FCC volunteers preparing Birdswood’s hull for the biennial inspection.

New lease of life for Cromford Canal bridge

WORK to repair and restore Brown’s swing bridge at the High Peak Junction on the Cromford Canal is now complete thanks to Derbyshire County Council and the Friends of Cromford Canal.

FCC volunteers preparing Birdswood’s hull for the biennial inspection.
FCC volunteers preparing Birdswood’s hull for the biennial inspection.

Dating back to the 1800s, the bridge became difficult to operate due to being worn and damaged. Its main use is by the Birdswood narrowboat trip service to take passengers along the canal and generate funds for its restoration.

Friends chairman David Martin said: “We are delighted once again to work in partnership with DCC, this time to renovate Browns Bridge which will allow FCC to maximise the visitor experience on our trip boat and will protect this historic swing bridge for many years to come.”

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Celebrating the re-opening of Brown’s swing bridge in December.
Celebrating the re-opening of Brown’s swing bridge in December.

The first trip through the repaired bridge carried TV celebrity Richard Hammond and a film crew, who happened to be making a programme about the River Derwent and its history, although the weed build-up after nearly two years’ non-boat movement on that section caused a few problems.

As it happened, it was on a FCC work party day and some of the gang were there and hauled Birdswood through the thickest of the weed.

The biennial out-of-water inspection had taken place in November when the boat was lifted out and put on stands, kindly lent to the FCC by the Langley Mill Boat Yard and Marina. The hull was rubbed down before the inspection, by the combined efforts of the FCC work parties and Birdswood crew with 18 people working inside and out at one point.

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The inspection went ahead successfully and she had the hull repainted and was returned to water at the end of November. This allows for her to be used on maintenance work parties, cutting back trees and bushes on the off bank to the towpath and reed pulling in conjunction with the work boat.
Partnership working

The bridge being lifted into place.
The bridge being lifted into place.

Repair and restoration of the bridge was funded by the county council contributing £47,000 and £15,000 was raised by the Friends of Cromford Canal and carried out by Beighton Construction.

The council works in partnership with the Friends of the Cromford Canal which is a charitable trust set up to promote the canal and its restoration.

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Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for Infrastructure and Environment Coun Carolyn Renwick said: “We are delighted to see that the historic Brown’s swing bridge at High Peak Junction on the Cromford Canal has been restored and repaired.

“This much-needed work has allowed the popular Birdswood narrowboat trip service to fully resume its journeys along the canal which attracts thousands of visitors a year.

“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.”

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Derbyshire County Council owns and maintains 11 miles of canals. This includes Cromford Canal from Cromford Wharf to Ambergate and a section at Pinxton Wharf. The site has a wealth of industrial heritage and lies within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

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