THE first boat for more than 50 years has made a celebratory voyage along a stretch of canal after an 11-month restoration project which has also involved the construction of a new marina.
A 550-metre stretch of the Chesterfield Canal at Staveley, which was lost due to opencast coal mining, has been rebuilt and the Staveley Town Basin created in a £575,000 project.
Dozens of delighted spectators welcomed the John Varley boat into the basin, which can accommodate up to 20 large canal boats and 12 smaller crafts.
Rod Auton, of Chesterfield Canal Trust, said: “The canal had been derelict for years and then opencast mining had taken place on the site.
“It was partly recovered when the new Staveley Relief Road was completed two years ago.
“Over the last 11 months, contractors have been building the basin itself.
“They did the final excavations just before Christmas and it took nearly three weeks to fill with water.”
Most of the funding came through a grant from the East Midlands Development Agency, with £75,000 from Derbyshire County Council.
Rod said: “The basin has already proved to be a massive attraction for walkers, cyclists and those who just stand and stare in amazement.”
Future work includes a new lock and building a bunkhouse, training centre and cottages for rent.
Chesterfield Canal Trust will hold a festival at the basin site on June 30 and July 1 as part of Staveley Feast.
Coun John Allsop, Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for recycling and technology, said: “It was great to see so many people lined up along the canal and I’m sure the area will continue to prove popular in the months and years ahead.
“This will make it a more attractive location for boats and fulfil our aim of improving the area for visitors, which is part of our wider commitment to boosting tourism.”