20130807_An early morning wander at Bugsworth Canal Basin
When : 07 August 2013
Who : Just me
Where : Buxworth, sort of midway between Chapel-En-Le-Frith and Whaley Bridge, just off the A6 [ grid-ref. SK023,821 ]
Map = OS. 1:25,000 Explorer map OL1, The Peak District, Dark Peak Area
Not a walks diary as such, just a quick word on this quiet, hidden way spot we just happened upon whilst looking for budget accommodation [The Navigation Inn] for a short break in/near The Peak District ….. This was the middle of the 3-days of our break; we’d done a walk the previous day (at Alstonefield) and today was earmarked for a “touristy“ day at Chatsworth House and Gardens (see separate diary for some blurb about our time at Chatsworth).
I awoke really quite early and was up and about much earlier than the rest of my family, so I decided to take advantage of “The Golden Hour” of just before/just after sunrise, especially as the weather was perfect, with a slight chill in the air but the promise of some sunshine to come.
So I quickly donned some clothes, grabbed my camera and crept out of the room so as not to wake my wife (I didn’t need to worry about the kids, as they were sharing in a separate room down the corridor).
Once outside, I first headed to the car to check everything was in order (it was), and I was quite struck by the heavy dew fall on the roof with the early soft light glinting off the droplets of water.
I then had a good wander around the historic site of Bugsworth Canal Basin, which is the end (or the beginning ?) of The Peak Forest Canal. This was once a hugely important industrial site for the vicinity, and whilst I could try to make up my own words about the area, it’s far easier and much more accurate for me to regurgitate the words of much more knowledgeable folk, as noted on some info-boards placed around the basin area.
To start with, some official looking info’, from an official looking info board :-
Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Derbyshire County SMR No.242.
Protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Area Act 1979.
Restored, Maintained and Managed by the Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd.
Navigation Managed under the British waterways General Canal Bye-Laws 1965.
48 Hour Moorings Only.
Please help us to preserve this Internationally Important Industrial Heritage Site.
Sponsored by :-
Mersey Basin Campaign.
Bechtel Water Technology Limited.
High Peak Borough Council.
And now for some more text, arguably far more interesting than the “blurb” above, from another info’ board :-
PEAK FOREST TRAMWAY
Over a hundred years ago, the quiet footpath in front of you was a tramway track (sorry I didn’t get a picture of this). A railway with a difference – here there was no hissing of steam! Instead, imagine the sound of horses’ hooves and the rattle of wagons being pulled along a track known as The Peak Forest Tramway. The tramway and the nearby canal were developed together as a means of transporting limestone from quarries at Dove Holes onto the canal network. Limestone was in demand for use in the many different industries of Cheshire and Lancashire.
Using the natural incline of the hills, the wagons rolled down to Bugsworth Basin. A workman known as a wagoner, who was in charge of the team of horses and wagons, supervised the journey by riding on the side of a wagon. Teams of horses were used to pull the wagons back up. Many local people were employed on the tramway and in the mills that grew up along the route as a result of its success. Several of the original mill buildings are still in use. A short way up the trail is one such mill, Whitehall Works at Whitehough.
Spot the Tramway! With no rails left to show the route of the tramway, the only visible clue is the occasional stone sleeper block that the rails were fixed upon. Further along the trail, they are still in position. At Bugsworth Basin, they are along the side of the path, just a short distance from Crist Quarry where they were extracted. A bed of hard gritstone was discovered when the route for the tramway was being excavated. Realising that they had found a hard wearing stone, the constructor built a connecting line to the quarry from the tramway. As well as the sleeper blocks for the tramway, the stone was used to build the warehouses, bridges and locks along the canal. The quarry has now completely disappeared into the surrounding landscape.
For nearly 130 years, the Peak Forest Tramway was an effective means of transporting heavy goods between Dove Holes and Bugsworth Basin.
And to paraphrase (rather than copy exactly) some final bits of info’ from a couple of other info boards around the basin area:-
Lads who worked on the tramway were called “nippers”. They helped with the teams of horses pulling the wagons up the line until being swapped with a fresh team. Today (rather than being an industrial site) the Tramway Trail is a haven for wildlife. Dippers can be spotted on the Black Brook and the surrounding hawthorn provide great food and cover for wildlife. Bugsworth Basin today is a tranquil place to walk and relax but in the 1890s, up to 80 boats a day were loaded here and Lime Kilns burnt limestone into lime.
And now back to my own words :
Even though it was quite early there were already a few joggers out and about, taking advantage of the lovely start to the day, using the trail, canal tow-paths and another path that made its way up to a modern footbridge over the nearby A6 road. This footbridge was about as far as I got, overlooking the dual carriageway and the first of the day’s traffic speeding along, effectively bypassing the old-world infrastructure I was encountering.
I suppose the engineers of the late 1800’s couldn’t possibly imagine (even in their wildest dreams) the scale of modern quarrying still going on in the Dove Holes area today and how quickly and efficiently our road and rail systems transport the spoils of that labour around the country.
I was quite happy wandering, enjoying the wild flowers and reflections in the soft light, trying to make some half-decent images (all pic’s here are by me) and I hope I’ve captured a sense of tranquility of the morning.
At one point, I spent some time chatting to an older gent’ who was out walking his small dog; he’d lived in the area for many a year and had even worked in The Navigation Inn when it was owned by Pat Pheonix (Elsie Tanner of ITVs Coronation Street fame) … The gent’, one of several dog walkers who had started to emerge as the morning progressed, explained that a heron had taken up residence on the far side of the cut, in a steep wooded bank. Since its arrival, no ducklings had managed to survive in the basin area this year. As I moved on, I happened to see the said heron in flight, making its way between the trees with its long, languid wing strokes, folded neck and tucked in head. Luckily, I didn’t witness it swoop down to eat any stray ducklings.
I could happily have stayed out much longer. However, time was moving on and, after well over an hour, I decided it was time to head back inside, shower, breakfast and get ready for our day over on the other side of the Peak District National Park, at Chatsworth House and Gardens.
Anyway, that’s enough for now, I hope you enjoyed my pic’s, and the words (albeit most of them were composed by others – but I’m sure they won’t mind their text being spread a little wider than before).
If you’d like to comment on my scribblings or my pic’s, please free to; I’d love to hear from you.
PS. As an aside, looking on my OS. map, there are footpaths, bridleways and canal towpaths (including The Goyt Way and Midshires Way) heading into the hills both to the south and north of Buxworth. Also, just 3-4 miles to the north (as the crow flies) and a little longer by road, is Hayfield. Hayfield is the famous starting point of The Mass Trespass up onto the moors of Kinder Scout, which ultimately led to today’s fantastic network of public footpaths in our hills, across our beautiful countryside and open-access to our high open spaces – Brave, dedicated people with a great vision of how society can be and actually needs to be, fair for all, encapsulated in the phrase “a right to roam”.