Cromford Canal and Lea Bridge

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Start: Cromford Wharf Distance: 5.0 miles (8.0 km) Climbing: 200 metres
Grid Ref: SK 29957 57078 Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Cromford Wharf
Start: Cromford Wharf Distance: 5.0 miles (8.0 km)
Climbing: 200 metres Grid Ref: SK 29957 57078
Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: At Cromford, in 1771, Richard Arkwright established his own mill with its water powered machinery and large workforce, earning him the title "Father of the Factory System". Cromford Canal was built to serve the mill. The area is rich in industrial archaeology, and the walk passes through attractive, hilly and wooded countryside which gives good views across the Derwent valley and across to the peak District uplands. There are many interesting sites to visit and the canal is a rich area for wildlife and colourful wild flowers.

Cromford WharfCromford Wharf
River DerwentRiver Derwent

Cromford's uniquely historical Arkwright's Mill is well worth a visit either at the start or the finish of the walk. Part of the mill is normally open to the public, and includes a visitor and exhibition centre, shops and cafe. Before the coming of the railways the transport of bulky raw materials and merchandise was a considerable problem for the early industrialists and the Cromford Canal was built largely on the initiative of Richard Arkwright to serve his new mill, although it was not opened until 1793, a year after his death. Heavily used until the railways took over the bulk of industrial transportation in the 1860's it fell into decline and was eventually closed at the turn of the century.

Much of the canal around Cromford Wharf has been restored and the area is now a sanctuary for wildlife. Look out for mallards, coots, moorhens and mammals such as water shrews and voles. In the spring and summer there are masses of wild flowers to enjoy too.

A third way into the walk Lea Wood Pump House is reached. It was built in 1840 to pump water from the River Derwent into the canal at times of shortage. Nearby Lea Hurst House is the family home of Florence Nightingale. Her family built and operated the cotton spinning mills at nearby Lea Bridge in the 1780's and Florence's father greatly enlarged the house in the early 19th century. After Florence;s sterling work in the Crimean War she made Lee Hurst her home, and it was here she wrote numerous books on nursing and hospital organisation.

Sir Richard Arkwright lived initially at Rock House, near his first mill, but as fortunes prospered, work began in 1788 on a more fitting baronial mansion, Willerby Castle. Over £3,000 was spent at the outset, blasting out and excavating the rocky site. The building was almost completed when it was badly damaged by fire in 1791. Arkwright died in the following year and so never lived in the so-called castle. He is buried in a bricked up vault in nearby St Mary's Church, just by the bridge over the Derwent.

Acknowledgments: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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