The northern stretch of the canal lies within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and is an attractive visitor destination, with five miles to explore along the towpath. Because of the rich diversity of wildlife, the canal is designated as a site of special scientific interest. Work is carried out each year to keep the water open for the plants and insects which live in it, and to manage the banks.
The canal is ideal for walkers of all ages and abilities, and with regular public transport stops along the northern stretch you don’t have to walk back to your starting point if you don’t want to.
What makes it special?
Cromford Canal once provided transport for a broad range of industries. Its construction displayed many feats of engineering and hydraulics.
Even today, within walking distance along the towpath, you can see the canal wharf buildings at Cromford, a well preserved railway workshop, cross a canal swing bridge and see a still-operational pumphouse.
What is there to see and do?
- Canal-side cottages, two tunnels and bridges can still be found along the canal, and an aqueduct taking the canal over the River Derwent.
- A picturesque walk along the towpath will take visitors through woodland where there is a wide range of wildlife, including water voles, ducks and dragonflies.
- Take a trip on the newly restored historic Birdswood canal boat, on certain days during the season, sometimes horsedrawn. Regular trips sail on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with prompt departure times of 11am and 2pm from Cromford Wharf. Passengers do have the option to get on or off at Leawood (High Peak Junction Wharf Shed). Standard fare applies and is subject to seat availability. For Horse drawn boat trips on Birdswood, please see the dates on our Events Calendar.
For more details of boat times and prices, visit the Birdswood website.
- High Peak Junction is located on the junction of the Cromford Canal and the High Peak Trail. It is a collection of railway buildings including some of the oldest surviving railway workshops in the world and is within the area of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. There is a visitor centre, small gift and refreshment shop, picnic area and toilets. It is an ideal spot to start or finish a walk along the canal or trail. It is open every day Easter to October 10am to 5pm, weekends only from November to Easter, 10.30am to 4pm.
- Further south along the towpath is Leawood Pumphouse, an impressive monument to Victorian engineering. Built in 1849 to pump water from the River Derwent into the canal, it operated for almost 100 years. Restored in 1979, it remains in pristine condition due to the hard work of volunteers from Leawood Pump Group and staff from the Countryside Service. Open most Bank Holiday weekends (check out our Events Calendar for details), you can come along and experience the power of this great steam engine as it pumps 4 tons of water with each piston stroke. Leawood Pumphouse is free but donations are gratefully received.