Posted by: lensweb | April 30, 2012

Bluebell Walk – Cromford Canal & Lea Wood

On Saturday 28th April, LENS members visited the Cromford Canal and Lea Wood area for a 2 mile spring bluebell walk led by Marion Bryce. The group met at High Peak Junction car park off Mill Road/Lea Road from Cromford (Grid ref  SK 314 560).

The weather had been so miserable in the preceding week that we jumped for joy when the sun came out and the sky brightened as we watched a buzzard circle over the car park.

LENS members at Lea Wood

LENS members at Lea Wood. Photo © David Pinney

After crossing the fast flowing River Derwent and the railway line to the Cromford Canal at High Peak junction we leaned on the black and white lock gates and saw broad leaved pond weed floating on the water surface but the water voles had been flushed out of their usual haunt and were not seen all afternoon.

The construction of the Cromford Canal was completed in 1794. It is 14.5 miles long and joined Cromford with the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The site has a wealth of industrial heritage and lies in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site.  The Cromford Canal was last used as a working waterway in 1944 and is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its entire length from Cromford to Ambergate. The designation was for key species such as water vole, grass snake and little grebe but also for the wealth of water associated plants which grew in, and near the canal.

As we walked towards the Butterley Tunnel we could see the bright green spears of reed sweetgrass emerging and also the pink (male) and white (female) flower spikes of butterbur with its huge leaves which were once used to wrap butter pats. Pale lilac cuckoo flower and the fluffy seeds of coltsfoot vied with large stands of pendulous sedge and some lesser pond sedge. The crinkled leaves of yellow flag also promised a good display.

Tufted ducks, moorhens and nesting coots were seen but the whinnying call of little grebes, in summer plumage with bright chestnut throat and cheeks, teased the photographers as the fluffy rear end disappeared into the water only to surface some distance away.  There was a convenient bench. A pair of treecreepers showed off on the standing dead wood across in the wood.

Little Grebe image

Little Grebe. Photo © David Pinney (love the painterly background, David!)

 A lot of Himalayan balsam seedlings were just sprouting and there were large patches of green algae in the water which was quite opaque. There has been a lot of disturbance of sediment while major works have taken place to replace the viaduct. Isolated submerged plants of rigid hornwort and an unknown water plant were seen just before we quit the canal bank to climb over the tunnel.

Heading towards Lea Wood we used a Woodland Trust list of ancient woodland indicator species and the first plant we ticked was wood melick – it’s graceful stems ornamenting the gritstone.

An outstanding display of white greater stitchwort, yellow archangel and native bluebells lined the path through the birch woods which were ringing with birdsong.

As bracken replaced the woodland flora the luminescent moss refracting pale green light from fallen wood and old stone walls inspired more photographs. The red and black hairy wood ants (Formica lugubris) in the wood are attractive but as they sting we were glad there were not too many around.

Wood Sorrel image

Wood Sorrel. Photo © David Pinney

We photographed an isolated patch of oxlip under hawthorn, just off the track. A narrow slippery path led back to the Lea Branch of the canal which was covered with lesser duckweed.  An excited gulp of house martins arrived just as we reached the car park.

Related Links;

Woodland Trust Bluebell Facts

Tiptoe through the Bluebells (Music video – Misty Miller performs the Woodland Trust’s charity single).

A walk along the Cromford Canal

Friends of Cromford Canal

Leawood Pumphouse and Cromford Canal (History video).



  1. This is a lovely article Marion. It really reflects the ambiance on a most enjoyable walk as well as being informative. Thank you


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