Monday, 22 February 2010

Cromford Canal Cruising Cuide - Day Three

Day three - Pinxton Wharf to Cromford
14 miles 0 locks

Whilst the the locks are behind you the drama of this route is set to increase. Its an early start to get you back to Ironville and round the Codnor Reservoir and then on the final mile to the eastern portal of the restored Butterley Tunnel. This tunnel is low and narrow and operates a one way system - west in the mornings and east in the afternoon. This tunnel collapsed in 1900 and remained unpassable for over a century before a third of its length was rebored and lined with concrete sleeve at a cost of £5m.

You will emerge form the tunnel blinking into the afternoon sun, and almost immediately find yourself looking down into the Amber valley. Initially the canal hugs the southern bank of the valley, rising higher and higer with the road and railway falling away below. Finally, just as the canal shelf becomes improbably narrow and steep, it takes a sharp right at Sawmills and leaps across to the northern side over the new aqueduct. You are now well into Derbyshire, and the nature of the villages has changed. The canal works its way through Bull Bridge following a route which is close to it's original but then carving a detour round a large industrial site before rejoining the original canal at Ambergate.

The canal is now narrow and shallow, similar to the  wastern end of the Llangollen, and also prone to slippages which have plagued the canal since its construction. This is extreme contouring which is all the more amazing when you remember that the canal was built with a summit pound of 14 miles in such hilly country. The canal perches on the eastern side of the Amber Valley, with the River Derwent carving its majestic turns along the valley floor. This final run is along a wood lined route, with good moorings available beside the Derwent Hotel at Whatstandwell. 

From here its is just four more miles to the terminus at Cromford, but not before the dramatic crossing of the Derwent on William Jessop's Wigwell aqueduct. If you are in luck, the pumping engine will be in operation, lifting 4 tons of water every twenty seconds, just as it has for the last  years. Cromford Wharf is your final destination, with attractive moorings available which provide an excellent springboard for the Derbyshire attractions in the vicinity, including Matlock Bath.

This is a lovely spot and you can expect hot competition for a mooting near Arkwrights Mill. Spend a few days here and enjoy the sights and sounds for which Derbyshire is rightly famed.

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