This small wooden bridge was built in the early 1970s when the whole of The Torrs was reimagined as a “riverside park”. It is named after Dr Millward who was the chief proponent of the ambitious plan.
Before Dr Millward and his team started campaigning in the 1960s, the entire complex of mills and bridges had fallen into such a terrible state of ruin and pollution that the whole gorge was effectively closed.
Long before then, the leat water continued its journey over the River Sett (below) via an aqueduct and on into Torr Mill. This is not to be confused with the huge Torr Vale Mill we saw from above, though it was just as big.
We can still make out a few of Torr Mill’s walls, built from 1794 onwards. We were looking at one earlier; remember the clean section of the former quarry face?
By the early nineteenth century there were three major mills in The Torrs. As they expanded and needed more power, all of them were at least partly converted to coal-fired steam. There were cottages and small workshops down here too, all burning coal. That’s when the blackening of the rock started.
Going for a walk in The Torrs must have been more like a descent into hell. Coal, unlike water, had to be got down here, adding to costs, while it also added to the risk of fire.
So, for a variety of reasons, not least the increased competition from even larger mills elsewhere, The Torrs’ industries went into a long period of decline. Ultimately, the narrow confines of the gorge left no room for growth.
In 1912 the whole of Torr Mill was destroyed by a disastrous fire. Fire, steam, water, rock and, these days at least, beautifully fresh air… Take a lungful! The Torrs truly is an elemental place and a great asset to the modern town, both in terms of informal recreation for the locals and as a tourist attraction. The Midshires Way and the Sett Valley Trail pass right through.
Standing here today, you may well spot such birds as dippers, grey wagtails and kingfishers, all indicating something of a return to the gorge’s more natural state. Talking of natural forces, let’s head towards the source of all the noise…
Next, cross the bridge and go to the large weir.
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.