Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cromford Canal Walk, Erewash Meadows and Aldercar Flash

A circular walk including Langley Mill and Brinsley Flashes
Erewash Valley
February 2010

The arial shots of this final length of the Cromford Canal down to Langley Mill fail to do it justice.

Before I dive in with a description of a very pleasant circular walk above Langley Mill, you need to understand a little of the area's history. The foundations of the region lie in it's geology, which in this case is known as the Riddings Anticline out of which no less than 20 coal seams appeared on the surface.

The course of the Cromford Canal

The extraction of coal therefore shaped what you see today, initially in the form of underground mines which collapsed causing the flashes, of which Brinsley is the largest. The southern end nearest Langley Mill was then subjected to open cast mining in the 1980's, and subsequently refilled as an urban refuse site with the infill then covered by the busy A610 we see today. 

Looking north under the A610 - the future path of the Cromford Canal

The resulting valley floor is therefore significantly lower than in the days of the canal and when the river is in flood the water can stretch form one side to the other, ponded bach by the A610 embankment. This wetland is a haven for birds and the whole area has been given over to the Wildlife Trust. Over the years the Trust has worked on the flashes, widening and deepening them so that now over 200 species of bird visit each and every year.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the canal and wildlife lobby groups are in conflict, but the line of the canal has been carefully preserved, particularly in the north of the reserve, with fences marking it's boundaries as far as Boat Lane. Between Boat Lane and the A610 the impact of the opencast mining is greatest, and it is here that the canal crosses from the western side to the east. I suspect that achieving this crossing will be the most challenging aspect of the restoration effort, necessitating a longish embankment which could impede the drainage of an already flood prone area.

Map of the Nature Reserve

Through all this the River Erewash follows it's meandering course, and if you search diligently it is still possible to find the abutments which carried the canal aqueduct. The name Erewash is a derivation of the older Irre - wandering, wisce - wet meadows, ie "wandering boggy meadows" I think that this has a rather nice ring to it and suggets that the area has always been wet and muddy.

There are few clues on the ground about the route followed by the southern section of  the canal, but maps show us that it then clung to the eastern bank before passing under Stoney Lane Bridge, now a mere hump in the road, and then on into Langley Mill passing under a predecessor of todays A610 bridge.

 Stoneyford Bridge - as it was

We walked along the canal path to Boat Lane before crossing the valley on an old steel mining bridge, and then skirted the eastern fields to reach Stoney Lane. This route can be very muddy and is best tackled in dry periods or after a hard frost. From Stoney Lane we struggled along a narrow track beside the A610 and found the river bridge which can be walked under unless the river is in spate. There is then a small path along the southern side of the road till you reach Pear Tree Farm, where a bridge gives access to the path along western valley side, next to the railway lline. 

Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve

This circular route offers fine views over the various lakes and marshes. If you like bird watching this is a great place to visit. Just imagine the pleasure of mooring your boat beside these nature reserves and watching the thousands of migratory birds come and go right in front of your windows. It will be Slimbridge all over again.

1 comment:

cheryl Henshaw said...

A great post .1 minor correction the bridge in the picture isn't stoney lane ,the picture is the bridge near stoneyford (the stoneyford boat inn is the white building furthest left)this area now is just open fields and impossible to imagine this scene now.