HIGH PEAK JUNCTION
The Cromford and High Peak Railway linked Cromford Wharf at 277 feet above sea level with Whaley Bridge at 517 feet. In the middle it rose to 1266 feet at Ladmanlow. Stretching for 33 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 starting point for the railway was at High Peak Junction on the Cromford Canal.
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 was to construct a canal to connect William Jessop's Cromford Canal with Benjamin Outram's Peak Forest Canal, but difficulties 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 that which would have been followed if the canal had been constructed. this involved steep inclines, up and down which wagons were hauled on cables by steam-driven winding engines. 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.
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.
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.
High Peak Junction Visitor Centre is an excellent place to start or finish a walk along the canal or 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.
On the opposite side of the canal from the visitor centre, a short distance to the south is Leawood Pumphouse. Built in 1849 to pump water from the river to the canal, following water shortages in 1844. 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' in the summer, details of which can be obtained by clicking here.
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 SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
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 website:www.tramway.co.uk
Lea Gardens: (Tel. 01629 534380) rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers in a lovely woodland setting. Attractive teashop where you can sit inside or outside. Plants can be purchased. 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.
All the images on this page have been kindly supplied by Derbyshire County Council.
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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