The Chesterfield Canal
The Chesterfield Canal leaves the River Trent at West Stockwith. Alternatively there is a slipway at Tapton Lock in Chesterfield for trailboats to cruise the currently isolated Chesterfield western section.
The canal runs for 46 miles through a delightful rural landscape from the Trent to Chesterfield. It was designed by James Brindley. Work commenced in 1771 and it was completed in 1777.
The star feature was the Norwood Tunnel; at more than one and a half miles it was one of the longest canal tunnels in the country. The frequent use of staircase locks on either side of the tunnel was remarkable for its time. The restored Thorpe flight of fifteen locks in just over half a mile won the prestigious Volvo Penta Award for “an Outstanding Contribution to Conservation and Safety on British Inland Waterways”. (Photos top and bottom right.) They are all listed structures and the trip through them from Shireoaks to Kiveton Park is superb at any time of year. The Norwood tunnel collapsed in 1907 and Chesterfield has been cut off ever since. The final commercial cargo was carried in 1956. By this time only 26 miles from the Trent to Worksop was navigable.
Between 1996 and 2003 a new marina was built at Shireoaks and the restoration of seven miles and thirty one locks extended the head of navigation from Worksop to the Norwood Tunnel. At the isolated western end five miles and five locks from Chesterfield to Staveley were made navigable by 2002. Further works are continuing to restore the nine mile gap. A new terminal canal basin is the centrepiece of a £300 million complex being built in Chesterfield. The long term aim, is to canalise the River Rother and make a link with the South Yorkshire Navigation at Rotherham, thus creating a Three Counties Ring to rival the cruising rings on the other side of the Pennines.
Thanks to Rod Auton and the Chesterfield Canal Trust for most of this information and use of photographs.