The Great Northern Junction at Langley Mill, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, connects three eighteenth-century canals that were once the arteries of the local coal and iron industry.
Once a busy freight facility, it’s now a picturesque marina, renovated by the Erewash Canal & Preservation Trust from the 1970s onwards.
As you stand on the bridge, the Erewash Canal runs to the south, flourishing as a leisure waterway which was never completely closed. Ahead to the north is the line of the Cromford Canal, of which the first three miles, including six locks, was obliterated by opencast mining in the 1960s. To the right, the Nottingham Canal ran along the eastern side of the Erewash valley, connecting with the River Trent and the centre of Nottingham.
The Nottingham Canal is a wreck.
It opened in 1796, to the annoyance of the Erewash Canal proprietors who resented its competition though there was more than enough traffic for both.
After the Midland Railway built its Erewash Valley line in 1847 the Nottingham Canal sold out in 1854-55 to the Ambergate, Nottingham & Boston & Eastern Junction Railway & Canal Co, which was in turn leased to the Great Northern Railway in 1861.
The Great Northern, which had no interest in canals, built their own railway branch parallel to the canal and the Midland line, in 1878.
By the early twentieth century most of the traffic on the Nottingham Canal was between Nottingham and the River Trent.
Commercial traffic practically ended in 1928, and the GNR’s successor, the London & North Eastern Railway, leased the section between Nottingham and Lenton to the Trent Navigation in 1936 before abandoning the rest of the canal the following year.
Nottingham Corporation bought the length of abandoned canal within the city boundary in 1952 in order to drain and pipe the line to prevent flooding.
Between 1955 and 1966 most of the canal within the city disappeared and much has since been built over apart from a section used as a diversion for the River Leen.
A Nottingham Canal Society was formed in 1976 to conserve the remains of the canal.
After making some practical efforts the Society admitted defeat when Nottinghamshire County Council declined in 1979 to fund a navigable under-bridge as part of its plans for the Awsworth By-Pass.
Broxtowe District Council bought six miles of the canal from Eastwood to the city boundary at Bramcote and has worked with voluntary and professional organisations to develop its amenity value as a right of way and nature reserve.
When you walk out of Nottingham railway station and turn towards town you cross a bridge over the waters of the remaining length of the Nottingham Canal, a much-used amenity for boaters and gongoozlers alike.
The hopes of reviving the rest of this canal, which ran through populous suburbs and rural farmland, were dashed for the sake of a short-sighted decision over the cost of a bridge.
The Waterways & Railways of the East Midlands (September 3rd-7th 2018) tour is based in Nottingham and includes a visit to the Great Northern Basin. For further details please click here.