For anyone interested in wildlife and industrial history this is a walk not to be missed. Even if you are not interested in either subject, this is a great walk with plenty of variety.
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. Today it 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 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.
The construction of The Cromford and High Peak Railway was considered to be an engineering masterpiece which attracted railway enthusiasts, not only from this country but all over the world. Now no longer used, it has been converted into the High Peak Trail.
After leaving the trail the walk goes through attractive woodland and countryside along the Derwent Valley Walk, before retuning to Whatstandwell.
Length: 5.5 miles.
Start/Finish: Canal side at Whatstandwell.
Location: Take the road signed for Crich at Whatstandwell, the suggested parking spot is on the left a few yards from the main road – just before crossing the canal bridge. If parking is not possible, try the car park at High Peak Junction (see point 2 below). Whatsandwell is on the A6 between Belper and Matlock; it is also on the railway line linking Matlock and Derby making this an ideal walk for rail users.
Terrain: Relatively easy along good paths, with a steady ascent up the High Peak Trail, a few descents, but nothing difficult.
1. From the car park, walk to the left along the canal towpath for approximately one and a half miles to High Peak Junction.
2. At High Peak Junction turn left, and walk up High Peak Trail, after half a mile turn to the left where you see a footpath signed for Alderwasley.
3. Almost immediately the path bends to the left to a ‘T’ junction of tracks. Go to the right and where the track divides, turn right along the edge of the wood.
4. Go through a stile and turn left down Intake Lane. Continue down the lane without deviating to right or left to reach Longway Lane.
5. Cross the lane and go through the stile on the opposite side into a field. Walk up the slope, heading slightly to the left to a stile at the top of the field.
6. After going over the stile follow an enclosed path uphill into a wood, where you continue in the same direction along an obvious track.
7. When the track reaches the top of the hill, the route soon takes you to the right along the edge of the wood.
8. Leave the wood by a stile into a field, where you keep close to the wall on the left to pass Watfield Farm and buildings.
9. Go through the stile by the farm gate and continue ahead for 200 yards down a lane, passing Yew Tree Cottage on the left. Turn right by three waymark indicators and cross a stile.
10. Walk diagonally down the field to a stile that leads you along an enclosed path past Watergate Farm.
11. Cross the farm drive and a tiny field on the right, go over a stile and walk diagonally up the next field (You could keep to the left to slightly shorten the route, but it is not so good underfoot).
12. After going over the stile at the top of the field, keep close to the field boundary in the next field. On reaching a gate and squeezer stile in the corner of the field - do not go through the stile.
13. At this point, turn left and walk downhill through a series of fields, keeping close to the hedge on the right.
14. Pass the rear of Hankin Farm, and then follow the path down the righthand side of Lambert Hill Cottage.
15. Continue straight down the path past the cottage. Where the drive bends sharply to the right, continue forward to follow a well trodden path through an area of woodland.
16. Turn right at the wall at the bottom of the woodland. On reaching a minor road, go straight across and walk diagonally down a small field to the A6.
17. Cross the bridge over the River Derwent and go up the road towards Crich. There is no pavement for a short stretch. Turn left by the canal bridge back to the starting point of the walk.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Crich Tramway Village (Tel. 01773 854321) 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. Please telephone for details or visit website.
Lea Gardens: (Tel. 01629 534380) rare collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, alpines and conifers in a lovely woodland setting. You can sit inside the attractive teashop or outside when the weather is suitable. Plants can be purchased. Please telephone for details or visit website.
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. Cromford Mill is a not to be missed attraction, along with Masson Mill situated about a quarter of a mile away on the A6, which has been converted into a shopping village and working textile museum. Open daily.
Derwent Hotel (Tel. 01773 856616) formerly called the Bull’s Head, there has been an inn here for over 300 years. Open lunchtimes and evenings and all day at weekends. Food served lunchtime and evenings Monday to Saturday, Sunday lunchtimes only. Play area. There is outside seating at the rear. Accommodation can be booked.
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 is available. The complex is the home of the world’s first successful water powered cotton-spinning mill and is now a World Heritage Site.
High Peak Junction (Tel. 01629 822831) where there is an Information Centre and shop and a Railway Heritage Museum. Light refreshments available in holiday season, picnic tables overlook Cromford Canal.
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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Whatstandwell is located in a most picturesque and thickly wooded section of the Derwent Valley. But the traveller on the busy A6 only catches a brief glimpse of the village, probably seeing little more than the railway station, the hotel and the bridge over the River Derwent. Passengers on the train will almost certainly see even less as part of the route goes through a tunnel on the northern side of the village.
In the past there have been several attempts to trace the origin of the name, Whatstandwell, but most now seem to agree that it was named after Walter Stonewall. At the time when the bridge was built in 1391, Walter (or Wat) Stonewall rented a cottage where the bridge was constructed, which was mentioned in the agreement with the landowner. Prior to the building of the bridge, a ford crossed the river at that point.
All details on this page were correct at the time of publication, but changes may be made without notification.