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Walk: High Peak Junction Canal and Woodland

This lovely walk is ideal for families with young children. It's 3 miles so requires a certain amount of stamina but there's plenty to see and do to keep the small people entertained and providing you've got a few snacks on hand, it should make for a pleasant couple of hours. The first half, along the canal path, is completely flat and easy whilst the second half ascends into beautiful woodland. This exact walk is therefore not pram-friendly but, with a pram, we'd still recommend the canal path part, turning back at the bridge in step 8.

  1. Park at High Peak Junction car park (Lea Rd, Matlock DE4 5AE) or on the road just outside it. This is a pay and display car park.

  2. Head to the corner of the car park, where there are High Peak Junction signs, and cross over the footbridge. Continue along the path, over the railway line and you’ll soon see the canal. 

3. On the far side of the canal, you'll see High Peak Junction which has a kiosk selling ice creams, hot and cold snacks, drinks, duck food and I Spy books. There are picnic tables and toilets too. Here you can also see the world's oldest train Junction Workshops (I think) and there's a carriage full of information which you can board and wander around.

4. Assuming you crossed the canal and are now standing with your back to the kiosk, turn right and begin walking along either side of the canal.

5. You'll walk past the wharf shed and the pump house. Then you'll cross a bridge over a river.

6. Shortly after this, you'll reach the picturesque Aqueduct Cottage, built in 1800s and owned by the Nightingale family (of Florence fame). Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have recently completed renovating it and there's lots of information inside relating to the house and the local flora and fauna. Upstairs there are photos and paintings to see. Check opening times before you visit if you're counting on going inside. On the day of our visit, a fire had been lit so there was smoke billowing from the chimney. Indoors a volunteer chatted to us about what the house would have been like when it was inhabited. Note: at this point you can also detour to explore Lea Woods up behind the cottage.

7. Upon leaving the cottage, cross over the canal and carry on along the canal path. This is where the sculpture trail begins and there are periodically benches along the route too.

8. Eventually, you'll reach a bridge over the canal. Head uphill, signposted to Holloway. Follow the path to the left over the bridge. When we visited, this was pretty muddy; it's also quite narrow and there are many tree roots underfoot.

9. Head uphill into the woodland.

10. As the path you're on runs out, go left down some log steps and continue to follow this path through the woods. Enjoy the smell of wild garlic and the sound of the blackbirds.

11. Continue through the woods, using small stepping stones over little brooks and climbing through a mossy wall. At this point the chorus of blue tits, great tits and wrens was incredible to hear! I'm no expert but I use the Merlin app to ID birdsong.

12. Choose your route through woods to see as many sculptures as you wish (see the link to the map below). Some are more impressive than others but they still provided our 4-year-old with plenty of motivation to continue walking.

13. The path opens up into a field. In early March, the ferns had been cut down providing good visibility but, I would imagine, later in the year, it would be quite an adventure wading through them.

14. Turn right at the fork. I'm told that in late spring, this area can be full of butterflies and apparently slow worms live here too.

15. Reach sculpture 6 and here follow the signpost to Lea Bridge (photo above).

16. Immediately take the left path downhill and you'll soon see sculptures 7 and 8.

17. A stream joins the path and sculpture 9 is further down. 

18. Hop over a little stream (again, this is probably seasonal) then eventually you'll reach a black and yellow metal barrier.

19. Turn right and join the track. Pass a house on your right and continue to follow the track to the left down to the road.

20. Turn left and follow the road until you see a little shortcut footpath leading you back into the carpark.

For lots of interesting facts about places and things you might see along this walk, see this leaflet from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust although we're not 100% convinced by the map's accuracy! It does give you the general idea of where the sculptures are though.

We love spotting things on our walks. Here are all the birds we saw or heard this time!







Long tailed tits



Blue tits Great tits



Song thrushes 


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