Charity issues

Inspiring : Derby River Boat soon to launch as part of significant canal restoration project

The start of the river boat trips from the Council House, past the Silk Mill to Darley Abbey will be a pivotal and public moment in the  Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust’s 25 year project (started mid 1990’s) – and this is by no means the end of their vision!

There are many more exciting developments which will transform the waterways through Derby.

In a few months time, the Derby River Boat will be officially launched.

Recently I went to see the Boat, which is in its final stage of internal fitting – a fascinating location in Long Eaton, next to the canal, manufactured by local boat builders P J Barber. Its quiet, and unassuming position belies its status in this whole project. The Boat is fully electric with the batteries being partially re-charged from the on-board solar panels. It has a lift and disabled toilet to enable wheelchair users to enjoy the river trip experience.


The Trust was established  to restore the former Derby Canal waterway from the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre to the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone via central Derby. It follows as close as possible, the original route, thereby connecting Derby to the national canal network. The purpose of this project is improve the community’s quality of life  by encouraging active uses of the waterways which, in turn will support and encourage wildlife.

Full proposed project

The whole project has been calculated to cost around £62m which is a monumental challenge of fundraising for a voluntary group. But, through methodical, consistent and enthusiastic promotion of the vision, more people, organisations, local authorities, commercial enterprises have seen how the project can deliver a series of mutual objectives.  Funding received so far, in addition to personal contributions include:

  • Gifts of land worth up to a total of £3m
  • Sale of Spoil of potentially £7m dependent on quality
  • Grants secured from Heritage Funds such as the Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Grants from Community based funds often influenced by local authorities and designed to encourage employment or quality of life improvements
  • Land fill Tax Credits
  • Private sector funding for commercial projects including housing developer contributions ( s106/ Community Infrastructure Levy)
  • Commercial loan finance

…with others in the pipeline.

This does not include the significant value of skilled volunteer time from a wide variety of sources.

In addition to gaining control of 94% of the Canal route, it has secured outline planning permission for the entire route from the 4 different local authorities and secured rights to abstract water from the River Derwent to feed the canal line. Rights were achieved by a donation from Celanese when they ceased trading.  The fundamentals required to deliver the project are in place.

The physical achievements have been:

  • Restoration of Swarkestone Bridge
  • Restoration of Ullickers Bridge in Borrowash
  • Installation of a culvert under Pacific Way in Pride Park ready for the canal crossing. This cost £50,000 to put in as the road was built and avoided a cost of over £1m that it would cost now.
  • Restoration of the Draycott line and drainage channel. This reduces the cost to complete this section to canal specification significantly.
  • Clearance of the vegetation and planting and laying around a mile of Hawthorn hedgerow.
  • Managing the eradication of invasive plant species such as Himalayan Balsam and Japanese knotweed.
  • Part restoration of the Borrowash Bottom (Shacklecross) Lock and clearing half a mile of canal line surrounding it.
  • Part restoration of the Canal Cottages at Draycott – work is currently in progress to finish in 2020.
  • Excavation of Sandiacre Lock. This will be the first point that the Derby Canal with join the Erewash Canal.

Perhaps the most ambitious part of the vision is the “Derby Arm”. This will be an iconic feature on the water’s edge at Pride Park, lifting, and transferring the boat to and from the Canal to the River Derwent.

This short video illustrates the elegant and impressive movement of the proposed structure. It is expected that this will be a major tourist attraction along with the waterfront visitors centre, restaurant, and bars presenting many commercial opportunities

It might have seemed like a pipe dream from a group of canal enthusiasts 25 years ago, but it has captured the imagination of a growing population who can see the project’s longer term potential. The first Derby River Boat, named Outram ( after one of the pioneers of the original canal)  will start to bring this vision to the wider public and hopefully inspire visitors to appreciate the City’s canal based heritage, as well as its potential for the future.

A quote from Jack Hegarty, Managing Director of Wychavon District Council in the video “Water Adds value” ( Canal and River Trust ; The Inland Waterways Association)

“It’s incredible what canals do…’s just a bit of water isn’t it? But surprisingly they just give life and vibrancy to space. You build a road – it doesn’t inspire anyone. Build a canal, it inspires everyone


A lot more detail can be found on the Canal Trust’s website including who to contact, how to volunteer, support, or donate.

Regular updates on work being done and news can be found on their Twitter account @Derby_Canal


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