The Nottingham Canal - a photographic exploration
I have to admit, I didn’t expect to find anything quite as beautiful in the Erewash Valley when I started my research. For a canal which has largely been forgotten since the 1970s, when the short-lived Nottingham Canal Society existed, a huge amount remains. Unusually, this canal is still partly navigable, and connected to the rest of the system, at both ends. The southernmost two of the original locks are used regularly as part of the Trent Navigation, along with Beeston Cut, to bypass the River Trent in Nottingham. The upper basin, and final stop lock where it joins the Cromford Canal as part of the Great Northern Basin complex, is used for moorings at Langley Mill.
But what of the other 12¼ miles and 17 locks which were built between the two? What would be the obstacles to restoration - and why should anyone bother? My first reason for suggesting this is the purely pragmatic one of providing a river-free route to Nottingham from the midlands. This would include passing through a restored Derby and Sandiacre Canal and would also give access, just across the Trent in Nottingham, to the Grantham Canal. This is actually quite important; many boaters only reach as far as Shardlow in their explorations - because of a perceived risk in navigating any river - and so miss out on a lot that Nottingham, and the East Midlands, have to offer. The canal itself passes through D H Lawrence country - an incentive for many more to visit - and, as I discovered, there is some outstanding scenery. If we include a restored Cromford Canal, there is a lot of unrealised tourist potential in these valleys.
It is also rare in canal restoration for so many of the original major road crossings to still be in situ. That is not to say there are no major obstacles - but there is absolutely nothing which has not been dealt with before elsewhere in the country - especially on the trans-pennine waterways. Before describing the route in detail I would have to say that my final reason for publishing this is in the hope that it will inspire someone to restart a Nottingham Canal Society and at least work with local authorities to encourage and assist them to preserve better what remains; initially, to improve wildlife habitats and access to areas for canoeing and walking. Even if this is as far as it gets, they are still worthwhile objectives. Broxtowe District Council has improved the footpath route from Langley Mill to Attenborough as part of the Erewash Valley Trail. This incorporates much of the Nottingham Canal route. So now seems a good time to strike!