Chesterfield Canal

Cuckoo dyke

I live about 50 yards (as the crow flies) or a quarter of a mile of a mile (as the foot walks) from the canal. Before I came here, about four years ago in 2007, I’d never even heard of it.

Walking has never been so easy, by their very nature, canals have no hills. There are exceptions where there are long lock flights or, on some canals, mechanical contrivances, but these are very much in the minority.

The Chesterfield is known as “Cuckoo Dyke* and the towpath walkway as “Cuckoo Way” after the “Cuckoo” boats which were used on it. (see here for some musing about the name.)

Canal profile Chesterfield → Trent
click to embiggen

The canal used to run from the River Trent at West Stockwith to Retford (with wide locks) and on to Chesterfield (narrow locks).

Canal end at May 2011.
There is now a gap in the waterway between the eastern end of the Norwood tunnel and just north-east of Staveley. The Canal trust are, literally, working on it.


The canal is 46 miles long. It originally had 64 locks (excluding Stockwith Basin) and 85 bridges. Lock and bridge counts are now considerably different; rail and road have increased the bridge count and subsidence and disuse have changed the locks. And of course there’s Norwood tunnel and the Norwood flight.

More info and piccies

I’ve walked most of it (just the last 10 miles to West Stockwith to do) the pictures are here on Flickr. There’s more blog pages here, and a snow one starts here. That last walk’s repeated a few days later when the snow had gone here. Some general as well as specifically Chesterfield Canal related stuff is here.

I’m not going to do what’s been done so well elsewhere by telling the story of the canal but, if you’re interested, here’s some info:

Learn about the canal:


First off, let’s see the best guide to the Chesterfield: the Richlow guide. As well as a full boater’s guide (wire bound so it lies flat) there are twelve detailed maps of the canal including the “broken bit” from Kiveton Park to Staveley. I’m no boater (wish I was) but these maps seem to give all the information you could need.
There’s also a blog page on the website with current developments.
Also by Richlow are other booklets about the ‘History of the canal’, ‘Norwood Tunnel’ and the story of the ‘Houses of Parliament Stone’. They are well worth the money.
John Lower and Christine Richardson have done a great job with these publications. Go and buy them!

Chesterfield Canal Trust

From the website:

Following a vigourous campaign by the volunteers of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club in the early 1960’s, the future of the 26 miles of canal from West Stockwith to Worksop was assured by its designation as a cruiseway in the 1968 Transport Act. Since then British Waterways have maintained and improved the cruiseway to an increasingly high standard.
Ambitions then were focussed upon the possibility of retrieving the abandoned 20 miles of canal between Worksop and Chesterfield, and on 30 September 1976 a packed meeting in Worksop Library witnessed the foundation of the Chesterfield Canal Society, and the formation of its first committee.

The Trust has taken over from the Society: go and read the site. They’re doing a tremendous job, mainly around Staveley at the moment but any- and every- where along the canal you’ll find evidence of their work. Look at the site and join?

Two trip boats are run by the trust: Nb Seth Ellis at Retford and Nb John Varley on the Chesterfield section.

Much of the historical information on the site is by Christine Richardson of Richlow Books.

I’m not in love with the website: it’s not the easiest to find your way around. To check information about the canal, length, number of locks, etc., I had to go to the trusty Richlow Guide. I dare say it’s all there but not easily findable. The page on Restoration History for some reason stops at 2006 giving the impression that it’s stopped despite the current situation at Staveley and Hollingwood. Plenty of mention in the “News” section, but this soon disappears off the front page. There’s no mention (that I could find) about the outcome, if any, of the 2006-7 study on Norwood. All this stuff might be common knowledge to those intimate with the doings of the Trust, but a casual visitor has no chance.

Thinking about it, there’s nothing wrong with the site: it’s the contents menu that wants sorting.

(They do have the good taste to have a couple of my pics.)



Of course there’s an article.


Probably the best map on t’web is Waterscape’s interactive version.

My Walks and Pics

Worksop → Kiveton Park

Click for some random facts about the canal and canals in general

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