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- 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

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