Illustration by Smabs Sputzer
Words by Peter Watts
Few things can match the power of a sweeping view of the British countryside at the end of a long winter walk. The Peak Forest Canal boasts some of the finest. While the majority of the country’s canals meander their way round the land at the lowest possible point, the Peak Forest Canal soars into the heights.
At 518 feet above sea level, the stretch of the Upper Peak Forest Canal from Marple to Bugsworth Basin is the highest section of navigable water in the entire canal system and as a result it provides breathtaking views over the Pennines. There aren’t many places in the British canal system that offer this sort of vantage point and to reach this height the canal has to climb through the 16 locks that form the scenic Marple Flight. And that’s not all. Before you reach the locks there’s the Marple Aqueduct, the highest canal aqueduct in England, which takes the Peak Forest Canal across the River Goyt and offers more splendid views from the towpath down to the valley below.
Perched midway up a hillside with excellent views over Furness Vale, the Peak Forest Canal is not a typical canal. It is essentially formed from two separate sections of water joined by the Marple Flight. The Lower Peak Forest starts from Dukinfield Junction in Manchester and heads through the countryside, across the Marple Aqueduct, to the locks. The second, higher, section extends a further seven miles to Bugsworth – and the views from here are magnificent in any season. The upper section of the canal was completed in 1796
Marple Locks were completely out of action for 20 months from September 2017, reopening last spring. As the Trust’s engineers completed vital work on the flight, Canal & River Trust’s army of volunteers ensured visitors could continue to enjoy their visit to the canal, providing an essential service for the Trust and the people who use and enjoy the network. Try and keep that in mind if you take a stroll along the canal this winter.
Plan your day out along the Peak Forest Canal.
Posted on 17/01/2020