The High Peak area of the West Peak District incorporating attractive and historic small towns and villages like Whaley Bridge, Chinley and Buxworth make superb holiday bases for exploring the Peak Forest Canal and Peak Forest Tramway Trail. Now a haven for wildlife and walking, these two industrial heritage sites were once major centres for the production of lime from the earliest period of the industrial revolution. Bugsworth Basin, now being restored and with heritage trails, was once Britain's biggest inland port.
Canal tow-path walking and canal boat cruising along the Peak Forest Canal are popular outdoor activities in the area. Whaley Bridge, gateway to the Goyt Valley is also a perfect Peak District walking base for access into the beautiful high moorland and valleys of the Goyt Valley. Famous historic pubs feature in this area of the Peak District including the Navigation Inn at Bugsworth Basin, once owned by Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix and the legendary family friendly Cat and Fiddle Pub at the southern edge of the Goyt Valley. The Cat and Fiddle Pub is Britain's second highest pub.
The River Goyt runs right through Whaley Bridge which is a real gateway into the Goyt Valley. Footpaths following the line of the old Cromford and High Peak railway branch out from the Whaley Bridge canal basin, making the town a superb walking base from which to explore both the Goyt Valley and towpath walking along the Peak Forest Canal. The historic and attractive small town of Whaley Bridge has a rich history linked to coal, textiles and most importantly canals. The Peak Forest Canal was mostly completed by 1800 and ran from Ashton through Marple on to Whaley Bridge and Buxworth. It was built specifically in conjunction with the Peak Forest Tramway to transport the vast limestone deposits at Doveholes situated to the south east of Whaley Bridge. Both the Bugsworth Basin at Buxworth and Whaley Bridge canal basin are important historic sites built at the very start of the industrial revolution.
Heritage plaques are now in place at both the Transhipment Warehouse at Whaley Bridge Canal Basin and at the Bugsworth Basin. The Transhipment Warehouse at the Whaley Bridge canal basin dates from 1832 and sits at what was the junction between the Peak Forest Canal and the Cromford & High Peak Railway. An arm of the canal once ran right through the shed. Transhipment from canal boat to railway wagon would take place undercover in this historic warehouse. The former railway plane of the Cromford & High Peak Railway is now a public footpath accessed at the side of the Transhipment Warehouse at Whaley Bridge. Recently The Peak Forest Canal towpath between New Mills and Whaley Bridge has also been renovated to great effect, allowing walkers and cyclists to access the canal more easily to appreciate the beauty of this one of Britain's most scenic canals. Narrowboat cruising along the Peak Forest Canal to the Whaley Bridge basin is incredibly popular and moorings at Whaley Bridge are highly sought after.
The Whaley Water Weekend takes place annually in the summer with events and activities based at the Whaley Bridge Canal Basin. Activities during this event include canal boat cruises, live music and steam specials.
In Whaley Bridge centre take time to view precious historic buildings such as the town's Mechanics Institute dating from 1876. The town library and town council are based here and a selection of meeting and events rooms in the Mechanics can be hired at great value prices for wedding receptions, seminars, dances, parties and meetings. Telephone 01663 733068 for Mechanics room hire bookings. Whaley Bridge railway station makes it easy for visitors to connect direct to Buxton by train as well as Manchester Piccadilly. For Whaley Bridge train timetables visit the Northern Rail website. Whaley Bridge Farmers' Market is held on the second Saturday of each month from 10am to 2pm at Uniting Church on Buxton Road.
The beautiful Goyt Valley to the south of Whaley Bridge is a Peak District favourite with walkers and for fishing on Errwood Reservoir which is a hotspot for fly fishing. Watersports like sailing are also popular on Errwood Reservoir which boasts its own sailing club. The landscape in the Goyt Valley is a mix of stunning high moorland cut by the River Goyt and valleys. The reservoirs of Fernilee (completed 1938) and Errwood (completed 1967) were man-made and old buildings like the Chilworth Gunpowder factory dating from the 16th century now sit underwater. Some ruined buildings such as Errwood Hall, historic home of the Grimshaw family dating from the 1830s, can still be seen near the reservoirs. Walkers can find the remains of Errwood Hall, which became a ruin as a result of the formation of Fernilee Reservoir in the 1930s, and the famous shrine to the Grimshaw's beloved Spanish governess, just west of Errwood Reservoir.
The Goyt Valley reservoirs and the remains of quarries, old pack horse trails, mining shafts and old bridges add to the drama of walking in the Goyt Valley. This was an area again which once bustled with activity around quarries, paint mills and gunpowder factories prior to area being partially flooded by the reservoirs. The gunpowder factory was involved in munitions production during the First World War.
At the far south of the Goyt moorland slopes the A357 Buxton to Macclesfield road, constructed in 1823, is home to the famous inn, the Cat and Fiddle Pub, Britain's second highest pub standing at 515 metres above sea level. The Cat & Fiddle pub was built in 1830 by a Macclesfield banker and is incredibly popular with both walkers and motorcyclists. CAMRA recommended, the popular family friendly Cat and Fiddle serves a range of fine real ales and hearty pub food including Sunday Carvery (12 noon until 4pm, booking not required).
Beginning at the Portland Basin in Ashton, The Peak Forest Canal pushes into the Peak District extending nearly 15 miles through Dukinfield, Hyde, Woodley and the great Marple locks to the Bugsworth Basin. From the Bugsworth Basin the canal has a short branch off to Whaley Bridge basin. Cruising time for narrowboats undertaking the full stretch of the Peak Forest Canal is around 7 hours and there are 16 locks enroute.
The Bugsworth Basin, clearly signposted off the A6 main road, is the southern terminus of the Peak Forest Canal and was once Britain's largest inland port. Peaceful today with natural woodlands, grasslands and micro-habitats, this historic canal basin was for over 100 years a hub of activity for the production of burnt lime. The remains of lime kilns are visible around the canal basin and there is a Bugsworth Basin heritage trail with information panels detailing the history of this important industrial archaeology site.
Lime was once a valuable material for farming, building and in textiles and the tanning industries. The limestone arrived at the Bugsworth Bason via the Peak Forest Tramway opened in 1796 from a selection of quarries around Dove Holes Dale. Wagons loaded with limestone were rolled down hills in the inclines then hauled up hill slopes by horse power. The job of the Wagoner was a highly skilled job, controlling heavily loaded wagons, sometimes with up to 40 wagons in a train loaded with tons of limestone. The brake was a mere metal hook on a chain skilfully used to jam the wheels of the wagon. The Peak Forest Tramway from Dove Holes to the Bugsworth Basin survived the coming of steam and was used for transporting limestone and other materials right up until the early 20th century. Both the Bugsworth Basin and the Tramway finally closed in 1927 with improved roads and rail finally winning out over the long standing tramway and basin.
Today visitors can walk the Peak Forest Tramway Trail, a haven for wildlife, which begins as the Bugsworth Basin in Buxworth village. Tuck in to a hearty meal and fine ales at the family friendly Navigation Inn at the Bugsworth Basin before heading out on the tramway trail. This historic Peak District pub was once owned by Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix and is the oldest still inhabited building at the Bugsworth Basin. CAMRA recommended, the Navigation Inn became a pub in the early 19th century and was once one of four hostelries here at Bugsworth Basin. Walking along the original tramway track on the trail you will see many historic industrial features which still survive such as Forge Mill at Chinley. The Peak Forest Tramway Trail actually culminates at Charley Lane near Bridgeholm Green but public footpaths continue on to Chapel Milton which boasts spectacular historic viaducts and further along to Chapel-en-le-Frith.