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Cromford Canal

The Cromford Canal runs 23 km from Cromford near Matlock, to the Erewash canal at Langley Mill. The canal with intended originally to be part of the route to Manchester, but it was not until the Cromford and High Peak Railway was constructed between 1824 and 1830, that the vision became a reality. Parts of the 10 1/2 km of canal between Cromford and Ambergate lie within a nominated World Heritage Site and was constructed in the early 1790s under the direction of a chap called William Jessop, who was assisted by Benjamin Outram.

The Cromford Canal wharf, canal warehouse is a listed grade 2 building and was built in 1794, soon after the canal opened for Nathanial Wheatcroft, the principal canal carrier. It is built of sandstone with two stories and a half basement and has Welsh slate on the roof. The structure is known locally as the Gothic warehouse, and was used to receive goods brought in by the canal boats and then awaited onward transport. There is a lean to shed over the canal, which was added in 1814 and the building has been restored by the Arkwright society.

The counting house has the same sandstone and Welsh slate roof as the warehouse, but has an unusual two-storey polygonal shape, mainly because of its proximity to the culvert which brought water to canal from the Cromford Mill basin and by the limited space between this and the Canal wharf gates. Two massive stone posts have survived and the building was restored by the Arkwright society recently and who use it as an office.

Two canal cottages were built for the Cromford Canal Company in 1796, soon after the canal opened and one of the cottages has been carefully restored and regained its original appearance. South of Cromford Wharf, there is a stone accommodation bridge believed to have been built in 1792 and there are others of similar design all along the canal. If you look closely, there is evidence in the stonework of where caused by the canal boat tow ropes.

The Cromford and High Peak Railway opened in 1830 and completed the link to the Manchester area, crossing the high ground between Cromford and Whaley Bridge by means of a series of stationary steam engines. These were linked by level sections on which wagons were hauled by horses and the junction created a link the trans- shipping goods between Cromford and the railway and the canal. A later link connected the junction to the railway between Ambergate and Matlock. To the west of the canal, there are several buildings that became railway workshops and they house a small museum, which is open to the public during the summer months.

The Leawood Pumphouse is a scheduled ancient monument and was built in 1849. It is situated south of High Peak Junction on the East side of the canal and the engine and chimney were built to house a steam pumping engine to increase the supply of water available to the canal. The chimney is 29 m high and built of course stone with a cast-iron parapet.

The Wigwell Aqueduct over the River Derwent was constructed in the early 1790s and William Jessop, the engineer who supervised the building work, accepted liability when serious cracks appeared in 1793. He offered to rebuild it at his own expense but claimed the fault lay with the Crich lime that he had used as mortar which didn't set.

There are also various cottages, another aqueduct and a tunnel which is 73 m in length and a raised towpath runs through its entire length. It's certainly worth a walk and this scenery is stunning along the way, as well as getting a chance to see some unusual wildlife and waterfowl.