Sheffield’s Blue Loop
We follow a circuit that takes walkers from the heart of Sheffield to Tinsley and back, taking in locks, weirs, steelworks, industrial heritage, innovative construction and fig trees!
The Sheffield & Tinsley Canal might not be the easiest to get to by water for Midlands-based boaters (although it’s worth the effort) but for visiting towpath walkers it’s simple. The Tinsley end of the walk is just off the M1 with plenty of parking at the Meadowhall shopping centre; if, like us, you’re coming by train, it’s not far from Sheffield Station to the other end of the walk at Victoria Quays.
Formerly a run-down ex-industrial area around the terminus of the canal, Victoria Quays has been rejuvenated with the former canal warehouses converted to new uses; shops, bars and restaurants occupying old railway arches; and a boatyard and marina.
Cross over to the right-hand side of the canal via the swingbridge, head off along the towpath and you quickly leave the basin behind and pass through a more industrial area, slightly unkempt, with factories separated from the canal by self-seeded trees and a strip of vegetation.
In fact, it’s like a lot of urban canals used to be – and that’s not a criticism. The path isn’t as manicured as some modern urban towpaths, so boots are a good idea in winter.
Film fans may be able to figure out the location of the opening scene in Monty, while transport enthusiasts will spot the trams of the Sheffield Supertram system crossing a bridge and running alongside the canal. (In fact, if you want to cut your walk short at any point, you’re seldom far from a tram stop.)
Look out for what must be one of our least-known aqueducts, spanning Worksop Road. A set of steps takes you down to the road for a view of the three-arch structure with small side-spans across the pavements.
Half a mile further on, you’ll need to cross the canal via a modern footbridge as the path on the right-hand side comes to an end a little way beyond. Soon, an attractive wooded section (the woods shielding the view of various industries on the right and an entertainments complex on the left) leads to the first of the 11 Tinsley Locks. They’re impressive stone chambers, and the widened pounds between them at the top of the flight are used for moorings, so you’ll see an assortment of craft. Note one lock is twice as deep as all the rest: it was built as a replacement for two old locks to allow headroom under a new railway.
After eight locks, you’ll see the 1960s brutalist-style viaduct carrying the M1 and A631 across the valley on two decks. Stop before you reach it, but instead of turning around and returning to Sheffield along the canal, follow the signpost that says Five Weirs Walk (well, actually it says ‘Wiers’!). It leads to the River Don, and an alternative waterside route back to Sheffield. Between them, the canal and river routes form what is known as the Blue Loop, and there’s even a local volunteer group which looks after it.
Unlike the Don from Tinsley down through Rotherham and Doncaster, which forms the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation, this upper section was never navigable – but it’s no less interesting. Interpretation boards explain its points of interest, starting with the fascinating snippet that the nearby