A WALK ALONG THE DERBY CANAL.
Starting from Swarkestone the canal is approached via Pingle Lane off the A514 midway between the A50 roundabout at Chellaston and the beginning of Swarkestone Bridges. Proceed down the lane under the railway bridge and, if travelling by car, park up on the right hand side before the hump back bridge over the Trent and Mersey canal. (Public Transport information is given at the end of this article.)
Pause for a moment on top of the bridge. The view west, beyond the canal buildings, is towards an early connecting link canal down into the River Trent close to Swarkestone Bridge. This was abandoned early on in the life of the canal because of the excessive tolls charged by the Trent and Mersey Canal Co. and the demise of the river traffic. The red lines show the line of the connecting link.
Prior to the construction of the T&M link to the Trent, it had always been Benjamin Outram’s intention to connect the Derby to the T&M below Swarkestone Lock which we can see below us. The Derby Canal Trust plan to re-connect to the main canal system at some point between where we are now standing and the railway in the middle distance. More of which later.
Looking east towards the railway bridge can be seen a hedgerow apparently cutting left to right across the farmer’s field. This is the line of Cuttle Brook and is one of the possible routes being considered for reconnecting the Derby canal to the T&M. The alternative route would bring the connection much closer to Swarkestone Lock, connecting just below the bridge, having followed the original line but below the current embankment.
Proceed over the T&M and follow the pathway. To the left is the base for Swarkestone Boat Club, the oldest canal club on the waterways system, being established in the 1950’s. They currently use the canal junction as moorings and the junction cottage, which is the only original Canal Co. property still standing, is their headquarters.
On the right hand side is a new milepost indicating 5 miles to Tonge and 5 to Derby, erected in the early 1990s. As the path swings left walk on to the original Junction Bridge restored by the Canal Society in 1995. Prior to restoration this bridge was in a very derelict and dangerous condition, with one parapet and part of the arch missing. The bridge was restored at a cost of c£15,000 by local and national canal enthusiasts, to meet the high standards required by the local authority. The bridge itself forms the boundary of the local conservation area.
Looking north towards Derby, the dry canal bed swings to the left as it approaches the first blockage, the A50. This privately owned section could be restored to water. Unfortunately it will never see through passage of boats, but will form an essential feeder to the rest of the canal so the plan is to restore this section to navigable standards but as a nature reserve. This short section requires considerable funding to overcome leakage, which existed here right from when the canal was first constructed. Part of the plan is to restore the blackthorn hedge, for which the Derby Canal is well known. As we approach the A50 it can be seen that the route is blocked at water level. The main section of the canal will be fed by the pipe provided by the then Minister of Transport.
The new road was conceived and built before road builders were enforced to make allowance for future canal restoration.
To the right the cycletrack and footpath dip under the A50 via a farmer’s access bridge. This is an alternative route to using Cuttle Brook. Both options will require the construction of a new lock chamber on the Derby side of the A50 at a point close to where an original overflow weir fed water on the offside of the canal back into a stream feeding into the Brook. At the point where the A50 now crosses the bed of the canal there used to be a stone accommodation bridge, which led to a farm, now long gone. Local people tell us that the army came along to destroy the bridge as and exercise. The first 2 attempts at blowing it up simply re-arranged the stonework but still in the shape of a bridge. The 3rd attempt succeeded!
The next long section of dry bed can be seen to be much deeper than would be normal for this type of canal. The reason for this anomaly is yet to be discovered. This section will be restored as a fully navigable canal. On the offside and below the embankment is a considerable area of woodland, all now owned by the Canal Trust. This will be restored as part of the wildlife improvements and nature reserve.
After a long straight section the track dips. At this point a small climb over the sleeper supported bank on the left leads to the original stone culvert which fed the water from the overflow weir previously described back into Cuttle Brook. The path now turns right and the left emerging onto a footbridge over the Brook, and then back up to original towpath level. The whole section just passed was bulldozed out by the Sinfin Moor Commissioners on abandonment in order to alleviate flooding on Sinfin Moor, which had always been a problem, indeed in times of flood the brook rises a considerable amount to this day. Cuttle Brook forms the boundary between South Derbyshire Council and Derby City.
This area is a possible connection into the Brook if the farmer’s access tunnel is not used. We are now walking through a stretch of considerable natural beauty which the Trust are intent on preserving and improving.
A new access road to the proposed Sinfin Moor Aerospace Park is to be built across the line of the canal here and the Trust is in negotiations with Derby City Council to ensure that provision is made for the canal in accordance with the law.
As we approach the original site of Baltimore Bridge at Sinfin Moor Lane the new housing development is constructed right up to the canal with front entrances facing the canal route.
Another milepost indicates 4 miles to Derby, 6 miles to Tonge and a signpost reads 2 miles to Alvaston, City Centre 5 miles. Some years ago this sign read former canal path but the sign now reads canal path. We are making progress. Manhole covers can be seen in the canal bed indicating yet another obstruction to be overcome. The sewer will need to be realigned.
The embankment is the former route of the Melbourne Military Railway. The bridge over the canal is long gone although the railway route can still be traced to the west. From here to Wilmorton the route is well illuminated at night time by ample street lighting.
We now pass through what was Fullen’s Lock, which is indicated by the lock capping stones on either side of the footpath. This lock will never be restored, boats passing through the chamber.
A new lock will be constructed closer to Swarkestone to overcome some of the sewers which will be left within the canal bed with side accesses for maintenance.
Approaching the road bridge and Shelton Lock the path rises indicating a substantial amount of infill above the original water level
Under the bridge can be seen a mural painted by local school children in 1991. Remarkably it survives with little additional graffiti. The original Bridge Inn that stood next to the canal has been rebuilt as the New Bridge Inn just a short walk up the road towards Derby. There are also shops nearby.
The footpath passes through Shelton Lock itself, which is now in a derelict state. The curved stones, known as quoins, at the entrance are where the bottom gates would have swung and immediately below is a curved platform area formerly used to swing the gate balance beams. Old photos indicate that the rough-hewn beams were extremely close to the ground. To the left is one of the display boards installed by the canal society. The original Lock Cottage here was said to have been of Cruck construction. It would have been bulldozed on abandonment just as every other lock cottage was disposed of in a similar fashion.
Just above the lock the area bounding the canal widens out on the offside. The fencing of newer housing follows the original canal outline where a “winding hole”, for turning boats, would have been.
The footpath now follows the centre of the canal bed. This together with the evident manhole covers and sewer will require moving over to our right when the canal is restored.
To the right hand side are the Merrill School playing fields, all of which will require disabled access via bridges over the canal. This stretch, whilst passing Chellaston and approaching Allenton, is still mainly rural, with little sound of local traffic. To the right is “Hippo Wood” planted on 2001 so called because the remains of a Hippo were found locally. The information board indicates how the plantation is expected to grow over the next years up to a hundred years hence.
We are now at Boulton Lane where once stood a humped canal bridge. On the offside once stood the “Slix” swimwear factory. At this point we are now 2.25 miles from Swarkestone. After Boulton Lane the land widens out yet again. Was this the site of yet another winding hole or perhaps a wharf? To the right are large open spaces belonging to Merrill College but wide open for public access.
Further on we come to Brackens Lane. The original Canal Bridge is long gone and yet the view down Brackens Lane and indeed Boulton Lane has changed little since the bridge was demolished. Allenton is off to our left, Alvaston off to the right.
Now we approach Harvey Road the site of a very high hump back bridge on what was even in the ‘60s a very busy road. The proposal is to raise Harvey Road only slightly to allow the canal and a pedestrian subway to pass underneath. The thinking for a long time has been for the canal to pass through Shelton Lock at its lower level forming a cutting through from Shelton Lock to Harvey Road. A new lock, replacing Shelton Lock, could be built on the Derby side of Harvey Road. This would reduce the need for bridges at Boulton Lane and Brackens Lane. More detailed design work needs to be done as the restoration plans progress. Down Harvey Road to the left is “Spider Island” and the local shopping centre of Allenton together with the Mitre public house.
Walking across, Harlow’s Timber is in the yard on the right with a very wide area of land that may have been a winding hole and/or a wharf. There is more than enough room here for a new lock chamber and temporary moorings. Having passed Harlow’s another public footpath crosses the canal. There is however no indication of a canal bridge here.
After a long straight stretch the Ascot Drive industrial area appears on the left. This area will benefit from the restoration of the canal providing lunchtime walks and even fishing for local employees. If walking just about dusk the illumination of Parker Hannifin shows how a little imagination can improve an area.
On the right a new housing development has been being built on the former allotments. Interestingly the site is being bounded by decorative steel fencing set well back from the canal boundary presumably to provide amenity value. Had the developer thought sufficiently about the development they would have been able to use the canal as planning gain by using the restored canal for this purpose. Everybody could have benefited. The Canal Trust by reinstatement of the canal and the developers by more properties constructed. An example of missed opportunity.
We come now to a signpost, which indicates Ascot Drive and Osmaston. Here is the site of Parson’s Bridge, which led from the bottom of Baker Street, Alvaston, so called because the bridge is at the parish boundary of St Osmunds Church. A short walk off to the right towards Baker St. to the right confirms this as the bridge site. The footpath shows every indication of following the levels of a bridge approach. The bridge was only ever a narrow bridge unlikely to have been used for traffic.
The route now approaches London Road Bridge carrying the A6. On the left are the former Railway Engineering School and St Osmund’s Church. The church is a Grade II listed building of brick construction and has been re-roofed with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, using roof tiles which came from the USA. The church was originally endowed by Wilmot Orton who made his fortune from trading in land he resold to the Canal Company at an inflated price.
We are now 3.5 miles from Swarkestone, 2.5 miles from the City centre and 1.5 miles from Alvaston. 1 mile to Pride Park. A path leads off up to London Road as we pass under the original and now widened canal bridge with evidence of the towpath on the right. The decoration of the bridge was a project carried out by the Society, the church and the pupils & staff of Lakeside school which is very close.
On the left hand side is a plant hire and landscape supplier. Their site was once a winding hole for turning boats. Immediately following is “The Navigation” public house complete with some original stable buildings from the time of the canal. The footpath now forks. The right hand path goes to Alvaston Park and the river Derwent. Take the path to the left. The housing development to the right has made provision for the canal diversion. The original line of the canal went off to the left following the ends of the rows of terraced houses. A pair of semi-detached here named canalside cottage facing what would have been the canal. The land rises here well above original water level, with a large amount of infill to be removed. The canal route follows through the private parking area. We climb back up on to the footpath by the railings. In the distance can be seen the flyover taking traffic over the railway embankment in to “Pride Park”. Leave the footpath and head for the sign and the lamppost to the right of the traffic lights.
We are following the diversion route. Climb up to the road. On the right hand side is a manhole cover more or less on the crown. You are now stood on top of a concrete culvert, which was financed by a mortgage personally taken out by the directors on behalf of the Trust as an act of faith. The only access to the culvert, until the canal is restored, is via this manhole and another on the opposite side of the road.
A walk up to the top of the flyover will give a view of Pride Park and Derby County football ground. Derby City centre is off to the left. Look east over towards Spondon. The canal will follow the line of the graveled roadway at the side of the railway having passed under the railway embankment. In the distance is The Wyvern and Raynesway.
In the distance can be seen the river Derwent and we will cross it by means of an aqueduct; once over the bridge there will be a boat lift called The Derby Arm and it will lift boats from the canal into the river, which will be modified to accept boats so that the centre of Derby can be reached. The red arrow indicates the new line and the white arow the Derby Arm site. Below is a diagram of the method of lifting and an illustration as to how it will look.
The Derby Arm, a unique structure invented by one of our members, consists of a pair of counterbalanced swinging arms lifting a caisson complete with boat, into the river. The arms rotate, lifting the caisson and boat and into a basin to lock into the river, like a medieval trebuchet.
This project is even bigger than the Falkirk wheel and will be an international icon celebrating Derbyshire’s engineering excellence.
Spondon to Draycott.
This walk starts from B&Q at Spondon at the end of Megalaughton Lane. The section which follows has been adopted by Spondon Community Association, known as ‘The Spondon Mile’. To the right is wasteland, which has recently been tidied up, bounded by the railway. On our left is the boundary wall of Fletcher’s who deal in reclaimed materials, some of which have been used in the restoration to date. Somewhere at the side of the wall lie buried the remains of 2 narrowboats, which were amongst the last to trade on the canal.
The route, which from B&Q has been wide and neatly trimmed, suddenly opens out to a winding hole, restored recently by Society members. Immediately after the winding hole is Station Road Bridge. The concrete strip to the right is the edge of the towpath under the bridge. The ground here is roughly at water level.
Passing under the bridge and looking back it can be seen that Derbyshire County Council has rebuilt the bridge. Local opinion at the time was that the bridge should be “dropped” to a lower level to give a better view of the traffic lights for the nearby level crossing and access to Accordis. DCC thought better. Remembering that there was a scheme afoot to restore the canal they rebuilt the bridge at the original level. This not only allows for the future but also provides a useful pedestrian underpass at the same time. A stone tablet marks the year. The Canal Trust is extremely grateful for this vote of faith in what we are trying to achieve.
On the left are new industrial units. The Canal Trust has always stated that one of the benefits in restoration would be regeneration. Developers here have beaten us to it here!
Shortly after the industrial units a public footpath turns off towards Spondon. Along here are blackberries in abundance.
A short distance further can be seen a row of cottages which have been extended very close to but just short of the canal line. Directly ahead is what appears to be an arch over the canal. This carried power cables over the canal and still follows the line of the original Angler’s Lane Bridge. Parts of the stone bridge approach walls still exist.
After more industrial units on the left, the path rises quite sharply by upwards of 6 feet above what would have been the original water level. The following area is a very well-trimmed grass. We are in the area where Spondon Power Station once stood to the right across the railway line. The Derby Canal served this with coal. Indeed it was to here that the final attempt at canal trade was to this very site. This area of canal is now largely filled in with the remains of the old A52. As we come through the trees the railway and river are close by.
Under the pylons we are now approaching what was a possible obstruction when there were industrial premises here but they have been redeveloped into housing and the line of the canal was given to the trust as part of the deal.
Here the footpath curves to the left following the line of the boundary fence and the roadway. The railway meanwhile curves off to the right away from the canal and towards the river Derwent. The weeping willows by the side of the river make a very attractive view and in the distance can be seen a grand looking canal bridge. The path bends to the right now and we pass over Ellis brook, which not only forms the boundary between Derby City and Erewash Borough Councils, but also is the limit of the restoration proposal by Spondon Community Association.
In summer this brook is often completely dry but nevertheless would at times provide a feeder and/or an overflow point. It is to here that the Canal Society in the form of Borrowash Linear Park Project will link up as they restore from the Ockbrook about half a mile further down the canal. The area now opens up as we approach the Canal Bridge seen earlier. The canal bed at this point appears not to have been filled in. This is Ullicker’s Bridge. For many years this bridge had been slowly decaying. It is owned by Derbyshire County Council who did not have the funds to maintain it even though it is a Grade II listed building. This was the second restoration that the Canal Society undertook at a time when the restoration of Swarkestone Junction Bridge was well advanced. The rebuilding, done partly by volunteers, was partly funded by a grant of £13,000 from a charitable trust. It involved installing a reinforced concrete capping over the bridge arch and the complete dismantling of both parapets. Rebuilding included the use of 200 year old reclaimed bricks.
Approximately half of the coping stones were replaced with new stonework. The access slopes from towpath level up to the bridge were also reinstated making access from the main road via the public footpath much easier. The result is what you see today. The local farmer could now remove the crossing point that he created across the canal bed when the bridge was not strong enough to take farm vehicles.
Some graffiti was in place within days of the completion of the restoration! Many local people felt that the bridge would never quite look the same once it had been restored. I hope you agree that we proved them wrong, as it has now weathered beautifully.
The footpath now goes either right or left through the farmer’s obstruction, through the trees and out into an opened grassed area. It is here that the canal originally went off to the right towards the river in a large curve. When the railway was constructed in 1837. The canal was straightened and a new lock was built in the realignment.
The Canal Company insisted that it should be constructed entirely of stone. In the event however it was built entirely of brickwork below the lower water level with elegant chamfered stonework above of typical railway style. Sadly, the cottage was condemned as unfit for human habitation and the Canal Company demolished a railway bungalow style lock keeper’s cottage into the lock chamber and the destruction was completed when the canal was filled in. The area above and below the lock was used for pleasure boating long before the current trend for major cruising around the national canal network. Below the lock site the brick wall on the offside (left) dates back to the building on this section of canal. When built, the lock bywash went into gardens on the other side of the wall forming a small lake before running back into the canal.
Station Road canal bridge is long gone. During its working lifetime it had the arch removed and replaced by a flat deck with timber handrails to reduce the hump. Restoration proposals are for a concrete culvert to be placed here, similar to that at Wilmorton.
Rail enthusiasts may care to look over the wall on the right. This area was once the site of Borrowash Station. Evidence of a footbridge can be seen in the high stone walls where the opening has been infilled. Cross Station Road. The steel railings are those installed by the Canal Trust from funds raised by match funding a donation from Redrow homes who have built a housing estate on the site of the former GIC Laundry a little further along the canal. Prior to work by the Canal Society, the towpath was virtually impassable in summer due to undergrowth across the path. This has been cleared and a well-drained and reinforced footpath now goes all the way to the Ockbrook. The canal has been cleared out here since we started work in Borrowash. Whilst the channel holds water it has filled up with rushes and other aquatic plants
On reaching Borrowash Bottom Lock (Some say it’s Shacklecross Lock after the hamlet which is now joined on to Borrowash.) we can see how much work is involved in lock restoration. The Canal Society has been working over several years. As the Trust was being formed, back in 1993, this lock chamber was still complete. Unfortunately contractors decided to infill the lock with rubble, and damage the fabric of the chamber to a major extent. Please take care when viewing. The lock chamber is very deep when empty. The system of passing excess water passed the lock was originally somewhat unusual and bears a little studying. Latterly a standard type bywash was used. The top stones of the chamber wall have been reclaimed from an original canal outfall into the River Derwent in the City centre, together with stone reclaimed from a defunct railway bridge that was demolished near Swarkestone when the new A50 was constructed.
Before reaching the Ockbrook a sewer pipe which is laid within the towpath in this area crosses the bed of the canal and then over the Brook. All of this will require a diversion of the pipe before a new culvert can be constructed to take the Brook.
A timber footbridge takes the path over the Ockbrook. The remains of the original culvert can be seen just upstream of the bridge. At the time of writing The Trust own the area around and including the Ockbrook back as far as a weir, above which water was originally extracted and fed the canal above the lock via a canal arm that went into the works area.
Having crossed the brook an access road crosses to the adjacent playing field parking area. A lift bridge will be built here. The bed becomes a roadway here and 50 yards further on Severn-Trent Water have built a concrete structure right in the bed of the canal. This was apparently done without the knowledge of the Local Authority and is cause for concern. This, however, should not have been necessary and Severn-Trent will have to make room for the canal.
The path now crosses open farmland, which is still in private ownership. Follow the hedge crossing the styles as you come to them. The pathway is usually clear to see. Close to the farm building there is evidence that there was an accommodation bridge here. The ground slopes up to the site on either side of the path and what appears to be a coping stone is half buried in the path. On passing through a hedge and seeing an open field in front, walk straight across the middle of the field in the same general line that we have walked so far. Go over the footbridge and follow the line of the barbed wire. The land here is slightly higher than the surrounding land. Indicating the line of the canal. Another farmer’s track crossing the line of the canal has land rising either side. A slab of stone is probably the only remains of the bridge that once stood here. Having passed over a stile, the barbed wire fence is now on the left. There are usually horses in this field. Pass over the next footbridge and stile. The boundary of the field is just to the left, skirting crop line. Houses on the left will eventually back onto the canal. At the end of the field, close to Nooning Lane we come across Derby Road Bridge, Draycott.
This location of this bridge is the start of the Flood Alleviation Scheme which was undertaken by The Canal Trust. In recent years Network Rail had suffered major flooding on the nearby mainline from Nottingham to Derby. This was costing them millions in compensation to the train operators when the route was closed for safety reasons. They planned to install land drains close to the rail cutting to direct water away into the river Derwent. The Canal Trust were aware that the track had never flooded prior to the infilling of the canal.
After lengthy negotiations The Trust entered into a £500,000 contract to dig out a drainage ditch along the original canal line. This included the purchase of the strip of land required which will greatly help with restoration in the future. Unforeseen problems occurred with the bridge itself. These were eventually solved. Telltales can be seen fixed to the bridge structure, which will indicate any future problems. Water runs into a sump and then to the river via a pipe close to Nooning Lane. Before completion the ditch proved its worth after a very heavy downfall on rain. Our most successful scheme to date not only saved millions for Network Rail in compensation and construction of the drainage, it also provided us with the land Hedging on both sides of the ditch was planted by local handicapped children with funding from The Countryside Commission.
A milepost (one of a thousand ) was funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland in conjunction with the Millennium Commission and the National Lottery. We are 6.25 miles from Derby and 4.25 miles from Long Eaton. This is at the start of the multi user trail part of National Cycle Network route 6 which connects Inverness to Dover. Route follows much of the Derby Canal deviating off at this point but reconnecting at the Ockbrook before going off towards Elvaston Castle.
After the long straight section on the left can be seen some derelict buildings. Latterly these were known as the Co-op Cottages and were inhabited into the 1960s. Previously the buildings were a Silk Mill Winding House, probably one of the earliest in the area, and the Silk mill stood across Hopwell Road where the farm now is. Research into their history is ongoing but they are believed to have been here before the canal was built. Hopwell Road blockage will be replaced with a lift bridge. Crossing Hopwell Road, the field to the left was a wharf for the Silk Mill. This can be seen in the crop lines when viewed from the air. This section has been heavily planted with a wide variety of trees, including fruit trees.
The clay lining of the canal still exists under the infilling. The trees within the track of the canal will need relocating being semi mature. The offside is already bordered by a line of hedging. On the right is fairly young woodland. Over to the right can be seen the buildings of the large mill in Draycott with its copper domed tower with Ratcliffe Power Station in the distance.
Further along the route we pass under what initially looks like a railway bridge but is in fact supporting 2 major Water Mains. We understand that they will be replaced and placed underground.
At the edge of a wood on the right is a Public Footpath which is part of The Midshires Way.
There is a farmer’s access either side of the canal line here, but no evidence of a former bridge exists. A lift bridge will be required here in the future. The land here is now owned by the Canal Trust but is only fenced with a narrow corridor to save on maintenance. Shortly a public footpath emerges from the field on the left and crosses the canal line – another bridge required! There are rushes to the left which would suggest that the canal is still here. The route swings to the right and then left and the level starts to drop for the next 100 yards or so to a farm drive. This will require the reinstatement of an embankment approximately 10 feet above the current path level with provision for farm vehicles over the driveway
Breaston to Sandiacre.
As we enter Breaston from Draycott we have walked through the edge of a field previously owned by a local farmer who is a supporter of our campaign. The strip of land required to reconstruct the canal has been purchased by Sustrans, the National Cycleway organisation. The Trust has an agreement to purchase the area needed for the canal bed in future years. In the meantime only the area required for the cycleway has been fenced off to save on maintenance.
Having crossed the brook and walked up the bank onto what is more or less the original level, if we look back West from where we have come we can easily imagine the large amount of earthworks that will need to be done to recreate the embankment to support the canal on its original level in line with where we are now standing. The access bridge under the canal will need to be reinstated but with allowance for more modern farm machinery.
As we pass the houses on the right, at the top of the embankment we can see that the gardens extend out further than those immediately following do. These gardens are extended over the original line of the canal, the strip of land having been purchased on the abandonment of the canal for little more than the legal costs – the Derby Canal Co. wanted rid of its liabilities as soon as possible! The canal hereabouts will therefore need a slight deviation to allow for these gardens. The footpath now swings right back onto the original line, the householders here not taking up the option to purchase.
It can be seen that there is quite a wide section fenced off here, in fact 14 – 25 meters wide, which will allow for the deviation and also the possibility of temporary moorings for boats and a wide fishing area in the future.
The digitally modified photograph illustrates what could be possible here. Just before we reach the Navigation public house on the right side there is a fenced off garden area, which has also been repurchased for future use.
On the left, to the North of the canal, is the large rear garden of the White House. Full of mature trees, the major part of the garden was once a winding hole. We are now about to cross Risley Lane.
If we look at the photograph of the Navigation before the bridge was demolished, in 1964, it is evident how much the road levels have altered in this area. To re-instate the canal on the original line will need a lift bridge here. It is no longer acceptable to build hump back bridges for modern traffic conditions particularly with very busy road crossing just below The Navigation! However in order to “traffic calm” a lift bridge and traffic lights would be a solution.
If it is found impossible to remain on the original route because of the needs of the factory units across the other side of the road, a slight deviation to the North will be required crossing the Risley Lane just past the current habitation and then swinging back onto the original line.
As we cross Risley Lane we enter the car parks and storage areas of the factory units. A Public Right of Way exists through this private land until we once more walk into green areas. We are now walking parallel with Longmoor Lane, Breaston. This area has been purchased by Sustrans for future use by the Canal Trust. This area is currently used for grazing.
To our left is the farm belonging to the founder of the Canal Trust who originally wished to restore only this following short section to provide a moat alongside his property. The local council agreed with the idea on the proviso that he did the whole canal. Such is how history is made!
Aerial photographs taken here indicate an area in the field to the North that was evidently used for clay extracted for “puddling” the bed of the canal. This was a system where 450mm or so of clay was puddled, or trampled on, often using local cattle or sheep. This effectively sealed the bed against water leaks, a particularly precious commodity on the Derby Canal.
If cattle are evident in the field, they are likely to be a rare breed – Red Poll. As we walk passed the rear of the houses on our right the original blackthorn hedge is in evidence. We are walking more or less at the original towpath level. To our left, at the edge of the field, the ground drops away as if tapering off into the waters of the canal.
We now enter a section that has been purchased by Sustrans. As we stand close to the agricultural buildings, behind the housing, we are at the site of a bridge, long since demolished. The size of the stone at the roadside would certainly indicate original canal stonework.
As we pass the prefabricated garages on our right at the side of Longmoor Lane in the distance we can see a red brick built stable block, which is the only building structure, which obstructs the original line of the canal. There is sufficient land available to the south between Longmoor Lane and the building to allow a deviation of the canal line should it be necessary.
We then approach the building and the route narrows restricting the footpath between a fence on our left and the hedge on our right. Below the fence is a stream. On close examination it can be seen that this is edged on the nearside by original stonework of the canal towpath.
After passing the building obstruction we see the embankment of the M1 Motorway completely blocking the route ahead, and to our right evidence of a sewer laid along the bed of the canal with manhole covers dotted along the canal line. There is more than enough room to cater for both canal and road traffic through the underbridge. From here to Sandiacre Junction, all the original land required for restoration is in the guardianship of the local authority. If not then we will have to Thrust Bore through the embankment.
On reaching the embankment turn right over the stile and walk under the motorway. Follow the footpath around to the left and, on approaching the oak trees; at the side of the main road bear left into the shrubbery to pick up the original route. However if the path is wet and boggy, which it sometimes is following wet weather, follow around the edge of the trees fringing the grassed triangle of land to meet up with route at Bostocks Lane. Walking through the trees the land rises quite dramatically giving an indication of the amount of infill, which will have to be removed. Bostocks Lane is a major traffic feeder to and from the M1 to Long Eaton. To our left are Branaghans and the Ramada Jarvis Hotel. On the opposite side of the road it can be seen just how much infill has been used. The original level would have been more or less level with the gardens of the houses to the right several feet below current ground level.
Looking back across the grassed area towards Longmoor Lane, Breaston, a large traffic management scheme is planned here with rerouted roads and traffic islands to smooth the flow of traffic and allow the canal to cross Bostocks lane at its original level unobstructed. Older readers may remember the cycle speedway track that once stood within the large triangle of grass back in the 1960s.
Passing through a pleasant area surrounded on both sides by trees the route runs parallel with what is now Longmoor Road, Long Eaton. After passing private garages on the left we come to Springfield Avenue where the Trust originally planned to build a lift bridge or to have the canal in a cutting at a level lower than original. Springfield Avenue is now very much a “rat run” for local traffic coming off the M1. It is possible that the road will be closed off to stop this traffic, giving the canal an uninterrupted route on the original level.
The picture below has the junction indicated by a Red Arrow.
The footpath now swings to the right to pass under Cockaynes bridge. Built in the 1930s of reinforced concrete, this is one of the eight canal bridges still standing.
The footpath running down the centre of the canal route now rises again before reaching its high point where the remains of Sandiacre Top Lock our buried well below the current ground level. The ground now falls away and in the distance can be seen a metal five barred gate and beyond a bridge parapet. About one third of the distance from the lock to the bridge investigation in the right hand hedge will reveal a low stone wall. Within the stonework is evidence of a blocked up doorway and to the left of it the foot scraper recess. These are the remains of the Boat Inn, which formerly was only reached directly by the canal. When demolished the license was transferred to the Bridge Inn close to Cockayne’s Bridge.
We now approach Sandiacre Junction with the Erewash Canal. Of the Junction bridge only one parapet remains. Sandiacre Bottom Lock is just before the gate. Once more this chamber is also buried.
The site was the subject of the last attempt at commercial use when 2 Grand Union boats, Atlas & Vela attempted to deliver coal to Spondon Power Station. They were thwarted by the Canal Company who chained the gates and summonsed the local constabulary. This even though navigation rights still existed at the time. A further attempt, in 1961, by waterway enthusiasts to navigate this section was halted by a tree being cut down to fall across the entrance. This was done during the night after the site had been checked as clear! Such was the determination of The Derby Canal Company to be rid of the canal for good
Latterly the lock gates had been in a poor state of repair and a timber brace structure off the bridge had been used to stop the mitre gates bursting open.
Prior to the restoration proposals, Severn-Trent installed a sewer down the canal towpath and then cut across the lock chamber via the gate recesses. To date no investigation has been done to find out how much damage has been done. It is assumed to be substantial!
On the right hand side before the bridge can be seen another Canal Trust information board.
A short walk down to the Erewash Canal and the original Erewash Canal Lock Cottage complete with Toll Keeper’s Office can be seen. Built in 1779, the cottage is open to visitors on certain spring and summer Sundays from 2:30 to 5:00. There is always a warm welcome from the members of the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association. Inside much of the ground floor is as it would have been in the old days with an exhibition of local canal restorations on the first floor.
The original Derby Canal Toll & lock keeper’s Cottage was demolished many years ago to be replaced by a bungalow.
The area of water between the line of the Erewash Canal and the Junction Bridge is currently in private ownership.
Access is for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and, where possible, horse riders.
The environment includes other attractions such as a Roman road running parallel, a Silk Mill and Industrial Museum, a Silk Mill Winding House, Lace Mills and Elvaston Castle Country Park, home of the Derbyshire Show. The rivers Trent & Derwent are never far away.
It also adjoins the Derwent Valley Way which is a designated World Heritage Site.
The canal and all of these attractions are well served by public transport.
There are frequent buses from Swarkestone to Derby and from Derby to Sandiacre, and rail services from Derby to Long Eaton via Spondon, all of which have disabled access. These services afford opportunities to take circular trips to explore the heritage of the area.
Rail Services: 08457 484950 or www. nationalrail.co.uk
Derby – Spondon – Long Eaton. East Midlands Trains.
Bus Services: 0870 6082608 or www.ukbus.co.uk
Derby (The Spot) – Allenton – Shelton Lock – Chellaston – Swarkestone (Pingle Lane). Arriva 61.
Derby (Bus Station) – Spondon – Borrowash – Draycott – Breaston – Long Eaton Town Hall (Erewash Canal). Trent-Barton Indigo.
Derby (Bus Station) – Spondon – Borrowash – Risley – Sandiacre (Red Lion). Trent-Barton 4.
Sandiacre (Red Lion) – Long Eaton Town Hall. Local 15.
Long Eaton Town Hall – Long Eaton Station. Trent-Barton 5.