Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Seven Canals of Derbyshire

The Seven Canals of Derbyshire
By Edward Garner

I bought this book a few months ago, inspired by it's detailed coverage of the Derbyshire canals, many of which I have walked over the last couple of years.

I can't say it is exactly a page turner, but it is certainly stuffed full to the gills with historical information, all methodically collected, collated and presented.

First up, can you name the seven canals of Derbyshire? No? where here they are:

Trent and Mersey
Peak Forest

(No the Nottingham Canal isn't included -it's in Nottinghamshire!)

This book could so easily have been a series of six disconnected chapters about some of the more remote inland waterways but no. By a lucky stoke of fate Derbyshire also threw up three of the giants of canal construction in the shape of Brindley, Jessop and Outram, who between them form the backbone of an infant waterways industry. Garner uses these characters to give a wider picture of canal development, before diving into the detail if each canal's history.

At times the attention to detail is almost too much, but then he hits a rich and absorbing seam of information which really grabbed me. Take, for instance, the construction of the Norwood Tunnel on the summit of the Chesterfield. We know it was one of the longest at the time but did you realise that the root of its troubles lay in the mining which took place for minerals they found along the way? It seems that wherever you stuck a spade in Derbyshire you were as like as not to hit coal. They hit it in big qualities in the Norwood Tunnel and rapidly dug it out beside, below and above the tunnel. Guess what - the resulting subsidence collapsed the canal tunnel.

Canal engineers learned from this costly blunder and mining was strictly controlled in subsequent tunnels like the Butterly on the Cromford. It's snippits like this that make the book an enchanting lucky dip for occasional reading.

The book's not cheap at £16.95, but if you are interested in the history of the Derbyshire Canals then its probablyy the only one you will ever need to buy.

ISBN 1-84306-072-8

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