The head of water behind this big weir once provided the power for another mill just downstream. This thunderous cataract, at the confluence of two rivers, is a good place to think about the elemental forces which gave rise to this landscape.
It is hard to believe today but the River Goyt once took an entirely different course. Where we stand now would have been nothing but solid sandstone. The change came 2.5 million years ago when the Earth went through a series of Ice Ages. The planet’s temperature dropped and vast areas were covered in huge ice sheets.
Here at The Torrs, the titanic movement of an ice sheet swept along a huge quantity of boulder clay. Clay is impervious to water. This effectively dammed the previous course of the river.
When the ice finally started to melt, around 10,000 years ago, the newly resurgent Goyt was forced to find another route down towards the Mersey. It found it through a line of weakness in the Woodhead Hill Rock.
The easily-worked sandstone was just as easily eroded by the fast-flowing Goyt and Sett rivers, fed by all that melting ice. The result was this swiftly cut, deep and narrow gorge.
In modern times, our growing concern about the burning of fossil fuels has seen a swing back towards using water’s natural, pollution-free power. A very neat example is the small stone building right by the huge weir. It is the UK’s first community owned and run hydro-electric plant.
The plant uses a reverse Archimedes screw to produce 500,000 units
, (kWh) of electricity a year. That’s enough energy, from that short fall of water, to power fifty average homes.
In reality it is all bought by the Co-op superstore up in the town, with anything they don’t use going to the National Grid. There is even a fish ladder to help migrating trout upstream, while the screw itself has been certified as ‘fish-friendly’ for those heading down. Things really couldn’t get much Greener!
Next, follow the Goyt downstream a short way, back under the viaduct (Union Road Bridge). Pass the flight of steps you came down, and continue to the start of the long steel structure over the river.
This trail was originally developed by Simon Corble for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain.
Simon Corble is a theatre director, playwright and actor based in Derbyshire’s Peak District, is passionate about the countryside and discovering the hidden secrets of the natural world.