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The construction of the Cromford Canal was completed in late 1794, to improve the movement of heavy goods in and out of Cromford.  Although it was opened after the death of Sir Richard Arkwright, he was a prime mover in the decision to construct the canal. It linked up with the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill, which ran into the River Trent. This provided a connection with Derby and Nottingham and beyond that with Liverpool and Manchester by the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Built in two gauges, the canal ran from Langley Mill to the eastern end of the Butterley Tunnel in broad gauge, with fourteen locks. From this point for the section to Cromford, the narrow gauge system took over and there were no locks. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the Butterley Tunnel, 3,000 yards in length, did not have a towpath.  



The canal soon became very busy, as apart from the benefits it brought to Arkwright's Cromford Mills, thousands of tonnes of stone were shipped all over the country from Cromford Wharf. Lead was taken the much shorter distance to the smelter at Lea, using the Nightingale Arm of the canal. A short branch canal, built by Florence Nightingale's uncle. One of the most unusual of shipments was two stone lions, which having been sculptured at Darley Dale were taken by canal to Liverpool, where they can still be seen standing by the entrance to St George's Hall.

The arrival of the railway era in the mid 1800s, gradually took most of the business away from the canal. Then disaster struck at the turn of the century with the collapse of Butterley Tunnel. It was not re-built. However, the canal continued to be used on both sides, carrying mainly coal and limestone until in 1944 the canal was finally abandoned as a commercial waterway.



Thirty years later Derbyshire County Council purchased the section of the canal from Cromford to Ambergate and developed it for recreational purposes. Close to both the A6 trunk road and the Derby to Matlock railway line, it is easily accessible both by road and rail.

The towpath is walkable from Cromford to Ambergate, a distance of five and a half miles, and the walk from Cromford Wharf to High Peak Junction is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is very rich with wildlife and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest with the southern end from Ambergate to Whatstandwell being managed as a local nature reserve by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.



Cromford Wharf is the terminus of the canal and still possesses several interesting old canal buildings, a car park, toilets and a picnic area. At High Peak Junction, where the Cromford and High Peak Railway used to start, are the railway workshops, little changed since they were regularly in use. 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.

Only a short distance away is Leawood Pumphouse with its magnificent beam-engine, used to raise water from the Derwent to maintain a consistent level of water in the canal. The engine has been restored and can be seen working on some summer weekends and Bank Holidays. Further information can be obtained from High Peak Junction. Close by is Wigwell Aqueduct, or Derwent Aqueduct, as it is also known, which carries  the old canal across the River Derwent on an arch with an eighty-foot span.



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Crich Tramway Village (Tel. 01773 852565) boasts a large array of vintage trams from all over the world. Unlimited rides through a period street to stunning views over the Derwent Valley. For further information:

Midland Railway Centre (Tel. 01773 570140) fine heritage railway offering a seven mile trip through Amber Valley countryside. The Railway Museum containing a unique collection of restored locomotives and rolling stock, the Golden Valley Light Railway, miniature and model railways form only part of the many attractions. Special Events. Telephone for more information.

Arkwright’s Cromford Mill (Cromford Mill Tel. 01629 823256, Masson Mill Tel. 01629 760208) 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, 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 Greyhound Hotel: (Tel. 01629 822551) historic hotel built by Sir Richard Arkwright restored to a high standard in 1999. Open every day for meals.

Cromford Mill Tea Rooms: (Tel. 01629 823256) delicious food is served in the Whole Food Tea Rooms situated in the yard of  historic Cromford Mill. Outside seating available. The  complex is the home of the world’s first successful water powered cotton-spinning mill is now a world heritage site.  

High Peak Junction: (Tel. 01629 822831) light refreshments available. Picnic tables overlooking Cromford Canal.



The starting point for The High Peak Trail where there are toilets, a picnic site and car park off the Cromford to Holloway road. There are also Railway workshops and memorabilia, a visitor centre and shop selling books, maps. gifts and refreshments.


High Peak Junction Feature






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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Cromford was the first purpose built industrial village and it encompasses the site of the world’s first successful water-powered cotton mill. It was from Cromford that its revolutionary methods spread across the rest of the world. The importance of Cromford and the Derwent Valley was recognised in 2001, when it was awarded World Heritage Status.

Cromford Feature



Beautiful scenery, an abundance of wildlife, and world renowned heritage make this walk a very special one. The Derwent Valley having been awarded World Heritage Status in 2001.

The walk follows the towpath for one and a quarter miles. Where large numbers of butterflies and dragonflies can be seen in summer with numerous species of birdlife overhead.

North Street in Cromford contains some of the finest examples of Industrial Archaeology in England.

A visit to the Arkwright complex to discover how Cromford became known as the ‘Cradle of the industrial revolution’ should not be missed.


Cromford Walk

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