centre_about2It is interesting how sometimes I set out to explore a particular route or area to end up discovering something else of similar or more interest than the original intention. Such was the case when during the early afternoon of Tuesday the 23rd February 2015 I set out in the car with ‘NoNames’ intent on doing a little circular stroll taking in the Linby Trail and Newstead Abbey grounds. This was meant to serve three purposes; firstly I’d just bought a new 20 litre rucksack that I needed to try out in the field, secondly I could write about the Linby Trail as part of my Trail Trekking program, and thirdly, armed with my bridge camera and a neutral density filter I could get a few long exposure shots of the famous waterfall at Newstead Abbey. Ultimately the stroll served all three purposes well, but I was unprepared for an unexpected discovery I was about to make.

STA71094On driving through the village I considered it unwise to park at the roadside in Linby, and so continued out of the village and parked in a layby just before the road entered Papplewick. At the side of the layby is a small woodland area, and on deciding that this would be the best option to allow ‘NoNames’ a run around off his lead before we attempt the designated route, we entered. Immediately I was confronted by signage telling a brief story of the area. I was intrigued, and yearned to learn more. A wander through took us to a footpath that allowed us to get close to our designated start point without much roadside walking. We completed the designated walk and achieved what I’d planned, but I set my mind on one day coming back to this woodland to explore and learn more. So it happened that the very next day ‘NoNames’ and I returned.

topmill1910Papplewick and its neighbour, Linby may once have suited titles along the lines of ‘quintessential traditional English villages in the heart of the countryside’, but that would have been a long time ago. Although both villages still retain much of their traditional and quintessential character nowadays they are possibly more aptly titled as ‘suburbs of Hucknall’. Nevertheless, if casting our minds back some 200 to 300 years ago, things were rather different, back then they were indeed ‘quintessential traditional English villages in the heart of the countryside’ and even today there is a reasonable band of ‘green belt’ land between the two. Through this ‘green belt’ land runs the River Leen, which rises through a series of springs within the Robin Hood Hills close to Annesley then flows through the grounds of Newstead Abbey before reaching this point between Linby and Papplewick; from here it then continues through Nottingham and its suburbs before running into the River Trent in the Meadows area of Nottingham, covering a total distance of around 15 miles.

STA70991You may be asking why I’m telling you this; I’m telling you this because it is significant when looking at the history of this particular area of Nottinghamshire.
A few centuries ago the River Leen was a big draw for the building of mills that could utilise the river’s energy for driving their water wheels; many rivers throughout the area, and indeed the whole country suffered a similar fate, but none so much as the River Leen. Indeed the first recorded reference of a water-powered mill dates back to 1232 as, ‘by the middle of the town of Lindeby to the mill of the same town, which is on the water of the Leen’. From 1615 to 1773 iron refining was happening at Bulwell Forge, otherwise known as Forge Mill, which was once located within the Papplewick parish. STA71220During the latter part of the 18th Century it was commonplace to hear that the River Leen had along its length more mills than any similar stretch of water in the country. Apparently 70 acres of water control was constructed along its course to drive the mill wheels, and one of the largest water wheels measuring 44 feet in diameter (that’s nearly 13.5 metres) was in use at Papplewick.

STA71105On returning to this woodland and following a little online research I learned that the woods are part of the Moor Pond Woods project, now managed by local authorities and volunteers as a wildlife, leisure, and industrial heritage area. This project has now been ongoing for some time, but fairly new when compared to many other wildlife and leisure sites in the area. Of course this was not always so; the Moor Pond Woods were once a collection of reservoirs and water courses specifically designed for industrial use to help power the cotton mills of George Robinson and his family who began their empire when George and his associate, David Melvin, began bleaching and cleaning cotton at Bulwell during 1742. The revenue gained from this enterprise helped to set up the Robinson’s empire when they began converting corn mills and also building new mills around 1776, all on the River Leen. The Robinson family had two warehouses in Nottingham and at one point employed 800 people along the Leen Valley.

topmill1Unfortunately the Robinson’s empire did not last as long as one might expect as they were hampered by the fifth Lord Byron who was demanding loyalty payments from the Robinsons for using the River Leen which, as I mentioned earlier, passed through his grounds at Newstead Abbey. In order to force the family to honour those payment he began damming the lower lake at Newstead, refusing to allow them to regulate the flow of water; he even threatened to release the water in one go and cause a, ‘sudden violent eruption of water…’, which would have resulted in serious damage to their workings. The case was eventually heard in court but the Robinsons were unable to recover damages because Byron pleaded poverty. Due to the water shortage the Robinsons decided to purchase a steam engine; this was from Messrs. Boulton and Watt of Birmingham in 1785 which was installed at their mill at what is now Grange Farm, and this became the first rotative steam engine in use in a cotton mill anywhere in the world. In 1828 the Robinson cotton spinning enterprise came to an end, and some time later most of the disused mills were demolished.

archive_imgWhat remains of the water workings of the Robinson Mills is now Moor Pond Wood and Papplewick Dam Wood. Traces of the former workings can easily be found, and renovation work is an ongoing concern intended on restoring as much of the water channel features and reservoirs as possible whilst still retaining a suitable area for wildlife and visitors. At the far north of the area – alongside the layby on the B6011 Linby Lane where I parked can be found a pond that I think today is referred to as Papplewick Dam, on the south of the pond a weir allows water from the dam (fed by the River Leen) to fall into the wooded valley below and permit continuation of the river. The valley floor is on a lower level than the entrance STA71148to the wood against the layby; during the years of the Robinson mills this whole valley was flooded as a water supply for the mills. Directly opposite the layby the building that was once Robinson’s Castle Mill (Top Mill) remains now for residential use; the water reservoir once came right up to this building, its waters held by a dam, and the original road ran along the top of this dam. The River Leen then passed beneath the mill to power its water wheel.

topmill2If you travel up the road a hundred yards or so towards Papplewick village (to the left of the Castle Mill building) a kissing-gate allows access into the remainder of the Moor Pond Woods project. Within this woodland can be seen many traces of the former water control workings, including a few more ponds; the Robinson Mills once extended further south to Bestwood. The far south of the former mills waterworks, after crossing another lane (Papplewick Lane), is known as Grange Cottages Wood, and also part of the Moor Pond Woods project. The whole area has a series of numbered posts that correspond to an audio trail that can be downloaded from the Moor Pond Wood Group website at http://moorpond.papplewick.org/audio-trail.html.

The images connected to this blog post can also be found at Doorstep Discovery on Facebook.

If you are at all interested in industrial heritage I do recommend you pay the area a visit; I found it quite fascinating once I started researching its history, just a small snippet of it included within my writing.


DCP_0679Tuesday the 5th August 2014, and tomorrow I’ve been given the day off work. The weather outlook for tomorrow is pretty good; just a few showers, but mostly dry and sunny, so I’m looking to get out and about.

A few weeks ago ‘NoNames’ and I went out for a most pleasant wander around Ogston Reservoir so something of a similar nature is what I’m after. Being interested in going off somewhere that is quite photogenic with lovely countryside draws my attention to Derbyshire’s Carsington Water.

I’ve driven by it countless times but never taken any opportunity to stop and explore this delightful area in more detail. A little online research reveals that the distance around the reservoir is approximately 8.5 miles; no problem, I could walk that within 3 hours, easy. However I know through my own experiences that it’s likely to take me much longer than that because I can’t resist the temptation to wallow in the beautiful surroundings of a pleasant area, chill out, take my time and have a nice casual stroll, and of course get extremely snap-happy with the camera, but I’ll have all day (assuming I’m ready early enough) so there’d be no rush. My decision is made.

A little history and some technical stuff

Initial plans for the construction of the reservoir were laid in the 1960’s, but the actual construction did not begin until 1979. By the late 1980’s/early 1990’s the job was completed, and thus officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in May 1992.

A capacity of 35,412 megalitres (35,412 million litres – I think) makes Carsington Water the 9th largest reservoir in England. The reservoir is part of a ‘water compensation’ scheme. meaning that water is pumped here from the River Derwent at times of high rainfall, stored in the reservoir and returned to the Derwent when the river level would otherwise be too low to allow water extraction for treatment (and drinking) further downstream. No water is actually extracted from Carsington Water itself. DCP_0729

Sales Pitch

Managed by Severn Trent Water nowadays Carsington Water is renowned as a popular tourist destination, and a hive of activity for watersports and wildlife study, as well as the leisurely passtimes of walking and cycling with perimeter pathways dedicated to these means. A cycle hire facility also operates within the grounds, but hire facilities are not restricted to just cycles; kayaks, windsurfing equipment, rowing boats, sailing boats, and canoes are also available for hire.

Part of the shoreline is also owned by Carsington Sailing Club who provide a varied service to club members, including boat hire and storage. A visitor’s centre welcomes people with information and a number of shops, including a cafe. A choice of three separate car parks allow ample space for many vehicles for which a reasonable parking charge is in force. Close to the visitor’s centre can be found plenty of grassy open space areas for leisure usage and a children’s playground.

The facility is also extremely popular with birdwatchers and a number of hides are situated around the reservoir. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Severn Trent Water offers nature programs for schools, children and families from their Wildlife Discovery Room at Carsington Water. Fly fishing for brown trout and rainbow trout is provided by boats that are available for hire from the Fishing Lodge.

For information regarding the surrounding villages and area please be sure to nip over to the website of my good friend, Tom Bates.

Let’s Go

I’m not ready early enough, might have figured I wouldn’t be, however after getting organised, and driven over here, I’ve finally parked the motor and paid the fee, and ‘NoNames’ and I are setting off in a clockwise direction around the reservoir; but the time is about half past twelve so we haven’t got all day, just all afternoon.

The path is solid and multi-use friendly. Dark clouds are looming but the forecast tells of showers only, but within 20 minutes it’s absolutely slinging it down with rain. However the rain doesn’t last long and has stopped within half hour of setting off on our walk.

Five minutes after and I’m getting rather warm and rapidly drying out (I decided not to bother with my waterproofs – although I have them in my rucksack – as I know that between showers it’s hot and I’ll soon dry out).

Almost as dry as a bone ‘NoNames’ and I are now taking a minor detour from the main path to take a look at Lane End Hide – a rather large bird hide on the shore of the reservoir. Once inside I find that the hide offers extensive views over the reservoir. After enjoying the view for about five minutes I’ve decided to move on, apart from this ‘NoNames’ is beginning to get a little agitated – he likes to keep moving and soon gets bored stopping in one spot whilst we’re out on our wanders.

DCP_0395We’ve left the bird hide behind and are soon gazing upon a brick built tower; better go and check it out. The tower turns out to be an old RAF quadrant tower, and according to the information board: ‘This tower dates back to the early 1940’s when it was built and used by the RAF to plot bomb drops in the Henmore Valley. At that time there would have been two of these towers and both were connected by telephone. The corresponding tower was demolished when construction of the reservoir began and the site is now beneath the water. The target zone was situated on the opposite side of the reservoir near Fishtail Creek which is also beneath the top water level of the reservoir.’

Just over one hour from setting off from the car we are entering the first car park to the north of the visitors centre. Although at present the weather is good I’m hearing the rumble of distant thunder, not a good sign! This particular car park is known as Sheepwash Car Park and almost immediately after leaving it behind a sign directs people along a slight path to our right that leads through a gate to Sheepwash Hide; however this is not compulsory so I’m missing this one for now and carrying onwards. Five minutes later and another path leads to the Paul Stanley Memorial Hide, not visiting this one either. At his point, according to my pedometer we’ve only done just over two miles – still about six and a half to go then.

After this the path zigzags through a small area of woodland and I can soon hear the traffic loudly zooming by along the main road to our left.

So far throughout the route so far every now and then the reservoir will disappear out of sight hidden by some trees, then we’ll round a corner and suddenly it’s there again.

Very soon the footpath is also the cycle route and runs parallel to the main road, busy with traffic hurtling by at breakneck pace. So far the fence of the boundary is pretty good, let’s hope it stays that way, I wouldn’t want anyone wandering out on to the road – ‘NoNames’ – so for now we’re relatively safe; but the traffic is making it rather noisy around here. The rain has held off for the most part, apart from the short heavy shower earlier; plus it’s getting awfully warm.

As usual I’m wanting to take lots of photos, but at the moment I’ve got my old Kodak camera in hand and I’m finding the biggest hassle I’m having with it is waiting for it to write the photo to the card. It has to do this before it will allow me to take another photograph so there is a few seconds delay which can be a pain, but I’m sort of getting used to it.

A sudden incident causes my anger to flare in response to a threat I’ve received from a cyclist. The male cyclist is traveling along at a good pace, but ‘NoNames’ is on a roamabout and crosses the cyclist’s path causing the now rather irate rider to brake sharply to avoid a collision. Not only does he threaten – rather loudly – to “Rip your dog’s head off!” as he so eloquently puts it to me, but also to “Knock you out you f***ing t**t!” (Figure it out for yourselves. I don’t use expletives in my writing.) Normally being of a rather placid nature I tend to let things go over my head, but he’s threatened me and ‘NoNames’, and when I’m riled I react with equal or more ferocity.

My response, “This path is supposed to be for cyclists AND pedestrians! Why do c***s like you think you’re so special? If you hadn’t been going like your a**e was on fire instead of slowing down when you saw me it wouldn’t have been a problem! Do it if it makes you feel better and I’ll have you in court! A***HOLE!” He responds with, “F**k off, you old b*****d!” Rather disgruntled he then rides off muttering some unrecognisable expletives. DCP_0545

Moaning and muttering to myself I now continue on my merry-ish way. Soon I’m grumpy with the camera (the idiot cyclist has got me wound up, and I haven’t calmed down properly yet), it’s only ten to two pm and the super-rechargeable Duracell batteries in my Kodak camera are flat already. I flip them out and put in some fresh ones, moaning to myself continuously as I do so.

According to my pedometer the distance is now 3.2 miles, the time 13:55 ans we’ve reached the most northerly tip of the reservoir. The path now curves to the right and heads back in a southerly direction. A footpath sign states to the visitor’s centre 3 and a half miles this way round or 5 miles this way round, we’re going for the 5 miles.

Yes, the path has definitely turned, we’re now heading in the opposite direction, but on the other side theoretically. Of course I’m now making sure that I and ‘NoNames’ stay to the side when cyclists come by, don’t want to be threatened again. Most of the cyclists ‘NoNames’ and I happen across are pleasant mannered, it’s just the odd idiot – well so far there’s been one odd idiot.

Around 2pm I’ve met a nice bunch of well-mannered people, asking me a few enquiries, but I don’t really know the area that well – or at least this particular part of the area that well – I help them the best I can. However their main concern is the whereabouts of the nearest pub; I really hope I’ve directed them correctly.

Wow, the wind is really picking up now and I’m expecting it to bring some rain – never mind, we’ll survive. DCP_0468Thinking about our earlier incident with the cyclist (by the way, I’ve calmed down now; the group looking for the pub perked me up). In all the years, all the miles, and all the times I’ve been out walking with ‘NoNames’, that was the first time ever that I’ve been threatened. I hope it’s going to be the last.

Heading south at 5 past 2 and it’s getting a bit dull, looks like we’re in for a spot of rain. The footpath has now drifted away from the reservoirs edge and passing through some woodland, it’s just started spitting with rain. In minutes we seem to have entered a little yew tree plantation, but the yew trees are certainly not small, it looks a little out of place amongst this mainly deciduous woodland. We are then climbing uphill through woodland. I don’t mind uphill bits because chances are they’ll lead to a downhill bit.

DCP_0479It’s quarter past 2 and it’s absolutely chucking it down, sort of expected it really. Five minutes and a most pleasant view has come into sight. Well I say ‘pleasant’, would be if it wasn’t chucking it down. I’ve decided to shelter under a tree and wait out the rain a little while to see if I can get a dry shot of that view. I could put on my waterproofs but then I’d probably be too warm, yes I’ll be dry, but warm; I say ‘dry’, might be wet with perspiration – that’s a posh word for sweat, isn’t it?

It does not seem long before the rain slows down and the sun starts to break through, so now we’re going to move on. That scenic view is much clearer now and I fire off a few good shots with the camera. Soon we’ve reached what is effectively the half way point and I can clearly see the visitor’s centre over across the other side of the water. At this point the path begins to descend back down to the water’s edge.

Ahead of me I see the path steaming as the water left by the rain begins to evaporate in the hot sun. At about the 5 mile point the path has come to a gate, but continues onward over the other side of this, the purpose of this I’m unsure. We’ve passed through the gate – closing it behind us of course – and I’ve spotted a few benches alongside the path in full sun; time for a tea break methinks. The views from this bench are pretty good so I snap a few photos of course as I enjoy my mug of Yorkshire Tea and a snack.

Been here about half hour now so I should be moving on so I pack everything away and ‘NoNames’ and I continue on our journey in what is now bright full summer sunshine. Of course during my break ‘NoNames’ decided it would be a good idea to try and climb up onto my lap as he often does, ended up sticking his muddy paws all over me. Nothing unusual there, standard procedure for ‘NoNames’, it just means that I end up as mucky as he is.

About 5 minutes later a little notice informs me I’ve got about 3 miles to go. Soon the temperature is getting to me so I’ve decided to lose a layer and strip down to my short and t-shirt. That’s better, much more comfortable now.

A wander onto the actual shore ensues. ‘NoNames’ is a little bit unsure at this point; he wants to drink the water but the sound of the little waves (or ripples) lapping at the shoreline are frightening him a bit. seeing them coming towards him and hearing them makes him a little nervous. I’ll wait a few minutes and see if he builds up some confidence …. no, he’s having none of that! Dread to think how he’d react to the sea, might take him one day and find out.

So we’ve now ventured back onto the path to carry on with the route. So I’ve stripped down to my shorts etc. and what do I find? The nettles are growing over the footpath; story of my life!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout 16:30 and 7 miles, something that at first sight resembles a barn stands alongside the path ahead. ‘Nothing special’ I think, until we reach it.

Wow! The ‘barn’ is open and filled with carved wooden furniture; table, chairs, clock, fireplace, even a lamp, plus other things, all appear to be hand-made. Of course my cameras now go into overtime as I snap away gleefully at all this amazing stuff. The place looks as if it belongs in the Land of Faerie. Awesome!

The time is fast approaching 5 pm so we really need to get cracking, as after the drive home I need to get the bread-maker on before going to bed around 10 (I’m due in work at 6 am tomorrow). I quicken the pace – I often end up having to do this on many of my wanderings in order to make up time on the last leg.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust after 5 we’re entering Millfields car park and picnic area, I can’t help but notice the carved wooden animals dotted around this location. From this point the path will take us straight along the top of the dam.

Being rather exposed whilst walking across the dam top the wind is rather strong, and actually quite welcome; It helps to cool me down, and I dare say does the same for my furry companion. The walk along the dam offers extensive views around the area, a main road also runs a few hundred feet below, on the other side of which I can see the water works of the reservoir.

5:40 pm and we’ve done it, finishing off passing some open grass space thronged with families, children playing, dogs wandering etc and a children’s playground just prior to reaching the visitor’s centre.

DCP_0715The walk has been great, the scenery, stunning, the weather, a couple of downpours but otherwise good, and extremely warm; but we are in August after all.

Now where did I put that car?

Take a look at the slideshow video for this walk over at my ‘YouTube’ page.

Taken from ‘CanalRoutes.net’ by Peter Hardcastle

The current site, CanalRoutes.net was launched in December 2011. The content of CanalRoutes.net is taken from the now non-operational site CanalRoutes.org which was operational from 1997 to 2007. All the information is the result of a great research and work of more than 10 years and the content copyright belongs to its author, Peter Hardcastle.

The author of the content, Peter Hardcastle is not associated with the current site, CanalRoutes.net, but has given permission to re-use the content from the old site.

The site’s purpose is to provide information about the history of the canals and not to be a news site with up to date information. It is merely here to serve as reference for anybody interested to find out more about the history of the canals.

A new waterway, the Erewash Canal, opened at Long Eaton near the junction of the River Soar with the River Trent. It ran north alongside the River Erewash, through Sandiacre, past Trowell and Ilkeston to a point near Langley Mill – now better known as Great Northern Basin. The Erewash Canal was soon very successful and this led businessmen further north to look into ways of extending the line.

An extension to the Erewash Canal was being called for by many people. In particular mine owners around Pinxton were eager to have a navigable waterway as they claimed there were numerous unworked seams which were being left untouched due to lack of suitable transport. Eventually it was agreed to extend the Erewash Canal as far as Pinxton. However, before any work could be done, other businessmen further to the north of the Erewash Canal also began to show interest in a waterway which could serve their towns and villages. These included iron furnaces at Butterley and Somercotes, limestone quarries at Crich, lead-works at Alderwasley and cotton mills at Cromford.

At a meeting in Matlock a canal was proposed to link the southern side of the Peak District to the Erewash Canal. William Jessop, a local businessman himself, volunteered to do a survey.

The canal was supported by numerous local businessmen but the strongest voice by far was Sir Richard Arkwright who owned the cotton mills at Cromford. He was the pioneer of the factory system and his Cromford mill was the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning works.

Being situated well away from the machine breakers who had wrecked many businesses elsewhere, Arkwright was finding Cromford a very difficult place to get his goods in and out of.

It was a very slow and costly process to send packhorses across the Peak District or to places like Derby and Nottingham so Arkwright desperately needed a reliable and cheap transport system which he hoped a canal could provide.

A further meeting was held in Alfreton during December and Jessop reported his survey. He proposed a line from the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill to Arkwright’s mill at Cromford with a branch line to Pinxton Mill. Interest was so great that half of the estimated cost was raised there and then with the other half being raised during the following two weeks.

In July the Cromford Canal’s authorisation went through Parliament. Strangely, the company who had most to gain from the new canal, the Erewash Canal Company, was the only one that contested the Cromford Canal Act. The Erewash Canal Company feared water supply problems because up till then it had enjoyed exclusive rights to the River Erewash. Despite this objection the Cromford Canal was authorised and work began.

The new canal was to be engineered by William Jessop with Benjamin Outram (who was Jessop’s partner in the nearby Butterley Ironworks) and Thomas Dadford employed as assistant engineers.

The line was to be 14½ miles long and would serve several mines, quarries, lead-works, the ironworks at Butterley and Somercotes and Arkwright’s cotton mills at Cromford. It was to have 3 aqueducts and 4 tunnels of which one, Butterley, would be 2 miles long. There would also be 14 locks, all on the section south of Butterley Tunnel. Soon after work began it was realised that the estimated cost was going to be a long way short of the actual amount needed. Matters were made worse when the contractors, Kearsley and Roundford, resigned forcing Jessop and Outram to have to take full control over all work.

In September all the money ran out and the company were forced to take out loans and make calls on shareholders to raise more cash. Better news came for the canal when the decision (by a separate company) was made to build the Nottingham Canal to Langley Mill where it would join the Erewash and Cromford canals.

This would give the Cromford Canal a second outlet to the Trent as well as an important link with Nottingham. Agreements had to be set up between the Cromford and Nottingham canals because the Cromford company feared that the Nottingham Canal would use up all of its water supply.

The Nottingham company agreed to build extra reservoirs to serve both canals while Jessop built the Cromford Canal summit level much deeper than normal to act as an “on site” reservoir, holding the water which came from Cromford Sough. Jessop was also to be engineer in the Nottingham Canal.

Richard Arkwright died at the age of 60. He had done more than any other individual to get the Cromford Canal started. He’d wanted a canal specifically to carry his cotton and finished goods though he never got to see the route in operation. In the end, the route mainly carried coal, iron and quarried stone rather than cotton but despite this, the waterway was always thought of as “Arkwright’s canal”.

In February the Cromford Canal was opened to the southern portal of Butterley Tunnel. However, Ambergate Aqueduct to the west of Butterley was already in need of repair. Jessop took full responsibility and paid for the £650 rebuild out of his own pocket. Jessop seems to have had an Achilles’ heel when it came to masonry as later in the year the same problem occurred at Wigwell Aqueduct over the River Derwent just south of Cromford. Again Jessop accepted responsibility and repaired the structure personally.

Another new line, the Derby Canal was begun, engineered by Benjamin Outram. This, like the Nottingham Canal, would provide some competition for the Cromford Canal but more importantly both waterways would also provide better routes for Cromford Canal traffic, allowing shorter, quicker and cheaper access to certain areas.

In August the Cromford Canal – aqueducts, tunnels and all – was fully opened and became a success right from the start despite having cost twice the estimated cost to build it.

The Derby Canal opened linking the Erewash Canal (and therefore the Cromford Canal) to Derby. It carried on past Derby to Swarkestone where it met the Trent & Mersey Canal and then the River Trent.

Also during this year, the Nottingham Canal opened providing a much shorter route to that city and beyond. The Nottingham Canal made a junction onto the Cromford Canal at Langley Mill Basin next to the point where the Cromford and Erewash canals met each other head on. The Cromford and Nottingham canals were very helpful towards each other, realising from the start that good relations would yield better results than competing and squabbling over tolls and water.

The first passenger (or “fly”) boat service began operating from Cromford Basin. It was run by Nathaniel Wheatcroft who made twice weekly trips to Nottingham, a distance of 38 miles, costing 5s first class and 3s second class.

The over-expenditure in building the Cromford Canal was soon forgotten by the company. The canal became more successful every year with most of the cargo being coal, coke and a good proportion of limestone.

During 1800 the Peak Forest Canal opened on the far side of the Peak District, to the north west of Cromford, near Manchester. Although this was a long way from Cromford it was soon to have a lasting link with the Cromford Canal. As soon as the Peak Forest Canal was up and running, businessmen began talking about a canal that would cross the Peak District joining the Cromford Canal to the Peak Forest Canal.

The Grand Junction Canal Company were strong supporters of this idea as it would greatly reduce the time and distance between Manchester and London. On the other hand, the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, who stood to suffer the biggest losses, were equally strong in their opposition.

John Rennie was asked to survey a line across this most southerly part of the Pennines. He reported (not surprisingly) that the route would need dozens of locks and would be very heavy on water usage. His estimated cost was £650,000, much more than had been hoped, thus the plan was dropped – but not forgotten.

A privately owned canal, named the Lea Wood (or Leawood) Branch, was opened just south of Wigwell Aqueduct. According to numerous books the owner of this branch, Peter Nightingale, was the father of Florence Nightingale. (However, Stewart Flint, a Nightingale family descendant told that this is not true and Peter was, in fact, a Great Uncle of the famous nurse).

The canal branch, built jointly by Nightingale and the Cromford Canal Company, was just ½ a mile long but it provided access to a number of quarries, two lead-works, cotton mills and a hat factory.

The extra traffic caused by the new branch and the growing prosperity of the whole canal in general led the company to open Butterley Tunnel 24 hours a day to alleviate congestion. Another branch line was talked about during this year which would have connected the main line to Bakewell though in the end nothing was ever done.

However, the line would have been more of an extension than a branch as Bakewell is over 10 miles north of the terminus in Cromford. As well as canal branches, over the following years, numerous connections were made to the canal from quarries and mines but most of these were not water routes.

Derbyshire, and this area in particular, became famous for its tramways and a number of them connected to the Cromford Canal at various points. One of the main engineers in the area was Benjamin Outram who appears to have had the perfect name for the job! Most tramways were less than 2 miles long but could reach high into the hills, usually drawn by horses or pulled up the inclines via a balance and gravity system.

At Crich, for instance, the limestone quarries situated high above the canal were connected to the water at Bullbridge via a tramway, at Riddings a donkey-drawn tramway was built while at Swanwick and Birchwood a steam-driven tramway was in operation. At the ironworks in Butterley there was an even more ingenious transportation method. Cargo from the works was sent straight down shafts onto boats inside Butterley Tunnel. Most of this cargo was ammunition such as cannons, cannon balls and shot bound for Woolwich arsenal.

Such was the success of the canal that dividends to shareholders reached 10%.

Twenty five years after the idea was first looked into, a new proposal was made to link the Cromford Canal to the Peak Forest Canal on the far side of the Peak District. This time the proposal was to link the two waterways by rail rather than by a canal. In May, an Act of Parliament was granted and the Cromford & High Peak Railway Company was born with William Jessop’s son, Josias, appointed as engineer on the building of the line.

The increasing success of the canal continued to bring steady increases in dividends which were now just under 20%.

The Cromford & High Peak Railway opened in July from just north of Wigwell Aqueduct to the terminus basin at Whaley Bridge on the Peak Forest Canal. To cross the Peak District, nine inclined planes had been built with stationary engines used to haul wagons up the steep hillsides while a more conventional railway was used across the summit. The railway was very successful from the start and continued to do well even after the arrival of many other railways in the area.

Most of the coal carried on the Cromford Canal was taken south, from local Derbyshire mines, towards Leicester. Staffordshire coal, carried on the Trent and Mersey Canal, had also been competing for this same market and more competition had now arrived with the building of a railway from Burton, through Ashby and Swannington, to Leicester.

As a result of this the Cromford Canal began to carry much less coal and the reduction in traffic was biting into their profits. After a meeting with the other local canals and the local colliery owners the canals reluctantly agreed to lower their tolls on coal carriage to Leicester. However, it soon became evident that the reduced tolls had no effect on the level of traffic on the canal and were only resulting in even less profit for the company so they dropped the toll concession. The colliery owners were very unhappy and began to look into building a railway line to carry the coal themselves and thus avoid the monopolising canals.

Traffic continued to increase at such a steady volume that the canal was carrying double the amount it had done at the turn of the century. The ever increasing success of the route brought dividends up to an all time high of 28% during the early 1840’s. As well as carrying twice as much coal as it did in the early years, the canal now carried substantial quantities of farm produce as well as ironstone, gritstone and limestone.

Iron from the Butterley works had also increased considerably since the canal’s early days. Coal was mainly carried down the Cromford Canal to the Erewash Canal and onto the Soar Navigation and then to Leicester. Limestone was shipped further south to the West Midlands and London.

This was not quite the great news that it initially seems to be however as most of it was to be used for the building of the new railways which were soon to put all canals in jeopardy. The canal quickly realised the threat from railway competition and reduced its tolls in order to keep cargoes on the waterway.

Reducing cargo rates soon took its toll! Revenue went down by 25% in just two years and dividends were cut by half. Also during this period the canal lost its original water supply. Since the canal opened it had taken water from Cromford Sough which ran through Arkwright’s mills and entered the canal at Cromford Basin. This water came from local lead mines but when mining moved to lower levels the water supply dried up. The company were forced into building a pumping station near Cromford to supply the canal’s summit level. Water was drawn from the River Derwent which passed under the canal at Wigwell Aqueduct.

The Cromford Canal Company was one of the first to conclude that it was pointless to try and fight the railways. The Erewash Valley Line was under construction and another line was planned to run from Cheadle to Ambergate. These and competition from other railways already in existence in the area were enough to see the canal company sell out to the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock & Midlands Junction Railway Company. A deal was agreed upon but it was 5 more years before the canal changed hands.

In August, following an Act of Parliament, the MBM&MJR took over the running of the Cromford Canal at a cost of £103,000.This has since said to be much more than the canal was worth and to have been a marvellous piece of salesmanship by the canal committee. Soon after taking control, the MBM&MJR leased out the canal in a joint agreement with the Midland Railway and the London & North Western Railway.

As soon as the railways took control of the waterway it saw an immediate decline in traffic. Midland Railway owned the line which ran parallel to the waterway along the whole of its route and virtually all carrying was moved onto the railway. However, while the canal lost its traditional cargoes it gained some others – though never in such great quantities. These included corn and groceries bound for Manchester.

The Cromford Canal’s near neighbour – and useful ally – the Nottingham Canal also sold out to a local railway, the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston & Eastern Junction Railway Company, which in turn was bought out by the much larger Great Northern Railway. Being owned by two completely different and very large companies meant the sudden end of good relations between the two waterways.

Midland Railway Company took full control of the Cromford Canal. By this time tonnage had dropped to lower than ½ of what had been carried in the years just before the railway take-over

After 35 years of railway ownership the tonnage carried on the canal had dropped to just 15% of its pre-railway level. Even this was mostly local traffic with very few boats travelling onto the adjoining canals. All long distance cargoes now went by train.

Subsidence caused the canal’s owners to temporarily close Butterley Tunnel. The repairs took four years to complete and cost over £7,000. The money loss was not just the cost of rebuilding but also a loss of income due to boats being unable to pass through the tunnel.

Traffic had been low before the subsidence in Butterley Tunnel but after the tunnel re-opened the trade was very slow to pick-up and never reached even the low pre-subsidence levels. Most of the carriers who had “discovered” the advantages of the railway while the tunnel was blocked never returned to the canal.

In July, a second collapse within Butterley Tunnel caused its closure once again, but this time the closure turned out to be permanent. The owners (Midland Railway) refused to repair the tunnel a second time, claiming (probably correctly) that the amount of traffic using the tunnel did not warrant the cost of repair, especially when there was a very adequate railway line running parallel to the canal. To keep the few existing carriers “sweet” the railway company allowed them to use the railway at no extra charge.

The very few carriers who still wanted to use the tunnel were of course very unhappy about its loss. Their pressure to have the tunnel re-opened was backed by the Erewash Canal Company and eventually a survey was made by Rudolph de Salis and paid for by the government. Unfortunately, Salis reported that the headroom inside the tunnel had become very low in parts and the brickwork lining was in a very dangerous state. He also reported that the canal to the west of the tunnel was in an equally poor state.

To the east of the tunnel traffic had always been fairly good and this continued long after the tunnel’s closure. On the west side, a small amount of local carrying continued for some time. Coal, in particular, was still taken to High Peak Wharf where it was transferred onto rail. Most of this came from near by on the privately owned Lea Wood Branch.

Although pressure remained on the company to re-open Butterley Tunnel, all hopes ended when a third collapse occurred during February.

Butterley Tunnel was finally pronounced beyond economic repair by a Royal Commission.

The great railway amalgamation took place leaving the Cromford Canal in the hands of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company.

The Erewash Canal was taken over by the Grand Union Canal Company. If Butterley Tunnel had been open the Grand Union Canal may well have taken over the Cromford Canal too though of course this did not happen. The take over of the Erewash Canal will have made little difference to the Cromford Canal at this stage as it was now used very little with virtually all trade now being carried on the railway.

The privately owned Lea Wood Branch was closed.

On March 13th the owners of the Cromford Canal announced their intention to close down the whole the canal. This raised a few objections, not enough to change the plans of the owners, but enough to persuade them to offer the line to the Grand Union Canal. However, it would appear that the Grand Union Company were not interested and there was no take-over. The railway company also announced the closure of the Nottingham Canal, this was met with no real resistance and the dirty deed was done!

The whole of the Cromford Canal, except for a ½ mile stretch at the southern end, was officially abandoned. Following this, most of the southern section of the canal was filled in though to the north of Butterley it was mostly left untouched – neither maintained or destroyed. It slowly but surely became weeded over and hidden by undergrowth.

The last remaining ½ mile of the canal, near the junction with the Erewash Canal, was finally closed. The top 4 miles of the Erewash Canal were also closed at the same time.

The last traffic to have any real association with the Cromford Canal ended when the last train crossed the Peak District on the Cromford and High Peak Railway. However, interchanging with the canal had of course ended many years earlier.

Derbyshire County Council bought the northern most 5½ miles of the canal, from Ambergate to Cromford. Since then the towpath has been cleaned up and is open as a designated walk.

Although the towpath near Ambergate on the southern part of the rejuvenated section is now restored, the canal itself is still completely weeded up and very shallow. However, the northern part of this section, near Cromford, has been fully restored and turned into a popular linear country park.

The section includes many of the best sites on the canal including Wigwell Aqueduct, Leawood pumping station, High Peak Junction and Cromford Basin. Although the water is still shallow, it is possible to navigate the canal in this area though full restoration of the whole canal is probably impossible and is not currently part of anybody’s plans.

My beautiful pictureMonday the 30th January 2012 and my friend ‘Mitch’ and his German shepherd dog ‘Sasha’ have been invited to join ‘NoNames’ and I on a stroll along the first section of the ‘Chesterfield Canal’, also known as the ‘Cuckoo Way’ from the nickname of the narrowboat barges that once used it continuously during the industrial revolution; these were nicknamed ‘cuckoos’. Of course this particular stroll although not exactly on the doorstep is merely 20 minutes drive away and would fit well with the ‘Doorstep Discovery’ theme.

The ‘Chesterfield Canal’ was opened in 1777 and was once a busy freight route for distribution of produce from the many industries close by. The original canal ran 46 miles from Chesterfield in Derbyshire all the way to West Stockwith in Nottinghamshire where it eventually empties into the River Trent, which itself empties into the North Sea at the Humber Estuary. Most but not all of the canal has now been re-dredged and made navigable again after many years of abandonment. Like many other canals throughout the country the original towpath is now used as a multi-use surface for pedestrians, cyclists, pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters, and of course horses.

I discovered the ‘Chesterfield Canal’ many years ago whilst working voluntary for the Derbyshire County Council Countryside Ranger Service who also introduced me to the Five Pits Trail and Rowthorne Trail nearer to my current home. The service was responsible for the policing and conservation of all of the canal that was within the Derbyshire county boundary, so effectively from Chesterfield to the now ‘Rother Valley Country Park’ at Killamarsh where the canal enters into South Yorkshire. The ‘Chesterfield Canal’ (or ‘Cuckoo Way’) passes through the 3 counties of Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. My beautiful picture

I’ve decided that parking the car at Tapton Park would be the best option. OK this means a 5 or 10 minute walk alongside the main road to the start of the canal next to where the Trebor factory used to stand, but parking there is free for as long as you like and makes a more preferable option to parking in nearby residential streets (and possible upsetting someone) or within town with its excessive parking fees (what’s more parking in town would mean an even longer walk to our start point). The plan is to walk the first section of the canal from Chesterfield to the new Staveley Basin some 5 miles distant, but as this is a linear route it would also mean walking back to the car or catching a bus, and thus giving us a total walk of 10 miles. My beautiful picture

A five minute wander along the B6543 Brimington Road has taken us to the start of the canal where it is initially fed by the River Rother, the dogs have been released to go about their own wanderings and the camera’s are out as Mitch and I begin taking our first snapshots of the day. Unfortunately for Mitch his photographs are restricted to what he can do with his mobile phone as he has no other camera (at a later date he bought a Vivitar Vivicam 9114 – the same model as my camera, but a different colour so as we don’t get confused).  This wander was some years ago, I still have the ‘Vivitar Vivicam 9114’ and it still works fine, but I have since purchased no less than three other cameras, all of which I carry about with me on my wanderings.

The actual start of the Chesterfield Canal is marked by a red brick built footbridge (with added graffiti), a single gate lock, and a mainly pale blue coloured fancy directional sculpture; the plate mounted above the centre of the arch on the footbridge reads ‘CHESTERFIELD CANAL TAPTON MILL BRIDGE NO 1’. Our main disappointment is the mindless graffiti scrawled on the bridge and the litter in the water, but this part of the canal is not frequented by visitors as often as the other areas along the Cuckoo Way and tends to get less maintenance as a result. A green directional sign also informs us that this is part of the well known ‘Trans Pennine Trail’ and also directs us to Chesterfield Station, Tapton Lock Visitor Centre, and Staveley. My beautiful pictureWe are wandering off along the path that was once the towpath of the canal in the days when it was first built and the canal barges were pulled along by a horse on the towpath.

The canal itself is currently to our right with the continuation of the River Rother passing to our left but on a lower level; so we are at present bordered on both sides by some sort of waterway. The path itself, although solid is at present muddy in places with many puddles but the going is easy as of course there are no inclines. At the far side of the canal many reasonably new buildings have been built, one of them a block of apartments/flats that command a high price because of their proximity to the canal. Beneath a ‘Premier Inn’ hotel on the far side is a boat mooring platform but no boats are present, whereas alongside our path are many fishing platforms spread out at intervals, but no fishermen. In fact, apart from ourselves and the occasional walker or cyclist the only other occupants at the moment appear to be the mallard ducks.

My beautiful pictureIn no time at all Tapton Tunnel comes into view and our path goes through the short tunnel that now carries the A619 main road (Rother Way) between Chesterfield and Brimington, to exit at Tapton Lock and its Visitor Centre. Time to take some photos and see if the Visitor Centre is open; it’s shut, so we won’t be going in there today. Here at Tapton Lock a slip of the paw has landed ‘Sasha’ in deep water – literally – Mitch reacts immediately and before I’ve realised what’s happened he’s dragging his poor sodden German Shepherd Dog out of the freezing cold water before her mid-winter dip has chance to cause her any serious ill health.

Better move on, but before we do we’re viewing a rather unusual sign which reads ‘Cuckoo Way & Trans Pennine Trail E8 CHESTERFIELD 1 MILE TO ISTANBUL 2500 MILES’ and directional arrows accordingly; strange… The towpath then passes under a minor road bridge and we are soon leaving Tapton Lock behind us. My beautiful picture

North of Tapton Lock the canal seams to widen and after passing under a couple of railway bridges over the canal we have come across a pair on mute swans and several photographs ensue as they happily pose for us to take their pictures. The swans are quite tame or so it seems, but to be fair many visitors to the canal will happily feed treats to them so the swans think that every visitor has something for them, and as a result this makes them quite welcoming of human-kind to their patch of the waterway. Unfortunately for them we have nothing for them but to take their photographs and immortalise them on the internet. After this photo session we continue on and the swans follow us to Wheeldon Mill Lock, some distance further along the canal. My beautiful picture

We have passed under the B6050 Brimington Road North and Station Road and seen our first boat, albeit not much bigger than a rowing boat and moored alongside the waterway at the Mill public house; here there is also a large number of ducks and I think they are hanging around this area to make the most of treats given to them by customers at the pub. There is also a small free car park at the side of the Cuckoo Way at this location and literally a few hundred yards more and we are at Wheeldon Mill Lock. Time for another lock photograph session but as I am taking photographs on the opposite side of the lock to Mitch and the dogs ‘NoNames’ decides to run to me, not realising until it’s too late that between himself and me is deep water. As he enthusiastically races towards me I am stood shouting at him to stop and stay put but he doesn’t acknowledge my plea and continues to happily rush to greet me; however he is running too fast to stop before meeting the edge of the lock and in the last split second suddenly notices water and takes a leap of faith, hoping to clear the width and land on safe ground where his master is on the opposite side – he doesn’t make it and lands up in the water splashing and swimming about trying to scale the lock wall to get out. My instinct has me dumping the camera and rushing to drag him out of the water. Closer inspection reveals only damage to his ego but no serious physical injuries; now both dogs have been for a dip in the canal in the cold mid-winter – I wouldn’t fancy a dip in the canal at any time of year but in winter … brrr … makes me shiver with cold just thinking about it. My beautiful picture

From Wheeldon Mill Lock onward the surrounding area has become more rural as the Chesterfield Canal now curves in a north-easterly and then easterly direction away from the town of its namesake. The surroundings have become more open to allow much more light in and offer pleasant open views over the surrounding countryside of north-east Derbyshire. In time we have come to Bluebank Lock but now have opted for keeping the dogs under closer control whilst we take our photographs; don’t want a repeat of dog-dipping. Although it’s winter, throughout our walk along the Cuckoo Way we are continuously happening upon other visitors and stopping for the occasional chat, the route is very popular with many users of differing abilities and methods of transit. A few hundred yards from Bluebank Lock a new brick built footbridge (Bilby Lane Bridge) has been constructed over the water and boat moorings refurbished or re-installed but still we see no boats, I’m sure we’d see more during the summer months. The canal curves to the right and fishing platforms (no anglers still) are located between the new brick bridge and the next lock (Dixon’s Lock). My beautiful picture

It appears that Dixon’s Lock has been recently renovated and another newly built footbridge crosses the canal at this point (although much smaller than the last one). Another photo session ensues and for the first time today we see a typical canal narrowboat, although it seems to be primarily an advertising platform at present; the boat is named John Varley and owned by the Chesterfield Canal Trust Limited and I think that this is one of the boats that provides leisure trips on the canal in the summer months.

We’ve continued on after our photo shoot and in what appears to be only a matter of minutes have come to Hollingwood Lock with its quite recently built visitor centre (closed at the moment). Dogs on the leads as we cross – or should I say pass under – the main Works Road that served the well known Barrow Hill Works once upon a time, but the works are now mainly derelict land; however regeneration of the area has begun so we’ll see what improvements are made over the coming years. This particular section of the Cuckoo Way appears to be extremely popular as we meet many people around here although we’re in the middle of Winter, and lots of other dogs much to the delight of ‘NoNames’ who always has a fondness for stopping to play with other dogs he meets on our walks, ‘Sasha’ on the other hand tends to largely ignore them. My beautiful picture

The area around the canal has now opened up again to be largely rural as we are passing by open fields, the towpath footpath here is very wet and we’ve found ourselves dodging lots of large puddles on the path; this hasn’t dampened our spirits though and we are pressing on to the old stone built bridge at Mill Green as we enter into Staveley. The bridge is obviously very old and is looking very much worn down and crumbling with obvious signs of the many repairs it has experienced over the years. Here we have found another multi-coloured directional sculpture much like the one at the beginning.

Immediately after Mill Green Bridge the newly carried out work is prominent as the waterway has begun to widen towards the new Staveley Basin. This particular regeneration of the canal has taken place most recently with the new Staveley Basin officially opening only a week or so ago (of course that was in 2012 – some three years ago). Obviously modern work has been taking place here as the relative authorities and voluntary groups have been progressing with their ultimate aim of making the whole of the canal navigable once again; however it is very muddy as the recent ground workings have yet to settle. It is quite unique on this stretch of the canal and may in time become a marina as the water expanse is much wider to accommodate many boats.

My beautiful pictureUnfortunately the continuation of the canal after this point is merely a footpath as the original canal route is yet to be dredged and traces of the waterway are difficult to find, but I’m sure the excellent work will continue indefinitely to improve the experience of the Cuckoo Way for a few more miles. Indeed the longest navigable section of the canal is in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire and in time this Derbyshire section will eventually meet it.

We have made the goal of today’s walk and it’s now time to turn around and wander the 5 miles back to the car parked at Tapton Park. Our return journey throughout its length has proven to be even more enjoyable than the outward walk as at Staveley earlier the sun came out and has shone ever since. A tea break stop on a bench alongside the canal near to Dixon’s Lock has left us both suitably refreshed for our continuing wander, followed by a half pint sat on the raised decking area overlooking the canal outside the pub next to where we saw our first boat made the journey all the more pleasurable. We were somewhat amused at the pub by a chalk-board sign that read ‘ENTER GARDEN AT OWN RISK – CROCS IN CANAL’ My beautiful picture

Summary: An interesting and easy walk utilising a former industrial route, takes in wonderful scenery and provides a link with our industrial heritage. A truly easy-access multi-user route. Most enjoyable. I do intend to walk the whole length of the canal eventually, when I can fit it in – I’ll bring you the details then.

View the photo album over at ‘Doorstep Discovery‘ on ‘Facebook‘.

My little slideshow video of this walk is now on ‘YouTube‘.

Monday the 21st July 2014 and a day off work coupled with expected good weather instills within me the urge to go walkabout. DCP_0038I’m looking for somewhere pleasant and a short drive away that would allow me a few hours steady walk in the countryside. After reviewing my many options I’ve decided that a circular of an old haunt would suit my aim, so Ogston Reservoir it is.

It’s been some years since I walked around this, although when I lived nearby, at Mickley, ‘Oggie Res’ as it is known by the locals was one of my regular strolls. I also have fond memories of spending a regular few hours close to the reservoir at ‘The Steps’ as we knew it on sunny summer days with my good lady, my sister and her children who were young at the time, and when my eldest two children were merely a toddler and a baby.

With my mind set I’ve filled the steel flask with boiling water and shoved it in my daysack along with a snack or two (maybe three or four – OK, loads of snacks), a bit of milk in a little bottle, some teabags, and a bottle of spring water. A quick change of skins ensures I’m wearing the most comfortable and appropriate attire for this summer venture. Put the collar on ‘NoNames’ (this of course had resulted in him becoming really excitable), grab his lead, and my cameras bag, jump in the car and we’re off. A steady 15 to 20 minute drive and I’m parking up my oversized (well oversized for one person and his dog) Peugeot 806 MPV in Ogston Reservoir’s north car park alongside the B6014 between Stretton and Tansley. Jump out and open one of the sliding doors and my faithful furry companion is out like a shot and rapidly disappears into the trees exploring in his own unique way. Fortunately I’ve parked the MPV far enough away from the road so if I see him dashing off in that direction I’ll have time to call him back out of danger from passing traffic, and of course if I call him he’ll come to me, he always does. It’s only a minute before I’ve donned the daysack and cameras bag, locked the motor and got ‘NoNames’ on his lead because the first part of our circular stroll around ‘Oggie Res’ requires that we walk east along the B6014 road for a few hundred yards to then access our right turn onto the lane that will take us south, parallel to the reservoir’s shore. DCP_0031

It’s not long before we’re on the said lane and now ‘NoNames’ gets his anticipated release, leaving him free to go about his own way. Yes this is a public lane and does carry the occasional traffic but it is merely a small access lane to local residences and farms, so is reasonably safe as ant traffic is likely to be going slow and with the current peacefulness of the area I’ll hear anything long before it gets near and can call ‘NoNames’ back to me without any problem to assure his safety. This lane gradually rises to pass on an upper level to the reservoir itself before descending through a little hamlet to the reservoir works.

The sun is shining and I feel great. Woodland areas around me and between myself and the reservoir add interest to the walk as well as some welcome shade as ‘NoNames’ and I ascend the lane to several metres above and to the south of the reservoir. Traffic is proving to be almost non-existent with the passing of just one vehicle so far; of course I have hold of the dog in plenty of time to make him safe. Glimpses of the reservoir through the woodland to my right allows plenty of opportunity to take some reasonably good photographs.

The Oggie Stoat (yes this is a true story)

As I pass a farm on my left I recall fond memories of passing this way during winter many years ago with my Mum, brother and sister when I myself was merely a teenager. My parent’s two dogs were with us on this occasion, there was I recall a nice covering of snow all around; nothing excessive, just a pleasant white blanket as far as the eye could see. We wandered along this same lane, albeit in the opposite direction that ‘NoNames’ and I were wandering today, when I – being probably the most observant one – spotted what appeared to be a stoat in it’s winter finery flitting about the area. It wasn’t until I crept closer could I confirm that what I saw was actually a stoat as expected rather than a weasel; the larger body and black tipped tail confirming its identity. On seeing me creep closer the little ermine darted into a nearby barn, but then reappeared showing its head through a hole in the masonry. It didn’t appear to be nervous or overly concerned about my approach, but to be fair I was sure it was quite capable of legging it out of the way much quicker than I could in my winter attire, but as I slowly crept nearer the stoat stayed put – maybe with my hand held out in front of me it might have thought I was offering something, especially with its natural food being rather scarce at that time of year. OK, I was young and naive, I knew what I’d found, but with the excitement of getting close enough to a wild animal made me temporarily forget that, however cute it may appear to be, the European stoat is in fact a rather vicious predator. Reality soon sunk in in a rather painful way as the cute animal took a chunk out of my finger before scampering off as I jerked my blooded finger away whilst loudly emitting my cry of pain. I knew instantly what it would have been thinking, ‘Fresh raw meat being offered to me! Yes, I’ll have some of that!’ It is an animal instinct to learn from mistakes, humans are no exception. I learned a valuable lesson that day, and although I’ve seen many stoats and weasels since I’ve never been able to get got as close as I did that day, and if I ever do the most I’ll offer is a shot through my camera lens. On the occasion, although it was a rather painful experience, I was nevertheless delighted to have been able to get close enough to such an animal for it to be able to bite my finger. Getting close enough to have your finger bitten by a wild stoat. How awesome is that! A smile crosses my face as I fondly remember that winter’s day many years ago.

I see no stoats today (except in my mind) but what I do see is the sun shining, trees in full leaf, wildflowers everywhere; and hear the birds singing the joys of life. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon the lane begins a descent and brings us closer to the water as we pass a gate to our right which allows a good look at part of the dam and the overflow, albeit from a distance as the gate is locked and public access in not permitted. Naturally I grab a few shots with my three cameras, making use of the zoom on both my Kodak and Olympus to get a closer view of the overflow.

We are now entering the little hamlet of ‘Ogston’ around the area of the reservoir works, a tidy little place with a few stone buildings and pretty gardens. I am now getting rather overheated and I’ve decided on a quick stop to dress down a little, so it’s off with the micro-fleece and the lower part of my zip-off trousers all removed and squeezed into my daypack. So now down to shorts and t-shirt I’m feeling more comfortable, a quick drink of spring water and off we go again. In minutes we’re passed through the hamlet and reservoir works and at the gate entrance of ‘Ogston Hall’. The other side of the gate is private access to the Hall only, but opposite the lane continues as little more than a cart track to eventually exit high up the escarpment onto the main A61 road between Clay Cross and Alfreton at Higham opposite the ‘Greyhound’ PH. Motor vehicle access is no longer permitted on the track but bicycles, horses, wheelchair and pedestrian use etc. is allowed. East along this first rather straight section of the track towards Higham is where we are headed. So it’s through the gate and off we go towards the so called ‘steps’. Now for a short while we will have open fields on both sides of the route and be walking away from the reservoir, to come back in close to the opposite shore later on.

In no time we pass over a stone bridge that carries the track over the River Amber and now to our right a gap in the fence and a few steps down into a meadow alongside the river confirms we are now at what in my younger dayDCP_0060s we used to call the ‘steps’. This is a series of man-made weirs and gulleys built to divert part of the river course for some industrial reason, also a sluice gate occupies this location as an overflow for the reservoir. Officially the location as known as ‘Ogston Bridge’ and just a few yards further up the lane another bridge known as Ogston Lane Bridge is a grade II listed building and carries the lane (or track as I call it) over the mainline railway between Chesterfield and Derby. Fond memories of spending hours here on sunny summer days with my eldest sister (rest her soul), her children, my partner and our first 2 children enjoying the sun, picnicking and splashing about in the water return as I decide here would be a good spot for my first tea break.

Lapping up the sun and enjoying a snack or two with a freshly brewed mug of Yorkshire Tea, and recalling fond memories as ‘NoNames’ runs riot as usual and has a paddle in the river. Life doesn’t get much better than this. All too soon I’ve got to force myself up and get going again. From here to Brackenfield the route uses a cross-country footpath not suited to wheeled means, and loosely follow the course of the river for about the first half of its duration. As we set off a lady walker passes by with her Red Setter and ‘NoNames’ insists on making a new friend with the dog, and they play gleefully for a short while before we all have to move on. Naturally I greet the lady with my most sincere smile, but refrain from asking her for a date; although I must admit the thought does cross my mind – well I’m single now, what have I got to lose? DCP_0095

After passing through a few wonderful meadows and riverside spots we come to a wooden footbridge over the river; a couple sit nearby in the bright sunshine chatting away. After passing over the footbridge we are entering a field in which cattle are grazing. This is a delightful location and I can’t help but stop for a couple of minutes to take in the scene and a few more photos. I know through experience that ‘NoNames’ poses no threat whatsoever to livestock so I allow him to continue freely and unrestrained just occasionally calling him back to me if he ventures too close to the cattle; he has no desire to annoy or harm them but they may not be thinking the same, and I wouldn’t want my faithful companion to be injured by any of them.

We exit the field through a weird stile at the side of a large tree into an open meadow, the footpath continues almost through the middle of it. We’ve come to a narrow path between two overgrown hedgerows. This will be the final part of unrestrained freedom for ‘NoNames’ as I know that this path will exit onto the lane just east of Brackenfield Church, and from then on he will need to be on his lead for his own safety. He doesn’t know this yet but soon it will become most apparent to him. Soon the path passes through another stile and then widens a little, making movement much easier; this is the last little bit and we descend towards the lane. ‘NoNames’ is no stranger to this type of thing and has learned that if he sees tarmac that’s a couple of cars wide or wider he goes on his lead. On reaching the gateway onto the lane he stops and waits patiently for me to catch up and put his lead on, bless him! DCP_0130

A two minute stroll along the lane finds me looking upon Brackenfield‘s Holy Trinity Church with is ornate covered gateway, more photos, thank-you! From here onwards our walk will take us along the lane alongside the western shore of the reservoir to enter the largest of the car parks where the plan is to stop for another brew.

This is probably the least interesting or varied part of the route, it is merely a pavement between the lane and the barrier wall of the reservoir’s western shore and as such I find it difficult to feel any elation on this part of the route. However I do manage to get a few more photographs (of course). After about 20 minutes of plodding the pavement we are finally entering the largest of the car parks; time for another tea-break. At this location is the Ogston Sailing Club, a bird hide, lots of parking spaces, plenty of well maintained grassed areas, and a few picnic tables and benches. I find an unoccupied one and settle down for my break.

Although the area is not busy there are a few people around enjoying the weather, had it been Sunday the place would have been buzzing and very busy. I enjoy a most pleasant half hour break as I look out over the water, and I can actually see my car over in the other car park on the opposite side of the reservoir. After exploring a little ‘NoNames’ – now off his lead for the final time – settles down under the picnic table I’m at and dozes off.

With my break over it’s time to move on and we continue along the lane (‘NoNames’ on his lead again) into Woolley Moor and once again I have difficulty getting elated about the situation. Nevertheless the countryside is wonderful, and the occasional stone cottage with nicely flowered garden appears adding a little interest to this part of the route. I set out to walk the whole perimeter of Ogston Reservoir and indeed will do. About 10 minutes and the lane exits onto the B6014, a right turn through part of Woolley Moor to be back at the car some 15 or so minutes later.

As soon as I unlock the car and open the door ‘NoNames’ jumps in and as I pull away he settles down to sleep during our journey home. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater whilst viewing the photographs I took today I find a most excellent one that captures ‘NoNames’ head particularly well (at the field where the cattle were) and I have since used this shot as a portrait picture of my loyal companion.

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to see the slideshow video I made with the photographs taken on this day the be sure to view it on ‘YouTube‘.

You can also view the photo album on my new ‘Doorstep Discovery’ ‘Facebook’ page by clicking this link.


It is with much regret that I sit here looking back on what I’ve achieved so far with this particular blog.  Amazing when I think that I have actually achieved NOTHING!  Well virtually nothing.  Especially when I consider that I spend almost every free day wandering around or driving around the beautiful green and pleasant land that is Britain.  To be fair this blog is really about local exploration rather than national exploration, so let’s forget the fact that only last year (2014) my friend ‘Mitch’ and I enjoyed two holidays in Wales – I did all the driving, Mitch doesn’t drive – and whilst ‘on holiday’ we walked the complete ‘Gower‘ coastline (in June) and got incredibly sunburned, and we climbed ‘Snowdon‘ (in September).  In the previous two years we’ve also enjoyed holidays on the coast in West Wales, South Wales, Norfolk (on this one we spent a whole day driving around taking photographs of windmills), Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire.

Now admittedly, these are all what I would consider ‘national’ whereas this blog is all about ‘local’.  But let’s think for a minute;  the brilliant ‘Lincolnshire‘ coast is a mere 2 hour drive away (considerably longer if we stop off for breakfast on the way and take the ‘scenic’ route, as we always do) but just 2 hours-ish straight through, the ‘Yorkshire‘ coast at ‘Bridlington‘ is less that three hours away, the ‘Norfolk‘ coast is about three hours away, the North Wales coast is about two to three hours away, and there’s also ‘Lancashire‘, ‘Blackpool‘ – a three hour drive.  This is one of the many advantages of living, as I do, in the Midlands – I’m in the middle of everything; another example, from home by using the motorways I can be at the world famous ‘Humber Bridge‘ in just one and a half hours.

However I still consider these destinations to be ‘national’, which may seem strange when I consider that ‘Rutland‘ is one and a half hours away, ‘Ashbourne‘ is one hour away, so is ‘Castleton‘, and ‘Newark‘, and many other wonderful inland destinations around the Midlands – think Cheshire, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, Leicestershire, etc. etc. are also a good hour or so.  So this may have us thinking, ‘Where is ‘local’ and where is ‘national’, what’s the difference?’

Of course it’s all down to personal preference and how far we are prepared to travel (and for how long) to get the most out of what is on offer.

I live in Nottinghamshire but very close to the Derbyshire county boundary which is why I’ve used the above examples of Ashbourne, Castleton, and Newark; all wonderful interesting destinations in their own right but about a hour’s driving to get to them, and all within my home counties of ‘Derbyshire’ or ‘Nottinghamshire’.

The point I’m trying to make is that ‘Doorstep Discovery’ is about ‘local’ places of delight and interest, or at least my own personal opinion of ‘local’.  With this in mind I aim to bring you whatever I consider to be interesting places within my home counties of ‘Nottinghamshire’ and ‘Derbyshire’, but not strictly restricting my findings here, so occasionally we may venture slightly further afield now and then – but not too far.

Enjoy the blog and please feel free to comment.

My beautiful pictureMonday the 4th of June 2012 and I’ve invited my friend ‘Mitch’ and his German shepherd dog ‘Sasha’ to join ‘NoNames’ and I on a drive out to walk the ‘Monsal Trail’.  The idea is to walk its total length and take a few things in, but as it is a linear route we will effectively have to walk it all twice (once in either direction) and at 8.5 miles long this will mean a overall walking distance of 17 miles; no problem!  Hopefully.

What makes the ‘Monsal Trail’ unique is that unlike almost all of the other former railway trails  in the Midlands the tunnels are open for the public to pass through.  Last time I walked the ‘Monsal Trail’ many years ago in my younger days all the tunnels were closed and the route would bypass them to rejoin the main track-way after passing the tunnel, but only last year (2011) after some investment and work from the local authorities all the tunnels were opened for use by the public, and now the longer ones have electrical lighting installed in them to see where you’re going.  Awesome!

My beautiful pictureThe ‘Monsal Trail’ is the shortest of the famous three former railway trails in Derbyshire’s ‘White Peak’ area of the Peak District National Park, the others being the 13 miles ‘Tissington Trail’ and the 17.5 miles ‘High Peak Trail’ and my intention is to walk them all sometime in the near future.
The ‘Monsal Trail’ runs from Coombs Road viaduct at Bakewell to Wye Dale close to Buxton and follows part of the route of the former Midland Railway which was built to link Manchester with the mainline to London.

A 24 mile and 1 hour drive (traffic is rather busy, it is a bank holiday and the area is big with tourists) finds me parking at the car park alongside the former Bakewell railway station on the trail which is currently buzzing with activity and only a very few parking spaces remain.  ‘Better go get a parking ticket’ and after popping £3.50 into the ticket machine (not a bad price for a full day) it’s back to the motor to get organised.  Pop the hatchback lid and both ‘Sasha’ and ‘NoNames’ are excessively eager to jump out and stretch their legs.  On with the hiking boots (I prefer to drive in trainers), on with the rucksack and camera bag and off we go.

My beautiful pictureBakewell station is about a mile away from the Bakewell end of the ‘Monsal Trail’ at Coombs Road viaduct but it’s been jointly decided to forfeit this little bit until we return here after doing the bulk of the trail in the other direction and back, the intention to do this last bit at the end of the venture.  First thing we acknowledge is that the ‘Monsal Trail’ is buzzing with activity as hundreds of people are making use of the easy walking or cycling and beautiful scenery it provides, and indeed the majority of the users on the trail are cyclists so we have to be very careful to keep close control of the dogs.  This is proving to be a near impossibility because although ‘Sasha’ is pretty casual and just plods along without a care in the world ‘NoNames’ is the exact opposite and the usual practice for him is to cover as much ground as possible, as quickly as possible as he insists on running about criss-crossing the trail and getting in the way of almost everybody.  Unbeknown to us at the moment this excessive energy of his later proves to be his downfall.

My beautiful pictureThe trail is flat, solid, dry and with no inclines whatsoever and the going is good as we pass through what’s left of Hassop station (now a refreshment post, gift shop, and car park) and Great Longstone station with the constant passing of other trail users; this is certainly not a lonely trek.  The plan is to get through the first tunnel before looking for a suitable spot for our first tea break.

About half a mile from the east portal of Headstone tunnel (the first and longest one) ‘NoNames’s boundless energy and enthusiasm to explore finds him yelping with shock and some pain as he is being put to the ground by the front tyre and wheel of a mountain bike that has effectively been drawn to an abrupt halt by its rider but not abruptly enough to cause the sad collision, but as ‘NoNames’ has shot across the path of the oncoming cyclist at the last second the poor rider has found that nothing can be done to prevent it and has acted in the most effective manner possible. A snarl from the cyclist pursues and an apology from myself, and as ‘NoNames’ is beginning to recover from the shock he gets a stern telling off from me to add even more dismay to his suddenly sullen mood.  The cyclist continues on and I slip the lead onto ‘NoNames’ after a brief inspection to see if he is OK; a little in shock but no sign of any serious injury, just a little bruising forming – looks like he’ll be OK, thank Heavens!  We continue our wander with ‘NoNames’ on his lead as both punishment (he tolerates the lead but dislikes it) and for his own safety whilst he takes in what has just happened and hopefully learns from his misfortune.

My beautiful pictureSoon we are looking upon the east portal of Headstone tunnel.  The rules dictate that all dogs should be kept on a lead while in the tunnels but ‘NoNames’ is already on his after earlier happenings.  Mitch slips the ‘lead onto ‘Sasha’ and we enter the dark unknown.  The inside of the tunnel is not entirely dark as the electric overhead lighting provides just enough light to see what you are doing but it’s still dark in here and we realise why the ‘dogs on lead in tunnels’ rule is imposed as visibility is rather limited.  Water drips from the ceiling causing wet areas on the ground and occasionally also seeps down the sides.  However the track bed within the tunnel is properly tarmacked like a road, making the surface easy in these dark and damp conditions, unlike the track bed outside which is made up of the usual compressed gravel etc. as expected on such routes.  A five (estimated) minute stroll through the tunnel and we exit through the west portal into bright sunshine, after walking in the almost dark this sudden flood of light certainly makes us squint until we get used to it again.

My beautiful pictureSo we’ve done the first tunnel and now our minds are focused on finding a suitable spot to sit and crack open the flasks for a cup of tea, but unfortunately every bench, picnic table and grass verge is occupied; such is the popularity of the ‘Monsal Trail’.  So we plod on, our mouths getting increasingly drier.  I’ve let ‘NoNames’ off his lead again now and his earlier accident appears to have calmed him down a little, he is now constantly alert and aware of passing cyclists and tries to avoid getting in their way so much.  We pass more beautiful limestone scenery, Cressbrook Mill  and Litton Mill in the valley below, and pass through the next two tunnels – Cressbrook tunnel and Litton tunnel – before a suitable tea break spot becomes available about 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles) after exiting Headstone tunnel, the first one earlier.  All the tunnels so far are much the same with just the length of each being a little variable; water still drips from the ceiling and trickles down the sides, the lighting is still dull (just light enough to see), and the surface is good tarmac.

Our long-awaited tea break has finally arrived as we park our backsides on a small limestone rock outcrop alongside the trail overlooking Ravenstor, so at least the scenery is still good – but neither of us would expect otherwise.  Our break consists of the most delicious mugs of tea of the day (but we were ready for them) served up in our enamel mugs as we munch down on a 6 pack of picnic pork pies kindly donated by ‘Mitch’ and cheese sarnies provided by yours truly, whilst hand-feeding ‘Sasha’ and ‘NoNames’ a variety of dog biscuits and some fresh drinking water for them in my collapsible dog water bowl (my rucksack is certainly no light-weight when I’m carrying drinking water for the dogs, a litre of  spring water or fruit juice, as well as my filled steel vacuum flask; liquid can be so heavy).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout half hour later and after a couple of cigarettes (for me anyway, ‘Mitch’ doesn’t smoke) we hutch our rucksacks (a little lighter after ours and the dogs’ drinks) back onto our shoulders and continue onward with plenty of time to spare before dusk.  The stunning scenery continues to be the most prominent feature until we pass over a twin viaduct just before we reach what was once Miller’s Dale station (apparently the busiest station on the line in its heyday) which is thronged with visitors.  The station is now a refreshment area, car park, and toilet facilities, we’ve noticed the refreshment trailer and have vowed to call for a coffee on our returning walk if it is still open.

Very soon after the station we’ve come across the towering and dominating construction of a now disused lime kiln to the right of the trail and traverse the access steps to investigate some more.  After reading a couple of notice boards about the lime kiln and taking it in we continue towards the final stretch of our outward walk along the trail, unaware at present that we have only 2 and a half kilometres (about 1 and a half miles) left to go.  Soon after the lime kiln our walk is taking us through Chee Tor tunnel, much the same as the previous three.  No soon as we exit Chee Tor tunnel we are entering Chee Tor No2 tunnel, only a few yards long and unlit, but as this one is so short (the shortest of them all) artificial lighting is not required.  The dogs have been let off their leads again after exiting the tunnels only to be put back on their leads a few minutes later for us to pass through what proves to be the final tunnel on the trail, Rusher Cutting tunnel.  This  one is also very short – though not as short as Chee Tor No2 tunnel – so again no artificial lighting is installed as it is not required.  Originally the ‘Monsal Trail’ bypassed all three of these tunnels together until they were opened recently.

My beautiful pictureOne and a half kilometers (just under one mile) later after passing by the most awe-inspiring limestone cliff outcrop (looks like something from ‘The Land That Time Forgot’) we have finally come to the end of the ‘Monsal Trail’ at ‘Wye Vale’ just 3 miles from Derbyshire’s historical Victorian spa town of Buxton – still famous today as a large producer of the well-known ‘Buxton Spring/Mineral Water’.  A wander down off the trail pass the refreshment area to the river Wye allows ‘Sasha’ and ‘NoNames’ the opportunity to have a paddle and a large refreshing drink to help cool them down.  ‘Mitch’ and I have decided that this would be a good opportunity to take another tea break and we find a high spot on another small limestone outcrop overlooking the trail to enjoy our break of enamel mug served ‘PG Tips’ tea, ‘McCoys’ crisps and ‘Sutherland’ potted beef sarnies; delicious!  Meanwhile of course the dogs enjoy more hand-served assorted dog biscuits.

A time check confirms that it has taken us approximately 4 hours to complete our outward trek, but we did stop off for a tea break, and had a few small stops along the way to take photographs or to chat to people.  Dusk is still about 6 hours away so we’ve plenty of time to complete the return trek and the extra bit at the other end we missed earlier.  Of course our return trek proves to be just as enjoyable, in fact more so as the amount of other visitors has began to peter out and we are often the only people that can be seen on the trail-way along certain sections, and this reduction in other users becomes more evident the further we travel.  However there are still lots of people about at our stop for a coffee at ‘Miller’s Dale’ station (£3.60 for two normal coffees – rip off! – they didn’t even taste that good).

My beautiful pictureSome 3 and a quarter hours after departing from the end of the trail at ‘Wye Dale’ we have come once again upon what was once Bakewell station where my motor is parked but another 1 and a half kilometers (just under 1 mile) each way to and from Coombs Road viaduct will find us completing the ‘Monsal Trail’ in entirety.  Let’s go for it!

From Bakewell station to Coombs Road viaduct the trail-way is somewhat narrower in many places – obviously not used as often as the rest – but nevertheless we still happen upon a few more walkers and cyclists along this section of the trail.  Some sort of event is going off in Bakewell nearby as we can hear the sound from a PA system and ‘Mitch’ has spotted a ‘Virgin’ hot-air balloon that is about to lift but we walk on as the balloon gradually rises into the air behind us and I take this opportunity to try out the zoom facility on my ‘Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom’ camera once again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree quarters of a hour after passing Bakewell station we have returned here to find that my car is the only vehicle left remaining in the car park that was full when we parked there earlier in the day.  I change back into my trainers for a steady drive home after enjoying a wonderful dry and often sunny day on the famous ‘Monsal Trail’.  Not only have we walked the complete distance of the ‘Monsal Trail’ but have actually walked it twice, not only twice but twice on the same day; excellent!
A most delightful 17 mile (8 and a half each way) stroll through the wonderful ‘White Peak’ countryside along a totally flat (no inclines), well-surfaced and suitable for all uses former railway track bed.

Tissington Trail next – but we’ll have to do it in two separate stints because of the distance.  Looking forward to it.

Check the selected photographs from this walk at ‘Trail Trekking’ on ‘Facebook‘ or ‘PhotoBucket‘.

My beautiful picture