Reclaiming Bugsworth Basin

By | Category: travel, Travel destinations
canal boats in winter at Bugsworth Basin

Bugsworth Basin in winter© Mark Lomas 2015 BBHT

On a beautiful, snowy day in January, my dogs and I set out to visit Bugsworth Basin which is near Buxworth, a village in the Derbyshire Peak District.  Originally called Bugsworth (from the Old English Bucga’s Worth (“Bucga’s Enclosure”)), it was renamed by local residents in the early 20th century.  I met up with local photographer and Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust (BBHT) member, Mark Lomas. Incidentally, Mark has been involved in clearing the canal since he was 12.

In its day, Bugsworth Canal Basin was a hive of activity: the largest and busiest inland port on Britain’s narrow canal system.  Today, it is the only surviving canal and tramway interchange to survive intact in the UK.

Benjamin Outram (a famous canal and tramway engineer), constructed the 14 mile long Peak Forest Canal from Dukinfield to Bugsworth. The Basin was linked to the limestone and gritstone quarries in Derbyshire by the Peak Forest Tramway in 1795-96 and by canal to Manchester and the trans-Pennine canal network.

the Upper Basin as it was in about 1900 © BBHT

the Upper Basin as it was in about 1900 © BBHT

Bugsworth thrived commercially thanks to its transport system, but during the mid-1800s, the decline and demise of the canal systems as railway technology advanced took its toll on the commercial viability of the Basin. Eventually, work stopped at the Bugsworth Basin in 1926, and the canals, abandoned and disused, deteriorated.  The restoration of Bugsworth Basin is a testament to the volunteers who have worked so hard on it for over 40 years.

Starting with a couple based in a caravan, alongside the canal, in 1968, the excavation of the original canal began. Armed with shovels, wheel barrows and determination, the couple began to excavate the canal.  They were supported by, a growing team of passionate volunteers from the Inland Waterways Protection Society.  This was an organisation of professionals and experts from many backgrounds: Members included Bessie Bunker and L.A. “Teddy” Edwards and writers L. du Garde Peach and J.B. Priestley!  Together with a growing team of engineers, Bessie led the surveying of many canals, but since permission to restore Bugsworth Basin was granted in 1968, Bessie was one of many volunteers who gave up most of her weekends to their cause.

Bugsworth Basin in 1980 © BBHT

Bugsworth Basin in 1980 © BBHT

Battling against leaks, slippage, subsidence and even local scepticism, the canal channels were gradually cleared.  In 1977 Bugsworth Basin was given Ancient Monument status, and in 2005 the canals re-opened to navigation and the visitor centre opened to assist visitors to further enjoy this remaining industrial heritage site.  More development and improvement of Bugsworth Basin still continues under the new organisation name: Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust (BBHT), and volunteers for a range of roles are still sought.

The site now attracts over 50 000 visitors a year, and offers something for everyone.  A place of superb natural beauty containing woodland, grasslands and micro-habitats, it is home to an array of wildlife.

Bugswoth Basin today © JaT

Bugswoth Basin today © JaT

During such a peaceful walk around the Basin, it was difficult to imagine the deafening, industrious activity which would have dominated the same walk over a century ago.  The breath-taking, snowy views were a far cry from the flames, dust and smoke which formally filled the basin. Reminders of those times, preserved by the BBHT, are still present for the visitor to see as are the remains of the enormous batteries of lime kilns which skirt the basin. Although the buildings are no longer there, the entwined network of canals, paths and bridges map out the unique system of transport and production.

With an information centre, shop and toilet facilities on site, visitors are well catered for.  Bugsworth Basin can be enjoyed by canal boat, (on the Wandering Duck) canoe or by foot, and fishing in the Basin is permitted.  It is a lovely location to visit for the whole family – and their dog(s)!

the Basin in mid-winter © Mark Lomas 2015 BBHT

the Basin in mid-winter © Mark Lomas 2015 BBHT

Located within easy drive of The Peak District, Buxton and Lyme Park  whether you go for the day, or just a few hours, there is plenty to do.

The more hardy walkers can enjoy the captivating beauty of the area by enjoying a walk from Bugsworth Basin to Eccles Pike, where a 360° panorama can be viewed followed by a hot meal and a pint at the Navigation Inn,  a local pub with parking, situated on the edge Bugsworth Basin.  To my pleasant surprise, The Navigation Inn also offers a separate menu for canine companions, and my two dogs, Poppy and Pippa, devoured the ‘Great British Pub ‘DOG’ food and snacks’  served alongside our own fish & chips dinner!

Bugsworth in the calm of winter © JaT

Bugsworth in the calm of winter © JaT

Plans for a Bugsworth Basin Gala (designed to make it more known to county visitors and those who clamber in the Peak but who might not know this area exists) will be held on the canal on the 4th & 5th of April 2015 and will offer a variety of activities, stalls, food, drink and entertainment for all the family.  Further details to follow in our events listings!

After a day spent at the Basin, the dogs and I were enjoyablyworn out!. They slept soundly in the car going back home. I wish I could have done the same!

 

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