Historic bridge on Cromford canal reopens after £62,000 restoration by county council and volunteers

The slow-moving saga of repairs to a historic bridge over the Cromford Canal at High Peak Junction has been completed just in time to welcome a voyaging television crew.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 2:40 pm

Thought to be around 230 years old, the grade II-listed Browns swing bridge had been a cause of concern for the the Friends of Cromford Canal (FCC) ever since they launched the Birdswood passenger boat in 2013, until last year it was forced to close completely to boat traffic.

But on Thursday, December 16, it officially reopened thanks to some sterling work by the group’s volunteers and £47,000 of support from Derbyshire County Council, which owns the bridge.

Councillor Carolyn Renwick, cabinet member for infrastructure and the environment, said: “This much-needed work has allowed the popular Birdswood narrow boat trip service to fully resume its journeys along the canal which attracts thousands of visitors a year.

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From left, Councillor Carolyn Renwick, FCC project manager Richard Handley, council leader Barry Lewis, FCC chairman David Martin, FCC project engineer John Boucher.

“The site plays an important role in helping us attract more visitors, encourage more staycations and increase visitor spend in the county as well as being a much-loved area for locals.”

The bridge has to be shut correctly to allow walkers and cyclists on the High Peak trail to cross safely but the mechanism to open and close it had deteriorated to the point where it took three people to manage, with a potential risk of serious injury.

The council regularly partners with the FCC to promote the canal and its restoration, and for this project the group raised £15,000 and contributed a wealth of engineering know-how to help contractor Beighton.

Chairman David Martin said: “We are delighted to work with the council once again, protect this historic swing bridge for many years to come and maximise the Birdswood visitor experience.”

Ahead of the official opening, one of the first passengers to pass through was former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, filming a series on the history of the Derwent Valley.

The FCC is currently recruiting for a new generation of trustees with engineering or financial expertise to help lead its next chapter, with planning permission recently secured to extend the canal north from Langley Mill.

For more information, visit cromfordcanal.org.