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The Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation Canal
previously called The Don (Dun) Navigation Canal

Work began in 1722 to make the River Don navigable to enable bulky goods and raw materials to be carried easily and cheaply. Work was carried out both upstream and downstream from Doncaster. The Don Navigation Canal which reached Rotherham in 1744. Above Rotherham the navigation followed the river to Bromley Sands where a short cut bypassed Ickles Mill. It rejoined the river as far as Deadman's Hole and then entered another cut to Tinsley; the Head of Navigation which was reached in 1751. The horse path from Rotherham to Tinsley was not opened however until 1822.

In 1846 the Don Navigation took over the Dearne and Dove Canal and in 1848 the Sheffield Canal. In 1849 they leased the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. In 1850 the Don Navigation amalgamated with the South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Goole Railway (previously the South Yorkshire Coal Railway). The united company was called the South Yorkshire Railway and River Dun Company and controlled much of the rail and river trade of South Yorkshire.

In 1864 the South Yorkshire Railway and River Dun Company was leased to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) who had little interest in the Don Navigation. The South Yorkshire Railway and River Dun Company was dissolved in 1874 and all its assets transferred to MSLR. There was little interest or investment in the canal by the railway company and there was public condemnation of its conduct.

The Company was set up with a view to creating a grand and viable waterway in South Yorkshire. After some years of obstructionism and finagling the MSLR sold the canals in their ownership to the new navigation company in 1895. Having purchased the canals the navigation had insufficient capital to carry out their grand scheme of improvements although various smaller developments and upgrading took place.

Over the years there have been alterations and improvements to those parts of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation which had been the Don Navigation including a barge terminal at Rotherham. The canal was improved so that by 1983 400 ton barges could reach Rotherham but traffic has not fulfilled expectations. In 1985 the Head of Commercial Navigation was moved to the site of the former tram sheds at Eastwood now known as AMA.

Some pleasure craft use the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. There are lovely areas at Sprotborough near Doncaster, but not, I can report, in Rotherham. Not unnaturally the canal runs through heavily industrialised areas and it shows. This is not an area where you can moor your boat outside a nice little village and pop into a rustic alehouse for a meal and a jar or three.

Facilities on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation Canal

There is good fishing along many stretches of the canal but fishing rights belong to various angling clubs and I do not have full information.
The moorings at Ickles and Tulley's Marine seem to be private but I've seen trippers moored at Eastwood Lock.
The towpath along the canal is open for walking from Sheffield to Aldwarke. At least I hink that's its open all the way - I've never done the whole walk, only sections of it. It is a cycleway for most of its length but you cannot always get through with a bike at Eastwood Lock where there is no public right of way. Perhaps you're not supposed to walk through there either but I do. This now appears to have been opened up again.

I have never walked beyond Dalton as there appeared to be no way through the electricity station. The remains of the towpath are shown further along the River Don but there seems to be no right of way through. I once tried to find a path but could only find a lane through Thrybergh Park to Rotherham Golf Club and I was unsure if that was private or not. There are paths shown on the A-Z of Sheffield but these are not public rights of way.

You can walk besides the canal on Glasshouse Lane and then Wharf Road at Kilnhurst. Thetowpath reappears for a while along the Kilnhurst Cut but is blocked again south of Swinton Bridge. It looks as if there is a footpath again below Mexborough.

Page amended January 15

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