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Opening up canal heritage

Next month sees the return of Heritage Open Days, England’s largest festival of history and culture.

A group of people paddling down the canal in canoes

Taking place from 8 to 17 September 2023, the festival gives people a chance to visit historical venues that are rarely open to the public. As ever, along with our partners, we'll be celebrating our canal heritage with a raft of free waterside events, with festivals, boat trips, guided tours, and open days.

Exciting events coming to a canal near you

Starting in the north, we'd love you to join us at Attercliffe moorings for the Sheffield & Tinsely Canal Community Day on 16 September. There'll be fun for all the family with Let's Paddle activities, as well as Let's Walk events along the towpath which will introduce you to the canal's rich industrial heritage.

Meanwhile on the 13 & 14 September the collections team at The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port will be opening the doors of our brand new Photogrammetry Suite. Thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, this ground-breaking project is creating 3D virtual representations of some our most prized and rare waterways artefacts. Drop in to find out how we are preserving these cultural heritage materials for future generations to enjoy.

A shot on a sunny day of National Waterways Museum,Ellesmere Port

On Saturday 9 September, come and visit Natures Classroom: Bugsworth Basin's Heritage Open Day. Enjoy paddle sports, boat trips, heritage walks, live music, outdoor forestry fun, environmental talks, craft activities and much more. Why not take a short walk or boat trip from the Basin and visit the Whaley Bridge's own Grade II listed Transhipment Warehouse, which will be hosting its FAB (Food & Arts) Market.

Alternatively, join us in Derbyshire for a weekend of family fun on 9 and 10 September, as we co-host the Shardlow Inland Port Festival on the Trent & Mersey Canal. Explore the historic working narrowboats gathered on the wharf, indulge in a little retail therapy at the floating market, and enjoy live music, Morris dancers and fairground attractions on the waterfront. Bring your four-legged friend along for a fun dog show. Feeling brave? Join us for a spine-chilling ghost walk.

At Foxton Locks, home to the longest, steepest staircase locks in the country, you can learn more about the Inclined Plane, a scheduled ancient monument with a visit to the museum, run by the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust. Free guided walks exploring the site run over the Heritage Day weekends, giving you a chance to explore everything the 34-acre site has to offer.

A photo of a steeply inclined field next to the canal

Why not take a visit to the country's first Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, which opened in 1963 based on the collection of local lock keeper Jack James. There will be free hands-on activities and chances to handle artefacts running across both weekends led by our knowledgeable volunteers. There is also a chance to explore the new family gallery in the museum.

Visit Birmingham's Roundhouse from 8 to 17 September for a ride on a genuine working narrowboat. Lovingly maintained by our dedicated team of volunteers, our colourful heritage boats date back to the 1930s. Hop aboard and explore these marvellous vessels while our volunteers tell you about the lives of the people that lived and worked on them. Then it's time to cast off for an unforgettable trip around Birmingham's waterways.

A shot from the canal of Birmingham's Roundhouse building

Looking for something a little different? Come and explore Diglis Island in Worcester on 13 and 15 September. Explore the renovated Victorian workshop in the centre of the man-made island in the middle of the River Severn and find out more about the new fish pass, an impressive feat of engineering which has enabled one of the UK's rarest fish, the shad, to reach historic spawning grounds.

Drone photo of a river and an island

Step back in time at the National Waterways Museum Gloucester, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Llanthony Warehouse. Once at the epicentre of Gloucester's booming canal trade, the museum takes you on a journey charting the 200-year history of the docks and Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Join us on 8 and 9 September as we mark the occasion with family activities, trails and boat trips on our historic Dunkirk Little Ship.

If you're based in the capital, come along to West India Docks Impounding Station on the Isle of Dogs on 16 and 17 September for a peek behind the scenes.

Inside this unassuming red-brick building, you'll get a rare glimpse of the newly restored pump room. Your guide will tell you all about the building's history and give you a chance to see the giant automated pumps in action.

A shot of a pump room interior

Alternatively, why not join us on 9 and 10 September at our museum at Brentford Tollhouse on the Grand Union Canal? The Grade II listed building is home to an array of fascinating artefacts from the golden age of canals. Stop by and chat with our volunteers for a unique insight into the history of London's waterways.

These are just a handful of the exciting Heritage Open Days taking place on our canals and rivers this September. For a full summary of all our upcoming events, please check out our events calendar.

Last Edited: 01 August 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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