Posted on 16/09/2019
Every canal needs a guardian angel, and that role is often taken by local trusts and societies, whose fundraising and physical labour is essential to the future of the network. In Chesterfield, that role is taken by the Chesterfield Canal Trust.
Although it was officially closed in 1961, the Chesterfield Canal is now only nine miles short of full restoration thanks to the sterling work of the Chesterfield Canal Trust, whose volunteers hope to complete restoration in 2027 for the 250th anniversary of the canal’s opening. Working in partnership with Canal & River Trust, the Chesterfield Canal Trust also run four trip boats from their base at Hollingwood Hub, a restored old lock house.
The Chesterfield Canal Trust was created in 1976 as the Chesterfield Canal Society. At the time, the canal was completely derelict from Worksop but a boat rally held to celebrate the canal’s 200th anniversary attracted 1,800 people and 150 boats, showing there was public enthusiasm for restoration. Key locks were restored and reopened in 1990 and 1995, with the society changing its name to the Chesterfield Canal Trust in 1997. As well as running various trip boats, the Chesterfield Canal Trust has built Dawn Rose, a reconstruction of the old ‘cuckoo’ boats that were unique to the canal. They have also restored the lock house at Hollingwood Lock, renaming it the Hollingwood Hub and featuring a coffee shop and meeting rooms. The Chesterfield Canal Trust even has its own working boat, Python, which is used for maintenance in partnership with Canal & River Trust as well as publicity. But their most important project is the restoration of the canal, with volunteers meeting regularly to continue work. The most recent section to be completed was Hartington Harbour, which opened in 2018.
As well as fully restoring the Chesterfield Canal, the Chesterfield Canal Trust is also campaigning for the construction of the Rother Link, which would join the Chesterfield Canal to the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation through the canalisation of a section of the River Rother. They also have a magazine, Cuckoo, and hold regular meetings and social events.