Fossdyke Navigation

The Fossdyke Navigation dates back to Roman times, giving it a strong claim to be Britain’s oldest canal.

Fossdyke Navigation courtesy of Marcus Hill-Jones Fossdyke Navigation courtesy of Marcus Hill-Jones

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The Fossdyke Navigation passes through mostly rural surroundings until it reaches Lincoln. The flat landscape affords spectacular views of sunrise and sunset, though these may be curtailed in places by embankments. From the canal, you can see the magnificent gothic Lincoln Cathedral and the dramatic battlements of the castle.

Walkers and cyclists can explore this rural navigation via the Fossdyke Canal Trail, which joins the National Cycle Route 64 shortly after Burton Waters. And with 10 miles of lock-free paddling, why not try the Fossdyke Canoe trail?

Days out along the Fossdyke

The history

In around 120 AD, the Romans built the Fossdyke to connect the River Witham to the River Trent. This canal therefore has a longer history than most others. After the departure of the Roman army the works decayed until the channel was scoured out in 1121, in the reign of Henry I. During the next few centuries it silted up several times, becoming almost unusable until cleansed again. It was not until 1744 that a reliable channel was created and maintained.

The canal was leased to the Great Northern Railway in 1846. Competition 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.