There are actually 2 Peak Forest Canals – the Upper, which terminates at Whaley Bridge, and the Lower which joins the Ashton Canal at Portland Basin. The first section of the canal, from Bugsworth Basin to Ashton-under-Lyne was opened in 1800, primarily for the transportation of quarried limestone from the Derbyshire Hills.
It was engineered by Benjamin Outram, whose masterpiece is the Marple Aqueduct, just below the Marple Flight of 16 Locks, which carries the canal 150 feet above the River Goyt below. Alongside is an even higher Railway Viaduct. Marple locks lower the canal 200 feet down into the most beautifully wooded and secluded countryside. It continues through Hyde Bank Tunnel, and the remains of Rose Hill Tunnel (the later now opened into a deep cutting and on through Romily and Hyde to Portland Basin, where there is a Heritage Centre and a Canal base with old working boats permanently moored, many still inhabited by residential boaters. In the other direction from Marple, the Upper Peak Canal weaves around clutching onto hillsides as it follows the course of the River Goyt to Disley, New Mills, Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge where it once connected to the celebrated Cromford and High Peak Railway. It has two working hydraulic lift bridges and two manual swing bridges. The journey of about 2 hours offers startling panoramic views of the peak district, with Kinder Scout being visible around New Mills. At the approach to Whaley Bridge is the long-disused arm of the Bugsworth Basin, the raison d’�tre of the canal. Bugsworth is a major industrial complex, abandoned in the 1920s, and in the protracted process of full restoration by volunteer workers. The basin is nevertheless well worth a visit for its great interest as an industrial heritage site of considerable complexity and natural beauty. The site covers many acres, and is designated as an Ancient Monument of historical importance. It was at Bugsworth that a six mile inclined plane tramway linked hilltop quarries to the canal system, and much of the paraphernalia of canalside industrial artefacts still remains to be seen. The 200 yards arm which once connected the industrial basin to the main canal is abruptly closed, due to breaches in its banks, and now provides mooring for boats. Several attempts were made at reopening the branch, but canalside cottages repeatedly suffered from flooding when the basin is filled, (whose cause seemed impossible to detect). However, problems eventually solved, the day of final reopening finally arrived, providing a considerable new attraction to boaters and land visitors alike. Whaley Bridge is the terminus of the Upper Peak Forest Canal. Its original function was as a feeder to the canal, and the source of water still bubbles up beneath the old warehouse which stands at the end of the basin. This building is now home to the Restaurant Boat “Judith Mary”, a 71 foot long narrowboat, available for charter. At Whaley Bridge, the three ‘Rs’ meet – road, rail and river, in a triangular site built specially to facilitate in transferring freight from one transportation system to another. The basin is fairly well preserved, with pleasant lawns, visitors moorings and benches, and attracts great crowds of walkers and sightseers, particularly at weekends.
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