Written by Sue Thersby
A recent walk from Grangemill started and finished on the Limestone Way. This is a 46-mile way-marked route through the Derbyshire limestone dales, heading south from Castleton and finishing in the Dove valley at Rocester. Fourteen of us climbed gradually alongside a quarry before leaving the Way itself to take a bridleway, passing Harboro Rocks to the south-west by which time the skies were very promising.
We joined the High Peak Trail just before Middleton Top, where we took advantage of the picnic tables for a morning break. Continuing along the High Peak Trail, several information boards told the story of the industrial heritage for which this area is famous. It follows the line of the Cromford and High Peak Railway, one of the world’s first long-distance railways. Descending the inclines, we passed the National Stone Museum, which advertises many activities, such as dry-stone walling and panning for gems, and the Steeple Grange Light Railway, which is an 18-inch gauge line. Here they offer a short train ride through dramatic limestone scenery and also information about why and how the railway was built.
We reached the Cromford Canal, where goods were transferred to and from the railway onto barges to be taken to and from Cromford Mill. We followed the canal towpath to the mill itself, which was the home of the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill, developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771. Arkwright chose the site because it had year-round supply of warm water from the Cromford Sough and Bonsall Brook. He started with 200 workers and built housing for them nearby, one of the first manufacturers to do so. Most of the employees were women and children, the youngest being only seven years old. Later, the minimum age was raised to ten and the children were given six hours of education a week, so that they could do the record-keeping that their parents could not.
From here, we walked up past another vast quarry then down to Bonsall, which is an attractive, historic former lead-mining village set in steep-sided converging limestone dales. Here we regained the Limestone Way, climbing steadily to Uppertown and on through field paths to Ible and then back to our start point in Grangemill.
This article will be published in the Macclesfield Express and is scheduled to appear on the 1st August with the photograph at Bonsall Cross.