Twenty six miles of the 46-mile Chesterfield Canal from the Trent to Worksop were successfully saved from closure by the efforts of the Retford & Worksop Boat Club in the 1960s. But for the remaining twenty miles from Worksop to Chesterfield it’s been a long had struggle towards eventual reopening. Because not only does this section contain most of the canal’s locks and its longest tunnel; it’s also been unused for the best part of a century and has been blocked, filled in and damaged by mining subsidence.
Campaigning by Chesterfield Canal Trust from the 1970s failed to persuade the canal’s owners British Waterways to allow volunteer restoration work to begin on the length from Worksop to Norwood Tunnel. So eventually they went elsewhere: work began in the late 1980s on the final five miles to Chesterfield which remained in water (because it was used to supply local industries) and it wasn’t owned by BW so they couldn’t prevent work. This section was completely reopened by 2002 – by which time BW attitudes had softened on the Chesterfield to Worksop length and a project funded by Derelict Land Grants saw this section completely restored and reopened in 2003.
This leaves the ten most difficult miles, including the tunnel which has collapsed. A short section at the east end will be restored but most of it will need to be bypassed by a diversion involving by cuttings, new locks and a slightly higher summit level.
West of the tunnel, volunteer work has concentrated on sections near Renishaw, while plans are made for a diversion that will be needed around a housing estate built on the canal at Killamarsh.