GREAT CANAL WALKS: CHESTERFIELD
Once a hive of industry, for today’s boaters it’s a vigorous ascent of 32 locks – but for walkers the Chesterfield Canal from Worksop to Kiveton is a gentle climb through splendid countryside
Join us on a walk from Worksop to Kiveton on a gentle climb through beautiful countryside
Travelling from Worksop to Turnerwood on the Chesterfield Canal by boat is one of the more energetic six-mile journeys that the waterways system can offer, with no fewer than 32 locks.
For walkers, of course, it’s much less strenuous. So you can relax, take it easy and enjoy the views – and there are some splendid ones along this quiet, rural, and really secluded length of waterway.
Our journey begins in rather less rural surroundings, at Worksop Town Bridge, near the centre of the former coal-mining town. Before you head westwards along the towpath, do detour just a few yards east for the novel experience of walking under the old Straddle Warehouse, one of only a couple of such buildings on the network which span the canal and towpath. Another interesting feature is Town Lock, which is so close to the bridge that one of the bottom gates has a right angle in its balance beam, to avoid hitting the bridge.
Leaving the town centre and its quirks of canal heritage behind, the towpath heads out into open land, the canal accompanied by the little River Ryton on
the left, and Sandhill Lake on the right. The name gives the clue that this was once a sand quarry, the first of many signs of former industry on what is today a largely rural walk. Another of these comes just before the next bridge: on the left side the former Lady Lee Arm (long abandoned and filled in, although the towpath is still walkable) led to a horse tramway connecting to a stone quarry.
The climb begins gently with a couple of well spread-out locks as the canal passes between Worksop’s modern day industrial estates, but it steepens with a flight of three at Shireoaks followed by a short side-arm leading into a marina. This, too, is an industrial relic – a former colliery loading basin – and it’s also where you may catch a glimpse of Dawn
Rose, the recently built replica ‘cuckoo boat’, the distinctive horse-drawn cargo craft of the Chesterfield Canal. Another reminder of the area’s coal mining past is the next lock that you walk past, Boundary Lock, which had to be added to counter mining subsidence when this length of canal was restored from dereliction in the late 1990s.
The climbing now begins in earnest, and so does the spectacular countryside. Lock follows lock, many of them in curious shallow staircases, as the route rises through countryside and woodland. Other than a railway line keeping the canal company some distance away, there are few interruptions, with no road crossings and little sign of habitation as the canal climbs a narrowing valley between hills. But look at an old map, and you’ll find that deep in these glorious woodlands and hillsides there are dozens of old lime kilns and quarries.
A final staircase of three locks leads to the canal’s summit level. Look out for signs of water voles as you follow the
quiet meanderings of the canal towards Kiveton – and remember that it wasn’t always this quiet. Just off on your right, the other side of the railway, were the quarries from which in the 1840s almost half a million cubic feet of limestone were shipped by water to London to build the new Houses of Parliament.
Finally, a long, narrow, steep-sided cutting leads to Kiveton Park, where a ramp leads up from the towpath to Dog Kennel Bridge and Kiveton Park Station. But before you end your walk, cross the bridge and follow the towpath which continues on the opposite side of the canal, to reach the portal of the abandoned Norwood Tunnel which currently prevents boats from travelling any further – see last month’s CanalBoat for a restoration feature on its future.
Energetic walkers can continue by following paths over the hilltop, and rejoin the towpath for the onward journey all the way to Chesterfield – see
chesterfield- canal-trust.org.uk for a walking guide. For the less energetic, from the tunnel entrance it’s just a few minutes’ walk back to Dog Kennel Bridge for Kiveton Park Station and a half-hourly train service back to Worksop.
Many of the Thorpe locks are staircases Leaving the outskirts of Worksop Into the countryside beyond Shireoaks
Quiet, remote surroundings on the summit level A steep-sided cutting approaching Kiveton