Derwent Valley Heritage Way 7 – Matlock to Whatstandwell

On Thursday 13 December I caught the 1259 from Duffield to Matlock to set off and do the next bit of the Derwent Valley Mills Trail. I avoided the railway bookshop at Matlock station, crossed the river, and walked through the park.

A display board reminded me that this was the bottom of the Matlock Cable Tramway – this is an 1891 set of pictures licensed by Commons.wikimedia. It was opened up Matlock Bank in 1893 and lasted until 1927 – there was a continuously moving cable under the road and the trams had a speed of 5 mph. Having walked up Matlock Bank on a previous occasion all I can say is bring back the tram. This is an excellent site –

There is also a memorial to Arthur Wright, a Police Constable who drowned in the River Derwent on the 27th March 1911 while attempting to rescue a girl who was also drowned. So sad – may they rest in peace.

I walked through Hall Leys Park and found the miniature railway – gauge of 9½ inches, opened in 1948, apparently still running in the summer.

The path runs beside the river, under the railway, and by this stage you realise this is not going to be a flat amble beside a Fenland river.

Up, under the railway again, and up. High Tor pleasure grounds were opened in the 1860s by Peter Arkwright (grandson of Richard, of Cromford Mill fame – we’ll be there later). By this stage both Matlock and Matlock Bath had lots of visitors, and this was an alpine route between the two resorts. I have never walked in the alps – so this is a start. I kept to the footpath as instructed.

I came down to Matlock Bath by the Heights of Abraham cable car – I would love a ride, Julie will hate it. It is closed until the Spring, and they are looking for staff – shall I chuck in the Vicaring and go and run a cable car? Matlock Bath station was opened in 1849, closed in 1967 and re-opened in 1972 – it fits the Swiss notion of the Alps.

I then explored Lovers Walks – a park and paths opened in the mid C18. I’m not sure exactly what path is the Derwent Trail, and the whole complex is not very well signposted – I seem to have walked an interesting route and got back on the A6 not very far from where I had started.

Holy Trinity Matlock Bath has a website with a biblical quote from Zechariah on the front page – that’s where I’ve been going wrong.

I walked passed Masson Mills – I will be honest – it is a World Heritage Site mill that does nothing for me. A shopping outlet centre is not on my list of top places to visit, and I must admit I have never been to the Museum. Now I’ve read the website, I feel I probably should.

Richard Arkwright was involved in the building of a mill in Nottingham, then built mills at Cromford – we’ll walk past that in a couple of miles – using the power of the Bonsall Beck and the Cromford Slough. The first was opened in Cromford in 1771. A paper mill was built here on the Derwent in 1771, and a decade later Arkwright built his cotton mill here at Masson – the Derwent has ten times the power he had had in Cromford. Masson Mills were cotton yarn producing mills from 1783 until 1991, when they were the oldest continuously working mills in the world. I783 Masson Mill was built with a high parapet concealing a low pitch roof. Around 1800 the roof was raised, so that the mill acquired a useable sixth storey. Buildings were added to the north and west of the mill by c.1835, some of which were subsequently demolished. In 1911 the central section with the Masson tower was built, then in 1928 Glen Mill was added to the southern end. In 1998 extensions were added to adapt Masson Mills to their new future as a shopping complex.

The route follows the path beside the A6, then cuts down beside Scarthin Rocks to cut the corner off round to Cromford Mills. Willersley Castle, Arkwright’s home is on the other side of the river. It is now a Christian Guild hotel – Construction began in 1790, but Arkwright died in 1792, before it was completed. His son Richard moved here in 1796, and the family owned it until the 1920s.

It is a nice view along to St Mary’s church – which I blogged recently – but you don’t get to the Mill complex itself. The mill was built in 1771 and developed for a couple of decades. By 1840 problems with the water supply imposed severe limitations on textile production here and the buildings were put to other uses, including a brewery, laundries and cheese warehousing. From 1922 it was used as a colour works, producing colour pigments for paints and dies. This lasted until 1979, and left the site very contaminated. The Arkwright Society has done a lot of work since then. There is an excellent visitors centre, shops (quilting and antiques are favourites), and café. Good website –

At a meeting in 1788 a canal was proposed to link the southern side of the Peak District to the Erewash canal, north of Nottingham. Arkwright was desperate for good transport links to his mills. William Jessop surveyed the route, and construction started in 1789. It opened in 1794. The Wharf buildings are lovely. The Cromford Canal has a shop and a trip boat, and a very nice café – which was open! I had an excellent scone. Website – It was getting dusky by now, so we went back the following day for a few more photos, another scone, and a wander round the Mills.

The route follows the Canal to High Peak Junction, once the terminus of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. This was an amazing route which went up over the top of the Peaks – I have walked bits of it, but must do the whole thing – You walk beside the Matlock line, still with proper telegraph poles in place.

The Leawood Pumphouse is owned by Derbyshire CC and is steamed on a regular basis – It was built in 1844 to take water from the River Derwent up into the canal – it’s well worth a visit, but not when it’s getting cold, dark, and is under scaffolding. The canal is only open for boats (or to be precise, boat) from Cromford as far as here – it is walkable through to Ambergate, across to Ripley, and to the Erewash Canal. I’ve done some of it.

I walked on through the gathering gloom, and through a tunnel. Past some swans and a nice warm house – I do miss my log burning stove. After 8 miles I arrived at Whatstandwell station and caught the 1647 back to Duffield. There was a group off to paint the town red – I decided I am getting a bit too old for such Christmas excitement.

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