Have you ever found yourself waiting in a long queue at a lock flight on a popular cruising route day-dreaming of a quieter alternative? In part one of a series we head east and then north by boat to escape the crowds and discover some less well known treasures along our waterways.
The Coventry Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal at Fradley Junction. This is the central cross roads in James Brindley's original Grand Cross design of inland waterways stretching north east to south west and north west to south east. From Fradley head east to the charming village of Alrewas and beyond to Burton on Trent and thence to Derwent Mouth lock, the final part of the Trent & Mersey Canal. Continue your boating adventure east to Trent Lock and Waters Meet, another major junction of waterways. From this junction you have plenty of choice for boating adventures without the crowds.
The Erewash Canal
The Erewash Canal is most definitely a treasure worth unlocking and deserves much more boat traffic, it's the perfect place to escape into the Nottinghamshire countryside. Head north through Trent Lock, take advantage of the boaters' facilities and then start your journey towards Langley Mill, the current terminus of the canal. Once upon a time you could have gone further all the way to Cromford but that's a restoration project for the future.
If you want to inspiration to cruise this off the beaten track boating hideaway, why not read these boater's blogs?
There's a lovely vlog from a 2018 trip here courtesy of YouTube boating stars Minimal List.
Continuing east at Waters Meet from the Trent & Mersey Canal is the Upper River Trent and the route to Nottingham and beyond. Make sure you follow the signs to Beeston Lock and then take the canal into the heart of Nottingham.
If your boat is suitable for river cruising, after the bustle and buzz of the city, it's time to head east again and enjoy the rural Trent Valley with its clear, fast waters, an exhilarating contrast to often turbid canals. Don't forget to make sure you've got an anchor and lifejackets on board. Head as far as the city of Newark with its dramatic castle on the water's edge.
Experienced boaters with the appropriate equipment and charts can venture further onto the tidal section beyond Cromwell Lock. There's a lovely vlog from Journey with Jono about his trip on the tidal section of the Trent which is well worth watching if you've never cruised on a tidal river before.
Only accessible via the tidal River Trent or with a trail boat such as a small cabin cruiser or Wilderness boat, the Chesterfield Canal is a gem that not many boaters will reach so it's perfect for escaping the crowds if you can get there. It's a beautifully green and peaceful canal and feels secluded and rural for most of its length. There's an active canal restoration group busily working towards connecting the Chesterfield end of the canal to the rest of the network, but from West Stockwith to Kiverton there is so much to see and enjoy. Don't miss the amazing Turnerwood flight of locks or the Drakeholes site of special scientific interest.
Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigations
From the mouth of the Chesterfield Canal head north to Keadby Lock and the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, these days considered to be part of the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigations. There are three boat yards at the historic port of Thorne where you can find boat services such as fuel and sanitary facilities. The navigation is wide so perfect for larger boaters and there's a variety of bridges and rural views to enjoy as you pass through quiet countryside. Do listen out on VHF 74 channel to listen out for commercial traffic on the waterway, you may get to see the Exol Pride at work.
At Bramwith Lock the navigation turns south towards Doncaster and Sheffield and you'll experience the contrasts of the area's former industrial past as well as open rural scenery. Doncaster has an award-winning market, restaurants, a theatre, several museums and the Yorkshire wildlife park. Don't miss the beautiful Sprotborough lock or the fascinating buildings in Sheffield Basin that tell the story of the canal's past at the terminus of the waterway.
We hope that has whetted your apetitite to think about boating somewhere new to you. Next time we'll look at boating across the Pennines.