Fossdyke Navigation

The Fossdyke Navigation dates back to Roman times, giving it a strong claim to be Britain’s oldest canal. Flat, marshy fenlands stretch out for miles on either side, giving a real sense of space - and the sunsets can be spectacular.

The Fossdyke Navigation passes through mostly rural surroundings until it reaches Lincoln. From the canal, you can see the magnificent gothic cathedral and the dramatic battlements of the castle.

One of the most distinctive features of this canal is the Glory Hole, where the canal passes through an arch in an ancient half-timbered building which stands right across the water.

Walkers and cyclists can explore this rural navigation via the Fossdyke Canal Trail, which joins the National Cycle Route 64 shortly after Burton Waters.

Find stoppages, restrictions and other navigational advice for this waterway.

Days out

Brayford Pool in Lincoln is a great destination for a family day out. Don't forget to walk along to High Bridge (nicknamed the Glory Hole by boaters) which dates back to 1160 AD.

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The history

The River Witham had always been used by the Romans, who navigated it from the Wash at Boston to Lindum Colonia - now known as Lincoln. In around 120 AD, they built the Fossdyke to connect the Witham to the River Trent.

The navigation thus has a longer history than most others. One of its more notable cargoes was the stone used to build Lincoln Cathedral in the 11th century. But other than work carried out during the time of Henry I in the 12th century, few improvements have been made to the Romans' original design.

Competition from railways led to commercial decline, but agricultural produce was still being routinely carried by sailing keels and barges from the River Trent right up to the 1970s. The waterway still exercises an important drainage function. Navigation may be subject to prevailing water levels or sluicing operations, and some locks require advance notice for passage.

The flat landscape affords spectacular views of sunrise and sunset, though these may be curtailed in places by embankments. At Lincoln, the River Witham begins its journey to the sea: navigators leave the city by passing under the Glory Hole, reputedly the oldest bridge in the country with buildings still standing over it. Lincoln Castle and Cathedral are accessed via a steep walk. The Cathedral is considered one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Europe.


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