Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Parish Notes ~ Whaley Bridge

Judy Brown

This article is from Signpost 63, Winter 2019

On 1 August 2019 the emergency at Toddbrook Reservoir put Whaley Bridge on everyone's map. Three months later, the dam is still under investigation and the pumps are still in place, but it's more or less business as usual in the town and people are trying to look forward rather than back.

Whaley Bridge remains a busy little town of about 6,000 residents. Set on the edge of the Peak District National Park, it is known as the gateway to the Goyt Valley. With excellent bus and train services, a bike shop, arts and crafts, antiques and plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants, it is a hub for walkers and cyclists. You can set off from Whaley in any direction and find routes to suit all interests and levels of fitness, hill and moorland, river valleys, farmland, bridleways or woodland walks. The Peak Forest canal towpath offers a level, accessible route that can take you to the historic basin at Buxworth or the locks at Marple, while a network of footpaths leads up into the surrounding hills. The Midshires Way, Goyt Way and Peak District Boundary Walk also converge on the town.

Everywhere you go around Whaley Bridge, the past is there to rediscover. Since mediaeval times, the meeting of the rivers made it a place where trade routes crossed: for silk or salt, stone or coal, livestock or grain. The Industrial Revolution brought large-scale textile manufacture to the town, with the cotton mills taking advantage of water power from the rivers. The canal opened in 1800, the railway in 1832 and the mills were going strong well into the 1960s. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Whaley Bridge was a much busier working town than it is now though in those days the traffic was horse-drawn and any congestion would be caused by herding sheep rather than double-parking cars. People worked at the mills, the mines and quarries, the canal wharves, the farms, and all the associated industries such as dyeing, smithying or railway engineering, and the streets were bustling with all the shops anyone could need, from clog-makers to corn merchants. You can trace the history of the town in features such as the transhipment warehouse, the old railway tracks, the cobbles and ginnels and street names.

The welcome you get in Whaley's pubs or cafes when you arrive is only the start. You need a map and walking boots and as many days as you can spare to explore the area.

This article is part of a series of Parish Notes which will be published both on the website and in future editions of the newsletter. Any readers who would like to contribute are encouraged to contact Mel Bale at

Next: French Walkers Rights

Page title:Parish Notes ~ Whaley Bridge
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