CRUISE GUIDE: ERE­WASH CANAL

Canal Boat - - This Month - TEXT & PIC­TURES BY DEREK PRATT

Take a de­tour with us to visit his­toric mills and a mu­seum to a fa­mous nov­el­ist and poet

The north­ern­most part of the Grand Union sys­tem, and a sur­viv­ing rem­nant of a lo­cal canal net­work which once reached right up into the Peak Dis­trict, the 12 miles of the Ere­wash Canal are also well worth ex­plor­ing in their own right

In the last two is­sues we fol­lowed the Le­ices­ter Sec­tion of the Grand Union north from Nor­ton Junc­tion to Le­ices­ter, and then con­tin­ued down the River Soar to its con­flu­ence with the River Trent. But that wasn’t the end of the Grand Union sys­tem: cross­ing the Trent to the op­po­site bank we en­ter Trent Lock and con­tinue north­wards along the Ere­wash Canal.

Fol­low­ing the Ere­wash Val­ley mid­way be­tween Not­ting­ham and Derby, the canal passes through Long Ea­ton, San­di­acre and then skirts around the edge of Ilke­ston – but while it sel­dom quite reaches wide-open coun­try­side, it re­mains pleas­antly green for much of its 12-mile jour­ney to Lan­g­ley Mill, and it’s well worth a de­tour.

The canal opened in 1779 with the prime pur­pose of serv­ing the Not­ting­hamshire and Der­byshire coal­fields, pro­vid­ing them with an out­let to the south. It was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess and led to the con­struc­tion of four more con­nect­ing canals: the Not­ting­ham Canal, the Nut­brook Canal, the Derby Canal and the Crom­ford Canal. Even­tu­ally, high tolls and rail­way own­er­ship of those con­nected canals re­duced the coal traf­fic; how­ever, de­spite the rail­way com­pe­ti­tion, the Ere­wash stayed busy right through un­til af­ter it was pur­chased by the Grand Union Canal Com­pany in 1932.

Trad­ing fi­nally ceased af­ter

na­tion­al­i­sa­tion in 1947, and even­tu­ally parts of the canal be­came un-nav­i­ga­ble with the up­per­most sec­tion aban­doned.

In 1968, a num­ber of en­thu­si­asts formed the Ere­wash Canal Preser­va­tion & De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion to fight off per­ma­nent clo­sure and to re­store and de­velop the wa­ter­way as an amenity as­set. They re­opened the dis­used sec­tion, re­stored Lan­g­ley Mill basin and, in 1983, their ef­forts were recog­nised when the canal was of­fi­cially up­graded from ‘Re­main­der Wa­ter­way’ to ‘Cruise­way’ sta­tus.

The Ere­wash Canal be­gins at Trent Lock which has be­come some­thing of a lo­cal re­sort. Two pubs and the Lock House tea­room cater for its many visi­tors who can sit and re­lax en­joy­ing wide views of the River Trent. Trent Lock also pro­vides much in­ter­est for spec­ta­tors who can watch boats ne­go­ti­at­ing the first of 15 wide locks on the canal. Boaters will need an anti-van­dal key to op­er­ate all locks on the canal, avail­able from Canal & River Trust of­fices.

Once through the lock, the canal passes boat­yards and lines of house­boats moored on the off­side of the canal. There then fol­lows a golf course, two rail­way bridges and an­other boat­yard be­fore reach­ing the out­skirts of Long Ea­ton.

The pas­sage through Long Ea­ton is mostly built-up but not un­pleas­ant, with play­ing fields and a pretty mu­nic­i­pal park ad­join­ing the canal at one point. The town be­came fa­mous for its lace-making in­dus­try which once em­ployed a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion, and many of the mills with their tow­er­ing chim­neys still border the wa­ter­way. Most of th­ese can be seen in the vicin­ity of Long Ea­ton Lock which is a good place to stop to visit the town cen­tre.

At Dock­holme Lock you can look down at the Toton rail­way sid­ings which, in their com­mer­cial hey­day, formed one of the largest rail­way yards in Europe.

The cot­tages at San­di­acre Lock are now the head­quar­ters of the Ere­wash Canal Preser­va­tion and De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion. There are two sep­a­rate cot­tages, a stable and a toll house orig­i­nally used by the Derby Canal Com­pany (see inset).

San­di­acre Lock also marks the for­mer

junc­tion of the long derelict Derby Canal, which was 14 miles long and ran from San­di­acre to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Swarke­stone. It was aban­doned in 1964 (hav­ing al­ready fallen derelict), but the Derby and San­di­acre Canal Trust was formed in 1994 with the in­ten­tion of restor­ing the wa­ter­way.

The Ere­wash Canal passes through San­di­acre town cen­tre which is dom­i­nated by the huge Spring­field Lace Mill, now con­verted into apart­ments. Pleas­ant moor­ings are con­ve­niently placed for shops, su­per­mar­ket and pubs near Bridge 10.

Pas­ture Lock, just north of the town, is well named be­ing sit­u­ated in an area of green­ery with views across a ridge called Stoney Clouds. Un­for­tu­nately, this ru­ral idyll is spoiled some­what by the noise of the nearby M1 mo­tor­way.

The canal then passes be­neath the mo­tor­way to Stan­ton Lock which was once the junc­tion of the Nut­brook Canal. Five miles long with 13 broad locks, the Nut­brook was built to carry coal from the Ship­ley mines. Even­tu­ally, most of the canal closed be­cause of min­ing sub­si­dence ex­cept for the bot­tom one and a half mile length, which was ac­quired by the Stan­ton Iron­works. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, this short stretch of canal car­ried around 60,000 tons of steel, mainly used for ar­ma­ments. The Iron­works sold all its boats in 1947 but some traf­fic con­tin­ued un­til 1949.

Af­ter Hal­lam Fields Lock, the canal skirts around the edge of Ilke­ston to Gal­lows Inn. This stands next to Gal­lows

‘Stop and walk through the woods to view Ben­ner­ley Viaduct: a spec­tac­u­lar 1500ft iron struc­ture that once car­ried a rail­way line’

Lock, its grim name re­call­ing a 17th Cen­tury place of ex­e­cu­tion – and sadly the pub is cur­rently closed af­ter the pre­vi­ous own­ers sold up.

Af­ter two more locks, the canal ar­rives at Sta­tion Road, Bridge 20 where there is an­other nearby pub. This is a good place to stop for pro­vi­sions and to walk into Ilke­ston town cen­tre, where you can visit the Ere­wash Mu­seum.

The canal con­tin­ues north­ward with built-up Ilke­ston to the west and a mix­ture of open coun­try­side and wood­land to the east. Af­ter Sten­son Lock you will see Ben­ner­ley Woods on the tow­path side. Stop and walk through the woods to view Ben­ner­ley Viaduct: a spec­tac­u­lar 1500ft long iron struc­ture that once car­ried a rail­way line over the Ere­wash Val­ley and the now derelict Not­ting­ham Canal. Be­fore leav­ing the area, you can visit the Bridge Inn which is next to the canal at Cot­man­hay.

Af­ter Cot­man­hay, the canal passes through more open coun­try to Ship­ley Lock. Ship­ley Wharf was once a trans­ship­ment cen­tre for coal brought down from nearby col­lieries on an in­cline rail­way. Coal was loaded into boats here from 1895 un­til 1942. Next to Ship­ley Lock is the MFN club which claims to be the “Mid­lands’ Ul­ti­mate Des­ti­na­tion for bik­ers and petrol­heads”. Live mu­sic and who knows what else, reg­u­larly at­tracts thou­sands of bik­ers to this re­mote spot. MFN stands for ‘Miles From Nowhere’, al­though it is said that some lo­cals have other in­ter­pre­ta­tions!

The canal con­tin­ues north­ward in open coun­try­side to East­wood Lock which is the last lock on the Ere­wash Canal – but not the last on our jour­ney. The next lock, Lan­g­ley Bridge Lock at Lan­g­ley Mill, is ac­tu­ally the first lock on the Crom­ford Canal, and leads to the present limit of nav­i­ga­tion.

From Lan­g­ley Mill you can visit East­wood with its ex­cel­lent shop­ping and a mu­seum ded­i­cated as the birth­place of D.H. Lawrence. As a young man, Lawrence would cer­tainly have known the canal and this is re­flected in his semi-autobiographical novel Sons

and Lovers which is a about work­ing class life in a min­ing com­mu­nity. To­day he is com­mem­o­rated at the DH Lawrence Birth­place Mu­seum (see inset).

Great North­ern Basin at Lan­g­ley Mill was the junc­tion of three canals: the Crom­ford, Not­ting­ham and Ere­wash. Hav­ing been re­vived and ex­tended by ECPDA, the basin is a busy boat­ing cen­tre with boat­yards and moor­ings. The name of the basin is re­flected by a

con­ve­nient pub that over­looks the site.

Lan­g­ley Mill is where our jour­ney by boat must end, but it’s also a good base for ex­plor­ing the re­mains of the other two canals on foot.

The Not­ting­ham Canal ran for 15 miles be­tween Lan­g­ley Mill and the River Trent at Not­ting­ham. It was a busy wa­ter­way un­til the 1840s when rail­way com­pe­ti­tion sent it into de­cline. Most of it was aban­doned in 1937 but the fi­nal sec­tion in Not­ting­ham stayed in use and pro­vides a vi­tal link on the Trent Nav­i­ga­tion through the city. Sec­tions of the derelict length are still in wa­ter and recog­nised as na­ture re­serves.

At 15 miles, the Crom­ford Canal is sim­i­lar in length to the Not­ting­ham Canal but heads away from Lan­g­ley Mill in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. It be­gins at Lan­g­ley Bridge Lock, and its first few hun­dred yards form what is cur­rently re­garded as the head of nav­i­ga­tion for the Ere­wash Canal. Orig­i­nally the Crom­ford had 14 broad locks and four tun­nels in­clud­ing one 3,063-yard long tun­nel at But­ter­ley. It was the col­lapse of this tun­nel that brought an end to com­mer­cial trad­ing from Crom­ford.

The ma­jor­ity of the canal was aban­doned by 1944, but you can still walk the route and there are plans to re­store it. The top five miles from Crom­ford south­wards to­wards Am­ber­gate were re­stored in 1974, and more re­cently, the Friends of the Crom­ford Canal have car­ried out

‘Lan­g­ley Mill is where our jour­ney by boat must end, but it’s also a good base for ex­plor­ing the re­mains of two other canals on foot’

restora­tion work on sev­eral sec­tions of the route.

The north­ern sec­tion in­cludes the Lea­wood Pump­ing Sta­tion with the Wig­well Aqueduct and also High Peak Junc­tion. Here there is a small mu­seum and in­for­ma­tion cen­tre about the High Peak Trail, which is based on the Crom­ford & High Peak Rail­way, an early line that crossed the Peak Dis­trict. The Lea­wood Pump­ing Sta­tion has reg­u­lar steaming dates through­out the year. A trip boat, which is oc­ca­sion­ally horse­drawn, op­er­ates from Crom­ford Wharf.

Crom­ford Wharf has be­come a pop­u­lar spot for visi­tors with a café and in­for­ma­tion cen­tre, and is close to Ark­wright’s Mill (see inset). Per­haps one day it will form a fine ter­mi­nus for a 27-mile cruise along the Ere­wash and the re­stored Crom­ford canal.

An as­sort­ment of house­boats moored above Trent Lock. Pre­vi­ous page: leav­ing Pas­ture Lock, a lit­tle way north of San­di­acre

Old mill chim­neys pro­vide a re­minder that San­di­acre was a cen­tre of the lace in­dus­try

San­di­acre Lock and re­stored cot­tages

En­ter­ing Barker’s Lock, near Cot­man­hay

Wa­ter­side pub at Cot­man­hay

Ship­ley Lock, in at­trac­tive ru­ral sur­round­ings

Lea­wood pump on the old Crom­ford Canal

Small boats al­ready use the Crom­ford

Crom­ford Wharf: Even­tual ter­mi­nus?

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