A Canal Side Walk…..


High Peak Junction, Cromford Canal, Derbyshire

Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and now provides a quiet relax walk along its towpath and through woodlands, past a couple of Nature Reserves and providing views along and across the Derwent Valley.

Yes, its is quiet… yet that was not always the case for this once very innovative and busy industrial location in the heart of rural Derbyshire.

About a mile up the canal from the above location is Sir Richard Arkwright’s Mill Complex, this is where the modern factory production system was born as part of the industrial revolution.  It is also just one of the reasons that the canal was constructed here.

Like all canals,  canal architects and builders would seek to find a level route. Here they follow the 275ft contour line as it twist along the valley. Opened in 1794 the canal linked Cromford to Erewash and onwards to the River Trent an important transport link for raw materials and finished goods from Arkwright and other industries along the Derwent valley.

Innovation wasn’t just with the construction of the canal.  By 1831 a Railway link was added, one of the first commercial railways and again very revolutionary.  The Railway was built to link Cromford to Manchester high over the Peak District a major engineering achievement. The result was that goods for export could be transport to the ports of Manchester and Liverpool so much quicker.

The building below is one of the oldest Railway Wharfs where goods were tranship from train to canal and vice versa. Along this section of the canal there are other pieces of railway architecture as reminders of this link


At this point the canal is wide to allow for barges to be turned, moored and wait there turns to unload and load.  From here as the canal goes south it soon becomes narrow, just wide enough for two barges (narrowboats) to pass.  So lets start the walk from an industrial past through a woodland and wild habitat where trees overhang the water which in places is now overgrown being no longer navigable….just a tranquil location with nature, rather than industry, being the so much at home…

All canals need water and here water from the River Derwent was used.  The problem was that the River runs some 100ft below the Canal contour.  So again inventive engineers installed, at Leawoods, a Steam Powered Pump to lift water from the river up to the canal.  The Pump House is kept in running order by volunteers, they are pleased to show off the steam engine and the pump on special ‘ In Steam Weekends’. At the moment the pumphouse is not looking its best as it is under wraps undergoing restoration works to the building.  So here is an image of today and one taken on a previous visit.  It is also here at Lea where the canal crossed, by means of an aqueduct, the River below.  The channel on the aqueduct just wide enough for a barge..

 Our walk takes us back to the start at High Peak Junction.  Here there is a very small but interesting museum.  Located in what must have been one of the very first Railway Workshops. It is also alongside Middleton Incline up which carriages were winched by chain, powered by a might static steam engine at the top.

Despite the years that smell of steam, smoke and oil permeate the atmosphere adding to the experience and allowing the imagination to travel back in time..

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23rd October

(C) David Oakes 2018


Silent Sunday…… So off the Church

Disc One

Fortrose Cathedral on the Black Isle, Scotland

Not the biggest of Scotland Cathedrals or Abbeys but none the less still a ruin of some charm. Many folk pass on the main road through Fortrose not realising that within a few yards there is this 13th century Cathedral.  Situated on a compact enclosed green area and surrounded by houses, mostly built of Red Sandstone to match the ruins, it becomes a little gem.

Although it was constructed in the 13th century, like most Religious buildings, it perhaps has its religious origins from an earlier location close by.  It is suggested that this was Rosemarkie and Chanory,  just a  stones throw from Fortrose.  Sadly like so many of our ancient Religious buildings they suffered under some misguided leader, in this instance it was Oliver Cromwell in the mid 17th century who ordered to its demolition.

Standing roofless, all that remains is the needle like Bell Tower, Chapter House  and Nave’s.  But there is still enough of the building to admire its architectural style and craftsmanship, the arched windows and pillared doorway and Porch hint at the buildings original style.

As I suggested, Fortrose Cathedral is not as dramatic as many of its contemporary structures, but what it lacks in drama is made up by its charm, its rich colour and its rather fine, quiet location.  Well worth a detour if in the Moray Firth Area and anywhere near the Black Isle, the Black Isle itself a charming and often overlooked area by tourists.

As for the clock on the Bell Tower….obviously not 13th century, nor would it have been there when Cromwell plundered the Cathedral… as to when it was installed I haven’t a clue

21st October

(C) David Oakes 2018

Grand Entrance….Cees B&W Photo Challenge – Steps

Lea Rhododendron Gardens


Just an idea for Cees B&W Photo Challenge on Steps.  These curved steps make a rather grand entrance (or exit) to a rather fine old building.

You can see other suggestions at :- https://ceenphotography.com/2018/10/18/cees-black-white-photo-challenge-steps-indoors-outdoors/

19th October

(C) David Oakes 2018

Silent Sunday….Off to Church



Saint Giles, Hartington, Derbyshire

This is one from the archive…I particularly like it for this time of the year.  Autumn starting to appear and the Church of St. Giles  (12th century) standing proud above the village of Hartington below.

14th October

(C) David Oakes 2018