On the 21st July, as part of our specially selected programme of guided walks and visits, we hosted a walk (in conjunction with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust) around Aqueduct Cottage, Lea Wood and the Nightingale arms of the Cromford Canal.
Lea Wood is a fascinating and beautiful place to explore; originally a working landscape and a hive of local small-scale industry.
In the 19th century the wood was part of the lands belonging to the Nightingale Estate, the family of Florence Nightingale, who will have walked or ridden along the paths of Lea Wood. It was this family who transformed the wood from a place of industry into to a stately pleasure ground.
Aqueduct Cottage, although now in a ruinous state, is a Grade II listed building that has an interesting place in the story of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site; in particular, the industrial development at Lea Bridge. it was built in 1802 as a length man's and lock-keeper's cottage by Peter Nightingale (who was once a business partner of Richard Arkwright).
The construction of Aqueduct Cottage, along with the canal lock at the entrance of the Lea Wood arm, was agreed as part of a settlement to resolve a dispute over the water supply at the developing industries at Lea Bridge and Lea Wharf - the lead smelting works, hat factory and the John Smedley hosiery mills.
In 2012 Lea Wood became one of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's (DWT) designated nature reserves. The question over what to do with the derelict cottage presented them with a unique challenge that needed special attention. DWT has now submitted planning permission to restore the cottage as an education and visitor centre and as a gateway to the Lea Wood Nature Reserve.