Sh­effield’s Blue Loop

Canal Boat - - Boater’s Break - TEXT AND PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

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

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