The Chesterfield Canal

The Chesterfield Canal runs for 46 miles through a delightful rural landscape from the Trent to Chesterfield. It leaves the River Trent at West Stockwith. A slipway at Tapton Lock in Chesterfield allows trailboats to cruise the currently isolated Chesterfield western section. Trip boats operated by the Chesterfield Canal Trust run on both sections.

Thorpe Locks

Award winning Thorpe Locks

The canal was designed by James Brindley. Work commenced in 1771 and completed in 1777. Norwood Tunnel, at more than one and a half miles, was one of the longest canal tunnels in the country. It collapsed in 1907 and Chesterfield has been cut off ever since. The final commercial cargo was carried in 1956 when only the 26 miles from the Trent to Worksop was navigable. The frequent use of staircase locks on either side of the tunnel was remarkable for its time.

In 1976 the Chesterfield Canal Society (which became the Chesterfield Canal Trust in 1998) was formed to promote full restoration and then the Chesterfield Canal Partnership. This allowed real progress to be made. 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.

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”. They are all listed structures and the trip through them from Shireoaks to Kiveton Park is superb at any time of year. 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. There were concerns that plans for the eastern extension of the High Speed Rail line HS2 Phase 2b could threaten the restoration around Staveley, but this has now been scrapped, although a ‘safeguarding’ order remains in place.

The full length of the canal can be walked on the towpath known as The Cuckoo Way. Passing through tranquil countryside where hardly a house can be seen it is very popular with walkers.

Creating a Three Counties Ring to rival the cruising rings on the other side of the Pennines is a longer term aim. It would entail canalising the River Rother and making a link with the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation at Rotherham.

Key Facts

Narrow canal, 41 miles, 3 days, 21 locks, 2 tunnels.
5 miles of the detached section from Chesterfield has been reopened, 9 miles are awaiting restoration. Since 1989, 12 miles of the canal have been restored along with 37 locks and 11 bridges; 2 new marinas have been built.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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