Dear Members of the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust

Welcome to the latest edition of the newsletter;

It may be a challenge to the body clocks when the clocks go forward at the end of March, but it shows that summer is coming and the evenings are getting longer. As I write this the sun is shining and the temperatures rising, my bees are flying and I’m looking forward to a spell on a narrowboat. Of course for our restoration the opportunity during the summer this year to promote our activities to the public comes to the fore—but more of that later.

Working Parties

Whilst work has been at a lower key for the last few weeks our volunteers have moved on to grass cutting and a few specialist projects. Work has continued at Breaston to remove the trimmings and complete the tidy up. It’s good to work with our neighbours along this stretch to improve things.

At Sandiacre we have broken through the hedge that was encroaching on our land. This was enabled when the new boundary fence was erected. Now the hedge has been opened up and Heras fencing used to secure the site. This is in preparation for the sewer relocation works. The  CCTV survey of the pipes, surveys of the manholes, and digging of trial pits with soil sample testing is all contracted and expected to be completed in the next few weeks. We hope that we have found a contractor that will also deal cost effectively with the trench digging in due course.

At Draycott the teams have been tidying up the canal line. The vole fence has been surveyed and strengthened where required and the end barrier has been cleared of clutter so that water can drain properly. We have also started discussions with a drainage expert to provide an expert view on how to handle land drains and the flow of water along Hopwell Road in flood conditions. Once we have this guidance we can finally specify the works to be done. We already have some broad quotes from potential suppliers and will refine those to incorporate best advice.

Network Rail are not being particularly helpful or prompt in settling our claim for damage of the bund, but we are making gradual progress. The result of this and enhancements to the specification is likely to be that we will need additional funding. We are therefore looking to a timetable that sees us move water voles next Spring – when vegetation is lush and numbers are low – with works being carried out in the summer, when rainfall is reduced.


Unfortunately we didn’t get as much done as planned over the last week—a combination of my over optimism and Covid, but nevertheless we are still nearly there. Toilets have been completed including some cubicles for the ladies, landscaping and fencing is there and the site has been emptied of extraneous bricks, planks, etc, etc. The team, much smaller over the last month, has persevered and the only things left are storage areas and museum rooms and fitting of a sink unit in our meeting room. We may now have to wait for a plasterer to repair the “museum” rooms in a suitable style enabling us to display our collected nostalgia items appropriately. It will probably take a few more months to get to the end, but the pressure is now off and the focus will move to the Riverboat and Sandiacre.

We are still advertising No 2 for rent, but the others are occupied. The café opening has been put back to 7th May. This is due to some specialist requirements in the café kitchen fit out and agreeing the lease. We are just about there now though—at last! The last few weeks have allowed us to get to know the café operators—Joyce and Garry – much better and we have all worked closely together to get the job done. It bodes well for the future and we wish them well. The upper floors will be available for letting, coordinated through Joyce and Garry until such time as they feel business is strong enough to allow them to take on those floors formally as well as the ground floor areas. We celebrated the unofficial opening when Joyce presented volunteers with a cup of tea in the best china. It was very welcome.

I’m pleased to say that they have offered to look after a meeting scheduled for Northern Canals Association. Representatives of the canal restorations across the north of England and Wales come together to network and compare solutions. We will host them in our upstairs room and tell them about our journey with the cottages development and the adjacent canal. It will be a good test and also a signpost towards post Covid normality.

The Derby Riverboat

Have you seen the Derby Evening Telegraph report in early April? The headline announced—Riverboat to launch in July at a cost of £360,000! If you’re wondering whether we’ve been in receipt of a major grant I have to disabuse you of that view. Whilst we aren’t privy to the calculations we know that we received a grant of £78k to fund the boat and associated works and we’ve had some recompense from the Covid “additional restrictions grant”. The rest of it is Council costs; either spent money or an allowance for future spend to deliver the project—namely the boarding platform. When we all work without payment it is difficult to see the costs of Council staff associated with the project, especially when not all the “help” has moved us forward and where actual progress has been so slow.

However looking at the positive side, the Council now has a significant budget to deliver the project and the political support to do it.  There are still significant hurdles to negotiate, the largest being planning permission. We await detailed drawings of the construction from Council officers so we can make the application and we can drive it on.

Will we be running by July? Well if we are it will be a reduced service for able bodied passengers only working from a temporary mooring under Causey Bridge. To achieve this we will have to make the running and force the pace. I cannot believe we will get planning through in time to construct the permanent features by July.

So all those of you who have volunteered to drive the boat, we will be making contact and getting a training programme on the Derwent together ahead of July—so we are prepared. Liz Gordon will be in touch!

Riverboat Study

Mike Wingfield has attended a presentation by Tim Smit in Derby. He runs the Eden Centre in Cornwall and is looking to set up a similar attraction in Derby. He is very supportive of our plans for the river and is well regarded by the Council senior executive. We are looking to work in partnership with these bodies to push forward an agenda to get the river in use and the city centre much greener and they seem keen to work with us. This will give even more of a push to the Atkins Riverside Study currently under way.

Members Meetings

Thanks to all those who attended our first meeting at the Cottages last month. I think we had the best ever attendance of 44 people. Future meetings are shown below and we will provide coffee/teas, etc.(hopefully from the café).

Meetings start at 7.30pm.

Tues 26th April                  Ann Featherstone                              The Curious History of Sweeney Todd

Tues 24th May                   Michael Crane, Stewart Craven       Beeston Lock Cottages

Tues 28th June                  Rodney Hall                                        The coldest place on earth

Tues 26th July                   Annual Walk                                       Still considering Chellaston or Derby and the Riverboat

Events and Publicity

We have now decided to spread the word at a few gatherings  as follows:

Spirit of Chellaston—18th June

National IWA Festival at Burton – 27-29th August

Shardlow Inland Port Festival — 10th September.

Can you help?

We would welcome the assistance of any member, who can welcome the public at our stands at the events above, either by promoting fun games or by talking about what we are doing. You don’t need lots of knowledge, just a desire to help and a friendly demeanour. Even an hour over lunch (and particularly during the three day August event at Shobnal Meadow) would be most welcome. Training is available and visitors are always fascinated by the “story so far”!

The Packet has now been distributed in April, but our editor Peter has asked for any contributions about the canal, its history or restoration to be sent to him ahead of his next edition due out in late summer. Contact him at

Take care and I hope to see you soon.

Chris Madge