River Trent /Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation
The River Trent is a wide commercial waterway, linking the narrow canal network of the English midlands to the North Sea via the River Humber, to a fascinating collection of Yorkshire waterways and navigations and to the Lincolnshire waterways and navigable drains via the Fossdyke.
Like all ancient navigations the Trent was a ‘free’ river with no organisation taking overall control. Apart from improvements from Trent Falls up to Burton on Trent (1699) and small improvements above Newark (1773), Acts for improvement only became urgent after the Trent and Mersey Canal was opened. An act to improve the whole to Gainsborough was passed (1783).
Dredging and a horsepath (1787) were followed by locks at Sawley and a 2½ mile cut to bypass Trent Bridge in Nottingham (Beeston Cut). Other cuts were made at Snoball (1795) Cranfleet (1797) and Holme (1800).
In this century, deep draughted boats were catered for by raising water levels with weirs and new locks at Cromwell Tidal (1911), Holme, Stoke Bardolph, Gunthorpe and Hazelford (1926-7). The Trent can take large commercial barges and is maintained to a high standard.
The wide Beeston and Nottingham Canals provided the alternative to the shoals and bridges that make the Trent un-navigable through Nottingham. This wide cut was always closed to navigation on Sundays to ensure boatmen’ s religious well being. A heavy chain (the Lenton Chain) was stretched across the water.
Newark is an attractive market town with a castle (ruined by Cromwell) which dominates the river and its public gardens.
Torksey Lock marks the entrance to the Roman Fossdyke Navigation set in a wide landscape. 72 hour pontoon moorings bring possible relief to boats unused to tidal waters. Just upstream are gravel pits that dispatch their entire product by water.
The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation leaves the River Trent at Keadby. It was created by a 19th century amalgamation of a number of canals with the intention of upgrading them to allow large craft to link Sheffield, Doncaster and the south Yorkshire coalfield with the North Sea. Trade continued well into the 20th century but the area now provides a fascinating collection of surprisingly attractive and interesting wide cruising routes. It includes the Sheffield Canal, the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and the New Junction Canal which links to the Aire and Calder.
The Chesterfield Canal was originally 46 miles in length but was cut by the collapse of Norwood Tunnel. Restoration is underway, see our full page Guide to the Chesterfield Canal.