Review of ‘The Seven Canals of Derbyshire’, by Edward Garner

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on (date of publication unknown), and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Edward Garner
Published by Landmark Collector's Library
ISBN 1-84306-072-8 (2004)

As this new book from Landmark reveals, six of the seven canals associated with Derbyshire all survive in some form or another, a tribute to the thousands of navvies - many lured away from their lower-paid agricultural jobs - who laboured to dig them out with picks and shovels. Earthmoving equipment consisted of wheelbarrows and wagons, and horse power was exactly what it said.

Author Edward Garner winds a continuous thread linking the canals with those who built and used them, with an especially tantalising whiff of scandal concerning a local man of some standing and the boatman's wife.

The Peak District has specific and important links with canal history, not least the fact that James Brindley, perhaps the greatest canal engineer of all, was born in the parish of Wormhill. The author rightly devotes an entire chapter to Brindley, with other sections dealing exclusively with the two canals most closely associated with the Peak: Cromford Canal and Peak Forest Canal.

The story of these two waterways branches off into their associated tramways, as the early railways were called, and railway enthusiasts will enjoy this book partly for the wonderful old photographs, including what is thought to be the oldest in situ section of railway in the world, here on our very own doorstep.

'Subterraneous navigations', otherwise underground canals, played a fascinating part in this watery transport system, whether in the Duke of Devonshire's collieries or lead mines where ore and waste was carried out by boat.

It may come as a surprise to learn that we actually have a marina in the Peak, but a description of Bugsworth Basin (which managed to retain its name when the village elevated itself to Buxworth) should tempt readers to see for themselves this 'fine marina for the endless flotilla of leisure craft now cruising along the Peak Forest Canal.'

Sketches and early photographs bring the old days to life, while almost 60 fine colour photographs show scenes of the canals today. In fact this book has more than enough ideas for outings to last all year round.

Review by Julie Bunting

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