Through the Gate and over the Hill…..


It was what I described as another “bonus day”…..the weather has been giving us some rare treats for October.  Certainly the temperatures are very much lower today but the sun still shone in a near cloudless sky.  It magically caught the autumnal colours but also emphasised the greens that still cover most of the woodland.

So we headed off early to take most advantage of our good fortune, over the fields and then heading down through the woods to the River Derwent where mist still lingered.

Then it was on to Cromford Canal.  The towpath and canal side vegetation is still lush with the trees of Lea Woods (mainly Oak) casting dark shadows much in contrast to the piercing glare of the low sun.

Cromford Canal was one of the first canals to be constructed. Sir Richard Arkwright was the prime mover in its planning and construction. Arkwright’s “Industrial Revolution” at Cromford Mills demanded a faster means of bulk transportation of his goods,  a canal was seen as the means to achieving this and keeping him ahead of his competitors.

Built in 1793 it was proving to be a success till two misfortunes occurred. The first was the collapse of  Lea aqueduct over the River Derwent…this was rebuilt but obviously took time. Industrial progress was amazingly fast in those times and new fangled contraption called a railway was built alongside the canal as an alternative means of transport. There are numerous Railway buildings alongside the canal as intriguing reminders.

Once the canal was back in use the second and much bigger problem arose…. the water supply to the canal was cut off. There was no easy alternative supply so engineering solutions had to be found.

The building below is the answer… it is Lea Pump House.  Built in 1849 it is a steam powered pump and its giant piston can lift 800 gallons of water on each stroke from the River Derwent up into the canal some 30ft above the river.  When the canal traffic was at its busiest, the pump worked continually and could pump over 470400 gallons per hour.   The pump still works today and ‘Steam Weekends occur regularly through the summer months.


Lea Steam Pump House and Derwent Aqueduct

14th October

(C) David Oakes 2015


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