The canal basin was where everything happened. These inland ports were where many canals started and where much of the cargo was loaded and unloaded, large open expanses of water at the end of the line that would once have been heaving with men, boats and goods. With canals having long since moved from industrial to leisure space, the basin has also had to change. Many were abandoned, filled with detritus and stagnant water, until the restoration movement took hold and improvements began. Ripon Canal Basin is a particularly genteel example of a modern basin, containing a shop, trip boats, walking routes and picnic benches. Like many basins, what was once a hive of industry and bustle is now a tranquil and easily overlooked spot to be enjoyed in relative serenity.
The tiny Ripon Canal was created to link Ripon with the River Ure, which would then take boats to York and Hull. It was built by celebrated canal engineer William Jessop and opened in 1773 but was among the earliest canals to close in 1906 and was completely abandoned in 1956. A restoration campaign began almost immediately, but the canal was not brought back into full use until 1996. In its heyday, the canal had been primarily used to bring coal to Ripon, with bricks, lead, butter, cheese, corn and other agricultural products moving in the other direction. As such, the canal basin at Ripon contained a warehouse and a manager’s house and was soon joined by coal and timber yards as a small industrial area developed. The 18th-century warehouse, manager’s house and some surrounding store buildings are still standing; occupants include a beauty salon.
Ripon Canal Basin was the last part of the canal to be restored in 1996, at which point it was the most northerly point on the entire network until the construction of the Ribble Link. It now houses Ripon Scenic Cruises, which offers one- and two-hour cruises along this pretty rural canal. They are also available for private hire. There’s also a café and farm shop housed in an old forge. The basin is only a short walk from the town centre and you can also take a circular walk along the canal into the surrounding countryside past several bird hides, two locks, an old lock keeper’s cottage and the nearby marina at the racecourse. A Christmas market will be held at the basin on 3 December, as attempts continue to regenerate the basin area.
Plan your day out with our online guide to Ripon.