Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal

Please Note: Since this page was written there has been much development at the northern end of the canal. Formerly derelict stretches are now being restored and the northern most section around Moira is complete.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal History

Ashby-de-la-Zouch (pronounced zooch) is situated in north west Leicestershire in the east midlands. Although once rich with limestone and coal fields the town and surrounding areas are attractive and mostly rural.

From the moment the Coventry Canal was granted its Act, other local businessmen looked at ways to create a similar route slightly to the east which would also link into the Trent and Mersey Canal or the River Trent. Time and again the idea was promoted but nothing was ever begun.

Eventually a plan was formed under the name of the Ashby Canal. The promoters were mainly Leicestershire businessmen who owned limestone works and coal fields around the Ashby-de-la-Zouch area.

Both Derbyshire and the Black Country were becoming prosperous due to coal being carried by canal, it was thought that west Leicestershire could also cash in if it had a canal.

The plan which was promoted included a main line from the Coventry Canal to Ashby-de-la-Zouch - the idea of linking into the Trent and Mersey Canal was dropped as local business was now more important than a through-route. Two branch lines to limestone works at Cloudhill and Ticknall were also promoted.

An Act was granted which allowed the construction of a canal from Marston Jabbett (where it would join the Coventry Canal) to the centre of Ashby and then on to Ticknall in Derbyshire. A branch would also head from Ashby to Cloudhill with another running to Ashby Woulds near Moira.

This would create a waterway totalling 43 miles, 30 of which would be completely lock free.

However, the most northerly 13 miles (on the Ticknall section) would have to be built across difficult terrain with a large amount of locks, a reservoir, a pumping station and a tunnel. It was soon realised that the company could not afford to build such a difficult route and the decision was made to build the lines to Ticknall and Cloudhill as plateways (early railways), Benjamin Outram was employed to engineer the plateways. Meanwhile the planned branch line to Ashby Woulds (near Moira) now became the main line.

At this same time, the Grand Junction Canal was being built and this prompted its promoters to look into the possibility of making a link to the Trent and Mersey Canal via the Ashby Canal. This would have provided a shorter route from London to Manchester though in the end the plan was abandoned and the Grand Junction route eventually linked to the Trent & Mersey Canal by way of the Oxford and Coventry canals and later also via the River Soar Navigation.

The Ashby Canal seems to have had more chiefs than indians - most of them famous ones. Engineers Jessop, Outram, the Whitworths (father & son) and Thomas Newbold were all involved in its construction at different stages though it would appear that Robert Whitworth did most of the actual main line construction.

Like many other waterways, the Ashby Canal was confronted by numerous stubborn land owners who refused to allow the canal to take its chosen route. For instance, a Mr. Curzan opposed the construction of the route near his land by claiming it would cut him off from access to his water supply.

A bridge was offered to him by the company but he still objected. Pipes were proposed which would bring his water right into his house, saving him a ½ mile walk to fill up his bucket - still he objected. Eventually, after much negotiating and many more proposals, it became obvious that Mr. Curzan's objections had nothing to do with his water supply. It was found that he opposed the canal because of his hatred of industry! He said he didn't want Ashby-de-la-Zouch to end up like Sheffield!

While the route was still under construction it became apparent that the quality and quantity of coal coming from the mines of west Leicestershire was nowhere near as good as the coal being mined in Derbyshire and the Black Country. Some people began to fear that the canal was doomed to failure even before it had seen its first boat. All the same, a 1½ mile plateway was built and opened running from the canal near Moira to Newfields Pits.

The plateways were the first to be completed with both lines (from Ticknall and Cloudhill to Willesley) opened by October. The canal line to Moira was also opened during this year while to the south the main line of the canal was well on its way to completion.

The Ashby Canal Company Minute Book (2.4.1804) notes that the coal supply situation was still unsatisfactory and records that the company commissioned Willis Bailey and Jonathan Woodhouse to carry out a survey of the local coal resources.

Colin Owen in his book 'The Leicestershire and South Derbyshire coal field 1200 - 1900' suggests that the encouraging results from this survey may have persuaded the Earl of Moira to sink his Double Pits on the Ashby Woulds (Moira) later in the year. This brought new hope for the canal company and eventually the mine produced enough good quality coal that it was in demand as far away as London and Oxford. The canal company set reduced tolls for carriage of coal and this kept the route going and eventually it produced a profit.

On April 19th, the Ashby Canal opened throughout from the Coventry Canal at Marston Jabbett to Moira. Near the point where the Newfields plateway began in Moira, a lime stone furnace was build on the canal bank. This building still stands today and is one of the country's most important historic canal structures.

At Moira Baths, near the end of the canal, a plateway was added heading just 600 yards south to Furnace Pits.

A new rail track branch was opened on the Cloudhill line from above Lount Wood, heading north for 1½ miles, to Heath End Colliery. This began a whole spate of rail tracks built by the canal company over the next few years.

A rail track was opened from the end of the canal at Ashby Woulds (Moira) to Granville Colliery and Pottery at Woodville near Swadlincote, a distance of 3 miles. Another branch was added to this heading west for 1¼ miles to Church Gresley.

Another short (½ mile) rail track was built at Moira Baths, this time heading north east to Rawdon Pits. At some stage a hotel was also built at Moira Baths.

Another rail track was added to the Cloudhill line just east of Lount Wood, it was just 300 yards long (heading south) to Park Wood but it connected the canal to yet another prosperous colliery.

With the canal company running as many miles of rail track as it was canal, it was always likely that the company would sell out to a railway company. Thus Midland Railways bought the Ashby Canal and all of its rail tracks, the new owners immediately put forward plans to close down the canal line. This would not only effect trade on the Ashby Canal but would also greatly effect neighbouring waterways.

The owners of the Coventry Canal and the nearby Oxford Canal feared that they would find it impossible to cope with the loss of tolls generated by boats using their waterways to reach the Ashby Canal. The two companies managed to continually foil the railway company and were so successful at it that traffic on the Ashby Canal actually increased, leaving the railway with no hope of gaining permission to close the route down.

Coal carrying continued at a fairly high level well into the 1900's and the canal became one of a small few that never closed. However, subsidence in the heavily mined area around Ashby-de-la-Zouch caused problems throughout the 1900's. Bridges were continually sinking and this became so bad that heavy blocks were left near some bridges so that boat crews could use them to make their boats heavier, and thus lower in the water, for passage under the bridges.

A sign of things to come appeared when a breach caused by mining subsidence occurred on the canal near Moira. This was repaired and the canal was reopened but the cost of repair was over £10,000, ten times the annual toll receipt for the whole canal!

Eventually subsidence got so bad that the northern end of the route beyond Moira had to be abandoned. Four years later the Ashby Canal joined the rest of the British canal system in the Government's nationalisation of rail and waterways.

With mining subsidence getting ever worse and lack of use rendering maintenance unworthy, the Government closed the stretch from Snarestone to Moira though some commercial traffic still continued to use the route. This closure set the ball rolling for a group of enthusiasts to get together and form the Ashby Canal Association - their first task, to prevent any more closures, then to reopen the abandoned sections.

The 22 miles which remained navigable were given "cruiseway" status in the Government's Transport Act. By this time the quiet lock-free waterway was gaining a fair amount of pleasure craft.

The last coal carrying boat on the Ashby Canal departed from Gopsall Wharf and delivered to Donisthorpe on the officially closed section of the canal. Since this time there has been no commercial traffic on the northern sections of Ashby Canal though occasional carrying continued to the south. In the following years parts of the abandoned route were filled in and built on and several bridges were flattened. The section from Moira to Snarestone was now closed though the southern 21 miles from Snarestone to Marston Jabbett remained open.

Commercial carrying on the Ashby Canal came to a complete end. The last cargo was loaded at Gopsall Wharf.

After many years of campaigning, the Ashby Canal's restoration group managed to persuade the local council to undertake a feasibility study on the abandoned sections with a view to reopening them. With mining in the area now completely finished the council were looking at ways of reclaiming the land and the reopening of the canal could only enhance such a project.

The feasibility study found that many sections of the closed canal had suffered badly from mining subsidence. One stretch of the former lock-free route had sunk by 40 feet! However, the study found that realignment would be possible along with the inclusion of a small number of locks.

In Measham parts of the old canal line had been completely blocked by new buildings and the way around this could have been a big stumbling block if not for an abandoned railway running parallel to the canal - the very railway that was built to put the canal out of business would now become a part of the canal itself! Use of the railway would also see the creation of a new and exciting structure.

Rather than passing under Measham High Street via the canal's original route, the new waterway would cross over the road at the site of a railway bridge which would be rebuilt as an aqueduct. There was also quiet talk of eventually connecting the canal to the Trent and Mersey Canal or the Charnwood Forest Branch of the River Soar Navigation. While all these plans sounded very exciting, the hard slog of raising the millions of pounds necessary to complete such a plan was only just beginning.

The first area of restoration was to be at Moira at the northern end of the abandoned section. A large blast furnace building had stood unused for many decades by the side of the dry canal. The furnace, built in 1804 and a scheduled Ancient Monument, is one of the best preserved in Europe and was to be restored by the Moira Furnace Restoration Trust.

The Ashby Canal Restoration Steering Group planned to restore the canal alongside the building to provide a focal point for the whole canal restoration scheme. Just to the south of Moira the disused Donisthorpe Colliery site was also to be redeveloped (by the local council) and would include a stretch of the canal in what was to become Donisthorpe Country Park. In October work began on the Moira stretch with optimistic predictions of a completely restored canal within 10 years.

The National Forest Company was formed with the aim of creating a forest of some 200 square miles around the Moira area of Leicestershire. This new company saw the canal as being a key gateway to this new forest and this gave the canal restorers a major supporter. With funding being awarded to local councils to redevelop former colliery land the whole area around the Ashby Canal was to be turned into a major rural tourist attraction.

The Ashby restoration was awarded £1 million in funding from the Rural Challenge scheme. This would go towards the restoration of the route near Measham and the building of new sections along the former railway line. However, later in the year, it was announced that the funding had been withdrawn because the local council had been unable to purchase land belonging to a local farmer.

The withdrawal of funding had far reaching implications as it meant that matching funding from numerous other sources would also be withdrawn. The total loss was estimated to be over £2.6 million. The land owner, Mr. Edward Parkes, who was a member of the local parish council, had previously also been a member of the Measham Canal Restoration Association and the Measham Development Trust. (Some may have wondered if he was a descendant of Mr. Curzan, see 1794)!

The council, the area's MP, the local press and the people of Measham called for Mr. Parkes to resign from the parish council. Meanwhile, the canal restorers looked at ways in which this obstacle could be removed. One possibility was a compulsory purchase of Mr. Parkes' land under the new "Transport & Works Act". 

This Act was created in 1992 to replace the old procedure which had been used for hundreds of years to gain Acts for the building of canals, railways and roads. It has not yet been used for the construction of a canal but Mr. Parkes may find himself the recipient of an unwanted historical first! This problem and the over all restoration project leaves the Ashby Canal story unfinished.

The stretch of canal at Moira Furnace, heading south for several hundred yards, was restored and opened. Although this section is a long way from the main navigable parts of the Ashby Canal it is, in many ways, the most important historically. Today boat trips run from the furnace.

The Ashby Canal restoration continued north from the Moira Furnace, and the canal now terminates at the Bath Yard Basin, immediately outside the excellent Conkers centre (see below for details), passing through a new lock on its way from the Furnace. The canal was officially opened by the Chairman of Leicestershire County Council in November 2001. The Moira Furnace Museum Trust run regular boat trips to and from Conkers Waterside.

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Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal Route

A holidaymaker once described the Ashby Canal as "bridge, field, field, bridge, field, field, field, bridge"! It has no locks, long tunnels, deep cuttings, major embankments or notable aqueducts. The canal doesn't even currently have anything in particular at the end of the line - just another bridge and a field!

There is another way of looking at it however. Leaving the Coventry Canal and entering the Ashby Canal is something like entering another world, as though you have travelled through a space transporter!

The Coventry Canal is industrialised and urban while the Ashby Canal is completely rural with green fields, trees and clear water. It begins in Warwickshire at Marston Junction (grid ref SP 36782 88183) near Bedworth but, sadly, when I visited the junction in 1996 I found it in something of a dilapidated state.

The banks were unkempt, there was debris floating in the water and nothing to whet the appetite of boat crews travelling along the Coventry Canal. This was in stark contrast with the busy and interesting junction of the Oxford and Coventry canals just a few miles south. But don't be put off, the many boat crews and walkers who pass this less than charming beginning are well rewarded.

The canal travels east from the Coventry Canal, there is a bridge over the junction and a former stop lock is clearly visible just a few yards into the route. The canal soon reaches Marston Jabbett and then enters a long wooded cutting as it curves north easterly to Burton Hastings (SP 40573 89917). Before reaching the village the B4112 and B4114 cross the route.

Past the village the canal turns north and, as it enters Leicestershire, it is crossed by Watling Street (A5) before reaching Hinckley (SP 41053 92906). This small town has its own short arm which leaves the main line and heads north east for just a few yards. There is a wharf in the town but the arm is now used for a boat club's moorings and is not navigable to non-members.

The canal curves north westerly out of the town and then turns north to travel virtually straight for about 2½ miles past Higham on the Hill. Near the village is Basin Bridge which gives a clue to the use of this area in working days! Past the village the canal begins a series of bends and curves as it winds its way around the contours of the land.

After twisting and turning for nearly 5 miles (covering 2 miles as the crow flies) the route reaches Shenton. On route it passes Stoke Golding (SP 39110 97223), Dadlington (SP 40020 98456), Sutton Wharf bridge (SP 41023 99319) and the historic site of the le of Bosworth Field (SP 40010 99433) where Richard III lost to Henry Tudor in 1485. There is a "Battle Centre" and a trail through Ambion Wood which has a series of plaques explaining the battle.

At Shenton the route crosses Shenton Park on a small embankment and then leaves the village via an aqueduct (SK 39139 00618) which crosses a minor road into the village. The canal continues to meander (though much more gently now) as it passes to the west of Market Bosworth and a railway line which is now a tourist railway called The Battlefield Line.

This stretch of the route is absolutely typical of the whole canal - totally rural with characteristic small stone accommodation bridges. ("Field, bridge, field, field, bridge").

The canal continues to curve left and right as it heads generally north past Congerstone (SK 37162 05054) and Shackerstone (SK 37558 06803). At Shackerstone is the northern station on the tourist railway though there is room for expansion as the original railway track bed has followed the canal since Stoke Golding and continues on well past the head of navigation.

The final stretch of the currently navigable Ashby Canal passes Gopsall Park (SK 35158 06735) which lies to the south west and was the place where Handel lived while he composed "The Messiah". Sadly the house has now gone but the park remains. The canal passes under Snarestone through a tunnel (SK 34337 09387) which is 250 yards long and is the only one on the canal. The village of Snarestone is a lovely place with 2 pubs, one of which stands almost on top of the tunnel.

Straight after the tunnel the canal turns east, passes under two final stone bridges and then comes to the winding hole which is the current terminus of the navigation (SK 34641 09971) surrounded by nothing other than grazing cows and a rolling green landscape.

Originally the route carried on in a generally north and north westerly direction for around 8 miles past Measham to Moira. Because the area beyond the current head of navigation was closed due to mining subsidence it means that boat crews currently do not get to see the canal's reason for being - the former coal fields of Ashby. They also do not get to see the historic furnace at Moira which is now a listed site.

The current head of navigation also means that the journey that is seen gives something of a false impression as the route appears to be a typical agricultural canal (similar to those in the south west of England) though the Ashby Canal was never intended to be anything other than an industrial route.

From its current terminus in Snarestone the canal continued north for about 800 yards. It then turned north west just before reaching Bosworth Road, the minor road which runs from Measham to Newton Burgoland.

The canal ran parallel to this road for about 400 yards, crossing Gilwiskaw Brook (a tributary of the River Mease) and then passing Ilott Wharf (SK 34817 11188). It then turned south west and within another 400 yards it crossed under the B4116 (SK 34127 11066) about 1½ miles north of Snarestone. A newly restored canal would take a different route from Ilott Wharf. It would continue westward and cross under the B4116 about 200 yards north of its original bridge.

Having past the B4116 the original route then curved north between the railway (now dismantled) and the road. It past around Measham Lodge Farm which I'm guessing is the land now belonging to Mr. Edward Parkes. After ¼ of a mile the route turned north west, close to the old railway. At the turn, old maps show an enlarged pool of water which may have been a basin or wharf (SK 33968 11492).

The new route of the canal would turn south shortly after passing the B4116. It will cross the old line of the canal near the point which I just described as a large pool of water. Here it is planned that a new marina will be created. After crossing the original line of the canal the new route will bend west onto the former railway track.

The old route crossed under the main road in Measham (former A42 - now the B5493 - at grid ref SK 33341 12073) about 100 yards south of the road junction to Newton Burgoland. The stretch near the road has now been built on. Heading out of Measham the canal curved slightly south west to meet the old railway and run north west alongside it. Very close to the south is Burton Road, the minor road to Oakthorpe.

The new canal route will run into Measham via the old railway track. It will cross the main street on a brand new aqueduct at the same point that the railway used to cross (SK 33182 11945) which is some 100 yards south of the original canal bridge.

Just west of here was Measham Station which is currently being restored as a museum which will exhibit local history - Measham is the place where the famous Measham Teapots were made. Just west of the station the new canal will rejoin the old route (SK 32723 12132). Part of the old route will form a new line doubling back to a new basin in Measham.

The area is to be developed with new houses, shops and offices. Country parks, walks and other leisure activities are also to be created, turning the former mining community into a rural village. Thousands of tourists are expected to visit the village each year and the canal is to be the central attraction.

To reach Oakthorpe the restorers have to get past the new A42 dual-carriageway. A tunnel has been proposed but this may have to wait to coincide with road works as it will necessitate the closure of the road. However, the road is relatively new and road works are not anticipated in the near future.

In Oakthorpe the dry canal heads north west beneath two roads (the first at SK 32087 12796) and then doubles back around to head north east on the northern side of the village. The filled in canal line can be found (if you look out for it) at points where there used to be road bridges. For instance, it used to pass under Steam Mill Bridge next to the Steam Mill Inn (SK 32219 13262).

This spot isn't hard to find today - it's in Canal Street! However, the canal on either side of the bridge is long since gone. It is only by looking at aerial photographs and matching them up with an old map of 1889 that I can see the line of the canal beneath the soil in a ploughed field!

North of the village the route crossed under what is now the B586 (SK 32465 13387) at a point where my road map marks a lane heading east. This lane leads to modern day industrial (or farm) buildings, the canal used to run parallel to this lane on the south side. However, when I visited this spot in 1998 there was no sign of the canal. An old map of 1889 (which is a bit smudged!) shows the B586 (former) canal bridge to be [something like] Browneborough Lane Bridge though today the road is called Measham Road.

East of the B586 the canal used to bend around to head north west. However, the original canal, as passed by the Act of Parliament, was to have headed straight on from here, north eastwards into Ashby. At the point where the canal line now bends back round to the west (SK 33026 14089) there used to be a wharf with Willesley Colliery close by. It was from this wharf that numerous plateways (an early type of railway) began (see below for routes of the plateways).

Note: Since this page was written there has been much development at the northern end of the canal. Formerly derelict stretches are now being restored and the northern most section around Moira is now complete.

The canal line to Moira headed west away from Willesley and is shown as a line of water on my road map - though sadly this is wrong as the canal is filled in. The line comes back under the B586, Measham Road (SK 32149 13955), but straight after this the canal "dries up" even on my map.

The canal used to turn north shortly after the B586, it then ran parallel to the road and a few yards west of it. After less than 100 yards it passed under the minor road to Donisthorpe (SK 31950 14086) and then came very close along side the B586. This didn't last long though as it immediately curved away north west towards an old railway line.

A newly built stretch of canal now runs from Donisthorpe all the way to Conkers at Moira. Trip boats run along the newly opened stretches. The new canal runs through Donisthorpe Country Park, part of the new "National Forest" but the new waterway does not use the original course which was lost (or made unusable) due to mining and subsidence.

In Moira there is a wharf (SK 31436 15132) where Moira Blast Furnace is situated. This scheduled Ancient Monument (dated 1804) stands right on the banks of the canal with its arched loading bays crossing the waterway. This section was re-watered in 1999 after decades of being dry and derelict.

The furnace is open to the public while in its grounds there are some smart new craft shops and a cafe as well as boat trips on the canal. These can be found on Furnace Lane off the B5003 in Moira.

A plateway was built near the furnace in 1800, heading north east for about 1½ miles to Newfields Colliery. This was completed 4 years before the canal fully opened.

Beyond the furnace the canal continues north east for several yards until it reaches the site of another wharf by the side of what is now the B586, Measham Road (SK 31548 15412). At this wharf the canal turns west, then north and passes under the B5003, Shortheath Road (SK 31361 15431) at a spot which was easily spotted when I was here in 1998. It was a scraggy, narrow, linear (unofficial) waste tip! It is even easier to spot today as it is now fully restored and navigable. A brand new lock is situated close to the road bridge.

The route curves about towards the north west and arrives at the site of Moira Baths and the former Moira Bath Hotel (SK 31009 15641) where the newly restored section comes to an end. Today you can board trip boats here and visit Corkers.

One of my reference books claims the canal always terminated just beyond here, close to the point where an old railway track still crosses today (SK 30656 15623). The book says the canal ended at Wadlands Wharf on Bath Lane. It adds that a railway, just ½ a mile in length, from Rawdon Colliery near Moira, ran to the canal opposite Moira Baths while a 3 mile railway belonging to the canal company continued the route north to Swadlincote.

Modern aerial photographs appear to back the book up and there is no sign of the canal beyond the site of Moira Baths. However an old map of 1889 shows clearly that the canal continued on from here, passing under the old railway and continuing north westward, clinging to the right hand side of Slackey Lane.

After several hundred yards the waterway passed beneath what is now the B5004 at Spring Cottage Bridge (SK 30225 15973). On the old map the Spring Cottage Navigation Inn is marked a few hundred yards north east of this bridge but there is absolutely no sign of a canal line here today.

It would appear from the old map that the canal ended alongside a reservoir a few hundred yards north west of Spring Cottage Bridge (at grid ref SK 30076 16424). Modern maps show this land to be empty though aerial photographs show a busy looking area of quarries (and possibly former colliery land). The old map appears to show basins and possibly a transhipment wharf as the railway to Burton is right alongside. I'm afraid I don't know how much of this latter part of the canal can still be found (if at all). Maybe you do?

Ashby Canal Plateways

The plateway to Ticknall Lime Works was 8½ miles long. It left Willesley and headed north east for 2½ miles to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. About 1½ mile further on the plateway entered a tunnel, at the north end of which the Cloudhill plateway began (see below). After another 1¾ miles the line to Ticknall entered Derbyshire heading north west. Just over 2½ miles later it reached Ticknall Lime Works.

The line to Cloudhill began on the north side the tunnel on the Ticknall branch. It was 4¾ mile in length, heading easterly for the first 1¼ mile towards Coleorton. Another railway branch, about 1½ mile in length forked northwards to a colliery, ¼ of a mile further on there was another branch, this time running southwards for about 300 yards, to a colliery near Park Wood. From here the Cloudhill line turned north for 2¾ miles, passing to the west of Worthington, to the Cloudhill Lime Works.

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Access Points

Access to the navigable stretches of canal is very easy. A towpath runs virtually the whole length. Recommended access points are as follows;

Marston Junction, (grid ref SP 36782 88183), on Marston Lane, the minor road from Bedworth to Marston Jabbett. This road crosses the Coventry Canal at the junction.

Marston Jabbett (SP 38534 88978), Nuneaton Road (B4112).

Bramcote Camp (SP 40004 89187), Lutterworth Road (B4114).

Watling Street (SP 41203 92330), A5, a busy road but with a good pub (The Limekilns) alongside the bridge.

Hinckley (SP 40717 93250), Coventry Road (A47/B4666) and (SP 40436 93873), Dodwells Road (A447) .

Stoke Golding (SP 39138 97204), Wharf bridge beside a small boat yard on Station Road. Also at the popular mooring spot on Stoke Lane (SP 39939 97724).

Battle of Bosworth (SP 40281 99429), the canal is easily reached on foot from the grounds of the battlefield. From the tourist railway station walk south on the former railway bed (800 yards) to the bridge over the canal.

Market Bosworth (SK 39135 03218), Wellsborough Road on the B585 heading west out of the village.

Congerstone (SK 37175 05015), Bosworth Road heading east out of the village.

Shackerstone (SK 37377 07045), on the minor road heading north out of the village.

Snarestone (SK 34330 09369), Main Street - look for the public footpath crossing the road in the village alongside the lovely Globe Inn. Walk south for 50 yards to reach the south end of Snarestone Tunnel or walk north about 200 yards (across a football pitch) to reach the north end. The head of navigation is another 200 yards north.

The derelict sections are less easy to access though some lengths can be walked;

Measham (SK 33341 12073), High Street - there is little to see here at the moment, houses stand on the canal line but the site of the bridge can be seen in the main street - formerly the busy A42 but now the B5493 heading south west to junction 11 of the M42. A few hundred yards south on this same road is the site of the former railway bridge which may well be rebuilt as an aqueduct.

Moira (SK 31436 15132), by far the most interesting place on the canal is the old blast furnace and wharf at Moira. This is accessed on Furnace Lane, heading south off Shortheath Road (B5003) just west of the B586 crossroads. There are small craft shops and a cafe at the wharf.

Also at Moira, and well worth a visit is Conkers! With learning zones, indoor and outdoor activities, miniature railway, canal trips and more.

For details of the canal restoration around Moira (including boat trips) see the National Forest web site.

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