors, has been a popular place for visitors since Victorian times. The appearance of the valley changed dramatically in the 1930s when the Fernilee Reservoir was built and, some thirty years later, the Errwood Reservoir. Now the reservoirs provide leisure facilities, in a valley rich in industrial heritage and wildlife.
Traces of the existence of Neolithic farmers dating back to 3,000 BC have been discovered in the area, farming having always been a predominant activity. What is surprising is that this remote valley once had several other thriving industries. Goyt’s Moss Colliery sited near Derbyshire Bridge was quite extensive. There were also several quarries in the valley, a paint mill and a Gun Powder Factory that reputedly supplied ammunition to Sir Francis Drake, which was used in the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Until recent times the valley has also been an important trade route. The Romans built their roads in the area and the medieval tracks and hollow ways in the valley were once important packhorse routes. It was from Goytsclough Quarry that Thomas Pickford set up a family business mending roads. It progressed to such an extent that by the 18th century James Pickford was known as the ‘London to Manchester Waggoner.’ Today the business still thrives as one of the major removal and storage companies in Europe.
Packhorses were replaced when The Cromford and High Peak Railway was built in 1830. It linked the Cromford and Peak Forest Canals at Whaley Bridge. In the middle, it rose to over a thousand feet at Ladmanlow, and was considered to be an engineering masterpiece. 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. The Goyt section was closed in 1892 after a new link to Buxton had been completed.
The Cat and Fiddle overlooks the valley from the A537, Macclesfield to Buxton road. The second highest public house in England, standing at 1,690 feet above sea level, and is located in one of the wildest and most remote areas in the Peak District. Many are the tales told of the extreme weather conditions experienced; in 1892 it was apparently impossible to open the front door or any of the windows for seven weeks.
The route into the valley from A537 is restricted for motor vehicles, which must be left at the car park at Derbyshire Bridge, a one way system operating from that point to the Errwood Reservoir. On Sundays and during the peak season the road from Derbyshire Bridge as far as The Street is also closed to vehicular traffic, except for emergency services, special permit holders, cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
On the western side of the Errwood Reservoir, lie the grounds and ruins of Errwood Hall, the former home of the Grimshawe family. Samuel Grimshawe, who had the hall built in the early 1840s, came from a rich merchant family from Manchester and was described in the census of 1851 as a ‘Land Proprietor’. In the same year, he declared his conversion to Catholicism and converted part of an upper floor of the hall into a private chapel. The family became dedicated Catholics and were very generous in their support of the church; they also set up wayside shrines and a small chapel in the woods.
The last of the Grimshawe’s died in 1930, and the hall was demolished when Fernilee Reservoir was built. Ruins of the hall still remain, the approach to which is particularly attractive when the rhododendrons bushes that line the route are in bloom. The family cemetery can still be seen and traces of the small hamlet of Goyt’s Bridge are still visible when the water level of the Errwood is low. Fortunately the former Packhorse Bridge was removed when the valley was flooded and rebuilt brick by brick, further up the valley.
In contrast to the vast expanse of moorland, the lower slopes of the river valley contain a variety of forest and woodland. The whole area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and home to many rich and diverse species of flora and fauna. It is a good habitat for wildlife conservation and a great place for visitors to enjoy the freedom of the countryside.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE AREA
Poole’s Cavern (Tel. 01298 26978) guided tours are provided of the limestone cavern, famous for its stalactites and stalagmites. Ancient remains show the Romans worshipped here. Large car park, toilets, shop and drinks facilities available. Please telephone for opening details or visit website.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (Tel. 01298 24658) award winning ‘Wonders of the Peak’ gallery. Programme of temporary exhibitions and displays. Well stocked shop. Open all year Tuesday to Saturday and Bank Holidays. Open daily Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am. Sundays and Bank Holidays from Easter to the end of September.
Whaley Bridge is a small town on the north western edge of the Peak District. It is popular with walkers who come to explore the Goyt Valley and the surrounding hills. Although industry has mostly gone, a small wharf, busy with colourful narrow boats, still remains as a reminder of its industrial past when it was an important part of the canal network.
Cat and Fiddle (Tel. 01298 23364) on the A537 that overlooks the Goyt Valley, is the second highest public house in England. There is a comfortable lounge, dining room and a bar especially for walkers, cyclists and dog owners. Open all day, food served all day, but can be subject to alteration – ring for precise details.
Pavilion Gardens Buxton (Tel. 01298 23114) offer the Fountain Restaurant, Gardens Coffee Lounge and Promenade Café to provide for all tastes. The latter is open daily, but the Coffee Lounge only at weekends during the summer, half term-holidays and busy event days. The Fountain Restaurant is fully licensed.
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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GOYT VALLEY WALK
This enjoyable walk explores the slopes of Goyt Valley, which contain a variety of forest and woodland, plus an abundance of wildlife.
The return journey takes you along the former track of The Cromford and High Peak Railway, a nationally famous line.
Goyt Valley was acquired by Stockport Corporation, in the early 20th century, for the building of two reservoirs. Fernilee was constructed in 1938 and Errwood Reservoir, 29 years later.
All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.