Whaley Bridge – Buxton Line
Gateway to the Goyt Valley
Positioned at the head of the scenic Peak Forest Canal, Whaley Bridge has a rich industrial heritage well worth exploring. Strategically located between Buxton and Manchester, the town was also an important place on many early transport routes. From horse-and-cart routes to canals and railways past and present, Whaley Bridge has always been well connected.
The town gets its name from the 13th century Anglo-Saxon word ‘weg leah’ meaning a clearing by the road. Up to the mid -1800s, Whaley Bridge’s economy was based around agriculture and coal mining. During the Industrial Revolution, cotton and calico mills became the dominant industry. These bulky products needed moving to market, hence the need for canals.
The Peak Forest Canal was begun in 1794 and was designed to transport limestone from the quarries of Derbyshire. The canal opened in 1800, but it was not until 1804 that Marple locks were finally completed. It runs for a little under 15 miles from Dukinfield Junction on the Ashton Canal to Bugsworth Basin near Chinley, with a short spur to Whaley Bridge. Bugsworth Basin, dating back to 1796, was once one of the largest inland ports ever built on the English canal network, and has been sensitively restored as a monument to 18th and 19th century industrial enterprise. (See our Chinley page for more information.)
The Whaley Bridge Canal basin was also a hive of industrial activity. Limestone from the quarries close to the Cromford and High Peak Railway (the world’s first long distance railway) and coal from the town’s pits were loaded on to barges. Cotton and other materials brought in for the local mills, as well as other goods for local shops and businesses, passed through the Transhipment Shed. This historic building still stands and forms the backdrop to the annual Whaley Water Weekend canal festival.
The very picturesque 10-mile Goyt Way walk starts from the Transhipment Shed and follows the valley of the River Goyt through New Mills to Etherow Country Park near Marple.
There are lots of wonderful walks around the town as well as further afield. Start at the Canal Basin and follow a 2 mile walk around the town. There is also the ‘Whaley Bridge Parish Paths’ booklet, available to buy from the Mechanics Institute on the main road near the station.
Within easy walking distance of the town centre is Toddbrook Reservoir which caused a major incident in August 2019 when the dam wall was in danger of collapsing. Many residents were evacuated and a community in crisis nevertheless brought out the best in people. Repair work to the dam wall is ongoing but it is a beautiful setting for fishing, sailing, canoeing and walking.
Facilities in Whaley Bridge
The town has a range of small, independent shops selling everything from cycles and special gifts to fine wine and locally-produced food, including a monthly Farmers’ Market, plus a selection of friendly pubs, restaurants and cafés mostly located along the main street near the railway station.
There is a post office opposite the station and public toilets are located on the main street next to the station car park. There is a branch of the RBS Bank on Buxton Road.
Memorial Park is a short walk from the station offering a play area for children and plenty of green space to enjoy.
Annual Events in Whaley Bridge
Major public events in the town include Whaley Water Weekend, Well Dressings and the Rose Queen Festival which all take place in June. In December there are the Christmas Illuminations. Further details of these events can be found at www.whaleybridge.com
Passenger facilities at Whaley Bridge Station
Whaley Bridge Station lies on the Manchester Piccadilly – Buxton Line and enjoys a train service of two trains per hour on Mondays-Saturdays and one train per hour on Sundays. All trains on the line are operated by Northern Trains www.northernrailway.co.uk.
An Off Peak Return ticket from Manchester to Whaley Bridge is currently £8.80 and from Whaley Bridge to Buxton is £6.40.
The station is conveniently located in the centre of the town on Market Street near to all the main facilities the town has to offer. It has a ticket office which is manned on Monday-Saturday mornings and a ticket vending machine is provided on the Manchester-bound platform. When the ticket office is open, passengers can find a seat and take shelter in attractive, well maintained waiting rooms on each platform. The station is the pride of the Friends of Whaley Bridge Station and a much-cherished historic asset of the town.
Although the station has step-free access to both platforms, wheelchair users, people with push-chairs or heavy luggage need to be aware of the following:
The station forecourt/car park slopes steeply upwards from its entrance at the junction of Market Street and Reservoir Road. Access to the Buxton platform is step-free via a tarmac footpath along the front of the station building to a gate onto the platform, or via 10 steps up to the ticket office then one step down onto the platform. Step-free access to the Manchester platform is via Reservoir Road, passing under the railway bridge and using a sloping path from Station View; then through a gate onto the platform. A traditional stepped footbridge connects the two platforms within the station.
Cyclists can secure their bikes to storage hoops located outside the main building.
There are bus stops on the main road next to the station car park.
Whaley Bridge is served by several bus services:
Service 199: Manchester Airport – Stockport – Buxton.
Service 61: Buxton – New Mills – Glossop.
Service 190: Buxton – Chapel en le Frith – Chinley – Whaley Bridge.
All these services are operated by High Peak Buses and information about all bus services in the Peak District can be found at www.traveline.info
Friends of Whaley Bridge Station
The community volunteers who are the Friends of Whaley Bridge Station came together in the early 2000’s as a result of a common interest in seeing their town’s attractive but rather rundown station buildings restored to their former glory. A campaign was launched to lobby the rail industry for action to be taken and in 2014 a comprehensive programme of work was completed by Network Rail who refurbished and modernised the buildings and platforms whilst retaining their original 1857 appearance and features as much as possible.
The Friends Group hold their meetings in the large waiting room on the Buxton platform and provide information and put on exhibitions for the interest of passengers and visitors. They are keen supporters of events in the town such as the carnival and Whaley Water Weekend down at the canal wharf and receive great backing for their voluntary work from Whaley Bridge Town Council who are based in the Mechanics Institute just along the main road from the station.
Gardening is a key interest for some members of the Friends Group so around the station you will see pots and planters of flowers adding a splash of colour whilst on the Buxton platform you will find a traditional station garden which makes a pleasant spot to sit and wait for your train.
In 2019 the station friends worked with High Peak Community Arts and Northern Trains to accommodate a beautiful glass artwork display panel in the grounds of the station. The glass panel is titled “Our Window On The Valley” and consists of etched drawings and quotations from local people illustrating their love for the Whaley Bridge area – well worth a look.