The Chesterfield Canal Restoration Update

Turnerwood and Thorpe Locks

An update covering July and August 2002 by J L Nuttall,
Regional Projects Manager, British Waterways NE.

On Saturday 6th July 2002 a public Open Day was held to view progress on the Cinderhill Flight. The locks were all at different degrees of reconstruction, with Quarry Lock the most advanced with the lock and byweir completed and lock gates and operating equipment all in place. In contrast, One Slide Lock was de-watered and taking-down of areas to be rebuilt had commenced.

The open day involved parking at Shireoaks Marina and then walking through the restored Nottinghamshire length to reach the first section of the Rotherham restoration. In spite of poor weather on the preceding days and the length of the walk (approximately 2km) it was very pleasing to have between 500 to 600 visitors from as far away as Market Harborough. From conversations with people, I would say the restoration was perceived as being of very great value to the local area.

The event involved staff from both British Waterways East Midlands Navigations and North East Regional Office, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and the contractors Galliford Northern. Our thanks must go to the local residents, in particular those at Turnerwood who allowed use of both sides of the canal for a circular route round the works. After the many months of towpath closure, the residents coped with the mass invasion of visitors and I was pleased to observe several local reunions between some residents and the visitors.

The works are progressing on schedule and on the Cinderhill Flight four of the six locks are now complete with their lock gates installed. The fifth set of lock gates (One Slide Lock) will be arriving week commencing 12th August 2002.

On the Thorpe Flight, Thorpe Low Treble is now complete as far as the lock rebuilding and fitting of gates is concerned – only the excavation for the byweir remains and this will be dealt with now that the engineering works are finished. Thorpe Top Treble Lock has all three chambers substantially completed, but the gates have not yet been delivered. Brickyard Double Lock structure is virtually complete and anchors are currently being installed. Works are underway rebuilding the chambers on the remaining locks with the completion expected by mid November. With so many of the locks being completed around the same time, we shall have a difficulty in designing, manufacturing and fitting so many lock gates in a short space of time. We are however looking carefully at our programme. Although the lock reconstruction programme has generally remained on target throughout the works, repairs in the quoin areas which required completion before the gates could be measured, have meant the supply of lock gates commenced later than originally planned.

Thorpe Lock Treble Bridge rebuilding is now well underway and Martin Dils of our Technical Services department has provided the following information: “According to the date inscribed into the keystone, this bridge was constructed in 1835, post dating the construction of the canal by some 58 years. Pressure to retain the original fabric of the bridge was such that a strengthening scheme had to be designed to remedy significant structural defects, and allow the bridge to be usable by future occasional light vehicles and pedestrians.

The strengthening consists of providing a mass concrete saddle to the arch. This serves to stabilise the slightly distorted arch barrel. The concrete extends down the back of the (thin) towpath abutment and has been tied to the brick sub structures using stainless steel dowels. This achieves a composite structure having an increased foundation area, which will safely transmit loading to suitable ground, avoiding any further foundation movement.

Extensive and carefully designed temporary works have been necessary to maintain the required support to the arch barrel during the process of removing the fill materials. Tie rods and propping members were used, but these have been removed. Brickwork repairs are due to commence shortly to the arch soffit, parapets and wingwalls.

As excavation works proceeded it was interesting to find sub structures relating to the original canal construction, before the bridge was built. For example, buried wall features were revealed behind the wet abutment, which were unexpected. The permanent works were modified slightly to accommodate these finds without removing them and records were made by archaeologists before covering up.

Removal of the render to the arch face has revealed, as expected, a number defects including cracks and open joints. These are to be repaired using a combination of stitching ties and brickwork repair. The masonry voussoir blocks to the arch face are to receive stitching ties to secure them to each other and horizontally into the arch barrel to arrest any further separation.”

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council have now approved the towpath and access improvements which will enable its use in all four seasons of the year. In addition the works include a new ramp from the towpath at Pudding Dyke Bridge to give access to the public areas of the adjoining woodlands. Control barriers have been included at key locations following discussions with local residents.

The first drafts of the interpretation and signage boards have been displayed at local liaison meetings.

Once the canal is open we recognise that boaters will have access for the first time in living memory to the double and treble locks. As there are no other examples on the Chesterfield Canal, the local waterway staff are currently working on suitable guidance notes.

We hope that the open day demonstrated the extent of the work which has been undertaken and why we have found it necessary to have the lengthy towpath closure. We are mindful that many will wish to visit the restored canal and when safe to do so we will reopen individual sections of the towpath.

The works are split into two geographical sites for convenience of control. On the Cinderhill to Turnerwood Flight, Quarry Lock, Turnerwood Top Lock and Turnerwood Bottom Lock are completed, including fitting of lock gates. The remaining three locks (Feeder Lock, Stone Lock and One Slide Lock) are all substantially advanced in terms of reconstruction. I would hope to see the rebuilding works on these three locks completed by late August 2002. This is an excellent rate of progress and has partly been achieved by covering the lock chambers during the winter period to enable works to continue in adverse weather conditions.

A similar rate of progress has been achieved on the Thorpe Lock Flight in so far as the three chambers of Thorpe Top Treble Lock and Thorpe Low Treble Locks are both substantially completed as regards re-construction. In addition Brickyard Double Locks rebuilding is at an advanced stage. Several of the single chamber locks are currently in the process of taking down the damaged areas of work for reconstruction.

Works have commenced on the major repairs to Thorpe Lock Bridge and these are in advance of the original planned start date.

There have been several arranged interested visitor parties shown around the site during the construction phase and the comments have been very favourable as to the quality of work.

The proposals for towpath and access improvements have been broadly publicised and Rotherham MBC who are funding these improvements have approved the works to proceed. The objective is to include the towpath and access improvements for completion by the same time as the main restoration contract. As it is part of the project Rotherham MBC are developing proposals for interpretation and signage at key points and these are currently being included in consultation at the various liaison meetings which we jointly attend as the restoration progresses.

British Waterways is planning an open day to allow the public to visit Cinderhill Flight on Saturday 6th July 2002. For further information on this event please contact Nicola Rollason on 01636 675716.

As part of the archaeological recording the footbridge at Turnerwood, which provides a pedestrian access to Quarry Lock was investigated and a reconstruction drawing provided by the archaeologists. The engineers are currently developing the reconstruction drawing into a proposal which will comply with the current health and safety legislation. The original bridge had unfortunately collapsed and the remains were incomplete.

The open byweir for Turnerwood Top Lock passes beneath the towpath into the main byweir channel which runs in the embankment behind the towpath. This is because of development on the offside of this lock built since the canal was closed almost 100 years ago. This is an unusual arrangement on this canal, but not altogether unique e.g. Worksop Town Lock byweir is culverted underneath the towpath. This byweir construction has only been possible through the support for the restoration by two residents of Turnerwood who made their land available.

There were many meetings including offsite demonstrations and revisions proposed of the lock operating equipment. The final planning approval was delayed hence as the parts needed to be cast and machined the first three sets finally arrived on site in late June 2002 (they should have been received in February 2002). At least there will be some to view on the planned open day.

Support for Bilby Lane Bridge, June 2002.

The Inland Waterways Association has confirmed the importance it attaches to restoration of the Chesterfield Canal with the announcement of a £5,000 grant from its Restoration Grants Fund towards construction of the new bridge on Bilby Lane, between Brimington and New Whittington on the Derbyshire length of the canal. The existing bridge was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by a concrete slab too low for boats pass under. Tony Harrison, IWA Restoration Committee Chairman, said, “IWA is pleased to support this project, which is an important step in the eventual re-opening of the Chesterfield Canal”

The European Regional Development Fund and the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme have recently awarded grants to the project, which is estimated to cost £100,000 in total. Derbyshire County Council is carrying out the project with support from Chesterfield Borough Council. Saint-Gobain Pipelines’ Staveley plant is also helping Derbyshire County Council with the project. Because the land adjoining the bridge is owned by Saint-Gobain Pipelines, the company has granted the Council unconditional access to the area so that construction of the new, bigger bridge can begin. Saint-Gobain Pipelines has given the Council thirty square metres of land to construct the bridge parapets and has issued a wayleave for an indefinite period of time, giving Derbyshire County Council unrestricted access to the bridge to carry out future repairs. The company has also granted permission for the Council to use the old Great Central railway line as a haulage route for the construction. Councillor Bob Janes, cabinet member for community services at Derbyshire County Council, said: “The new bridge will open up a five mile stretch of the Chesterfield Canal to boat owners and enable a lot more people to enjoy the area. We are always happy to work in partnership with private firms.”

Chris Johnson, Planning Engineer at Saint-Gobain Pipelines comments: “We are really pleased to help Derbyshire County Council with the Bilby Lane Bridge project. The canal has historically been a very important source of transportation and water for Staveley works and it is fitting that we are able to help to maintain the heritage of the area. This stretch of canal has great potential for boat owners and walkers alike, and we hope the finished project will generate greater recreational interest in our area.”

The Chesterfield Canal Restoration Update 2002

Background and brief history of the Chesterfield Canal

The Chesterfield Canal was opened in 1777 and was 46 miles in total from Chesterfield to West Stockwith on the River Trent, via Staveley, Killamarsh, Worksop and Retford. It has 66 locks ( the sixty-sixth only being built in 1999!), and one major engineering feature which is the 2880 yard Norwood Tunnel, whose collapse in 1907 severed the canal into two halves, effectively the Derbyshire section (11 miles) being separated from the section in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire (35 miles). While much of the canal became derelict, the 26 mile section from West Stockwith to Worksop was saved by the campaigning of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club in the 1960s and has since been fully navigable. Most of the canal in Derbyshire was sold off by British Waterways to local landowners in the 1970s, although a significant four mile section from Chesterfield to Staveley was acquired by Derbyshire County Council in 1989.