Return to Whatstandwell and Ambergate, April 2022

On Tuesday 26th April 2022, I decided to go for an early evening train ride up to one of my favourite parts of the world, the Derwent Valley. Most of my travels happen during the daytime (or very early on a Saturday morning), when it’s less busy, but I always fancied an evening stroll along the Cromford Canal on a warm and sunny evening. Thankfully for me, the weather lived up to my hopes, as it was a pleasant and sunny afternoon.

The journey started, as always, at Burton on Trent station, from where I caught the train up to Derby. I had a bit of time at Derby between trains, but my train up the Derwent Valley Line to Whatstandwell was already waiting at the platform, so I boarded it and sat down. The conductor was the same man who was on my train last time I went to Cromford in November. To say he’s a little eccentric would be an understatement. He has a unique delivery of speech, and refers to ‘Duffield’ station as ‘Duffield International‘. Unless Matlock has declared itself independent, I believe Duffield only runs trains to one country.

When I arrived at Whatstandwell just after 4pm, I left the station over the footbridge and had a walk up a hill, Hindersitch Lane to be exact. I always forget when planning trips in Derbyshire that it’s not called ‘The Peak District’ because it’s as flat as a snooker table, but because it’s very hilly.

After taking in the spectacular views from up there, and envying those who were lucky enough to live up there and see that view every morning when they open their curtains, I made my way back to the centre of the village. From there, I entered the canal at the same point I had when I walked from Whatstandwell to Cromford in 2019, but this time I headed the other way towards Ambergate.

I had quite a lot of time to make my train back from Ambergate, so I walked quite slowly down the towpath. There were a few walkers, joggers and cyclists along the way, most of whom were friendly and thanked me for moving out of their way. Like the Whatstandwell to Cromford section, as I discovered in 2019 when walking the other way up the canal, this part of the canal also has many memorial benches along the way.

The Cromford Canal comes to an end near to Chase Road in Ambergate, although it originally carried on for many more miles, but competition from the railway and the collapse of the Butterley Tunnel in the late 19th century forced the canal to be abandoned, and some of it was filled in. In the late 1960s, work began to restore the section between Cromford and Ambergate, and plans are afoot to restore more of the canal.

A train passing by

I left the canal and walked down Chase Road to the main road, and then up to the railway station at Ambergate. The station has one of the best views from the platform that I have seen.

Ambergate station used to be a large tri-junction station, with lines going towards Chesterfield in the east and up to Manchester in the west. It declined in the 1960s under the Beeching Cuts, and was almost itself closed, but it was reprieved.

As I waited at the station, I could hear and see some children at the cricket ground below practising their batting in the nets. I would have relaxed in the evening sunshine, just listening to the sound of the ball hitting the willow, but there was a loud man making a phone call for the whole half hour I was there. The train arrived on time, with the same conductor on board, and I rode it back to Derby, where I had another long wait in the evening sunshine for the train back to Burton.

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