As small towns on the edge of the Peak District go, New Mills doesn’t seem to have anything special on its ordinary-looking surface. Walk just a few steps in a downwards direction though and all of that changes.
Running right below the main shopping and residential streets is an astounding natural feature – The Torrs. Our trail ventures into this deep gorge cut by two powerful rivers, the Goyt and the Sett.
This is a great spot to take in an overview of our journey – and this is an overview, in every sense! The dominant old industrial building one hundred feet below is Torr Vale Mill, with the River Goyt swirling past it in a dramatic curve. Next to the mill is the railway line which links Greater Manchester and Sheffield, via a two-mile long tunnel under the high moors of the Peak District.
Hanging precariously between the two and directly over the raging river is the newest addition to this complex landscape. It’s just a thin ribbon from this distance, but will provide the highlight of this trail’s end…
For now, lift your eyes to the near horizon. Can you see what seems like something straight out of an LS Lowry painting, the mill with its tall brick chimney? If the wind is from that direction, give the air a sniff. Any smells that take you back to your childhood? Refreshers? Love Hearts?
Love hearts © Data Hamster, Flicker (CCL)
Well, believe it or not in this age of globalisation, sweet manufacturers Swizzels Matlow still produce these favourites from that factory as they have done since 1940.
They employ around 500 people and export all over the world. The business is even expanding into a neighbouring site. The brick-and-stone mill itself is far older than the Second World War, belonging to New Mills’ long period of growth during the Industrial Revolution. We will follow that story of growth, construction, decline and rebirth as we continue.
But what was it that kick-started all of this activity? The answer lurks in the powerful forces of nature way down below…
Next, walk along the pavement towards the Heritage Centre on the corner (this is a must visit at the end of the trail). Walk down the fifty-one steps to the bottom of the gorge and turn left for the rock face and viaduct arches.
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.