I love to walk along the Cromford Canal whatever the weather. Here is a short video of one very wet day.
The canal is beautiful on any day but especially in the early Spring sunshine. April 14th 2022 promised to be sunny so I decided to go for an early morning walk. By early I mean 8.30 which I know would not be everyones definition of early. It did however mean that there were not too many others, out walking the canal path. Deciding to start from Cromford was a really good idea as when I arrived at High Peak Junction, (the name now used to describe the site where the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, meets the Canal,) it was not too long before the small cafe opened for Coffee and a sandwich.
The canal used to run for 14.5 miles along the Derwent Valley to Ambergate where it turned to eventually join the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. It was part of a network of canals dug in the midlands to transport goods such as coal, limestone, cotton and lead.
The 6 mile stretch from Cromford to Ambergate has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The area is home to diverse wildlife and a haven for water voles, grass snakes, little grebes, moorhens, coots, dragonflies as well as myriads of ducks, geese and swans.
Returning to Cromford along the canal I was excited to see three water voles but it is still probably rather early for grass snakes. There was how ever a good variety of wildflowers making their appearance and many bees buzzing around.
I remember the Monty Python sketch, ‘Number 1 The Larch’, about identifying trees from a distance. However the larch is not a tree I am very familiar with. The European larch is native to the mountains of Central Europe and was introduced into the UK in the early 17th century for timber plantations. It is a unique tree as it is the only deciduous conifer.
I have not taken much notice of the larch, (apart from the Monty Python sketch) but a new interest in making natural teas alerted me to the fact that you can use larch flowers and the needles for tea making. I hadn’t realised that the tree had such pretty pink/red flowers which eventually turn into the small larch cones. It is spring so I went on a hunt to find a larch tree with flowers.
The sad news is that many larch trees are dying from Sudden Larch Death. This disease causes the rapid decline and death of larch trees of all ages. Stem cankers, needle lesions and canopy dieback are all symptoms of Sudden Larch Death in the UK.
Today I searched in a local wood, hoping that if I found a larch, it would be well and healthy. I found a lot of trees but they did not look well to my untrained eyes. The tops of the trees had green leaves coming out but the lower branches had no green or flowers. Many had already been felled and this made me wonder if there is a problem. The colour of the wood was beautiful and I wondered what it is used to make.
Information found on the internet www.timberblogger.com/larch-wood/ says Larch wood is known to have tough, waterproof, and durable qualities. It is mostly used for boats, gazebos, floors, fencing, etc.
Having discovered the beauty and usefulness of the larch, I do hope it survives in the local woods and one day I can find enough flowers to try making tea. Larch trees like to grow in any wet, peat-rich soil. The right soil acidity —neutral to acidic—is also key. Larch trees do not grow well in soils with high pH. The area I discovered was wet with a lovely stream and I was glad that I wore my welly boots. I am now considering what I can look for next to make some natural tea.