Restoration Section 2: Doe Lea

Bellhouse

The Doe Lea Section commences on the west side of Staveley at Bellhouse Lane, Lowgates. The start point is 100 m west of the Staveley Mineral Railway and immediately west of the fall-and-rise lock which passes under the railway line to link the Staveley Town and Doe Lea Sections.

Bellhouse Lane was originally the site of an occupation bridge (Bridge No.14) and Staveley Lowgates or Bellhouse (Gasworks) Basin and the Lowgates Canal Arm. The gasworks is long closed and the site of the canal arm has been infilled and developed as housing but the site of the entrance wide, although infilled, remains undeveloped.

Marked changes in ground level caused by mining subsidence under the Doe Lea Valley (and recent house building immediately adjacent to the site) preclude effective reuse of the basin site and canal arm as originally configured. The alternative proposed here diverts the canal track slightly north of its original line and widens the waterspace. This short length will have wash walls on both sides and hard, paved edges, mooring rings/bollards and is designed to provide short term moorings.

Adjacent to the moorings (on the site of the original basin) a small car park (with height limiting barrier) will be provided to serve the needs of visitors to the canal and to the nearby Mastin Moor Flash Wildlife Site. The opportunity will be taken to provide interpretation boards which tell the story of the basin, its tramway links to Inkersall and the gas works.

Access to the farm fields north of the canal will be provided by an occupation bridge (New Bellhouse Bridge, No.14). This will also provide additional walking and cycling access to the Trans Pennine Trail from Mastin Moor and Lowgates.

The original (1777) canal line ran from Bellhouse basin north-east along the west flank of the Doe Lea Valley until it reached the Puddle Bank - an embankment which carried the canal due east across the Doe Lea valley. On the east bank the original canal was joined from the south by the Norbriggs Cutting (a branch canal, see below) and then turned sharply northwards and ran along the east flank of the Doe Lea Valley. The canal then continued on the east flank of the valley as it joined the main Rother valley in the vicinity of Hague Lane Bridge.

To both the west and east of the Puddle Bank the original canal channel has been completely infilled; To the west the full width of the canal is visible with the outer (towpath) bank remaining and the inner off-bank boundary being visible as a grown out hawthorn hedgerow; To the east the channel has been ploughed over and the banks degraded so that the line is only marked by the towpath which has been reduced to the status of a field head path.

Doe Lea West & Puddle Bank

The length commences on the east side of the proposed occupation bridge and extends across the Doe Lea valley to the site of Uggersall Bridge.

The Puddle Bank is one of the few times the canal's engineers adopted a "short cut" on an otherwise meandering contour canal (the others being at Smithy Brook and Park Brook, Renishaw and at Ryton Aqueduct, Worksop and Idle Aqueduct, Retford). It was one of the very first load bearing earth cored canal embankments and in the 18th century was seen as a bold and daring civil engineering innovation. Regrettably the Puddle Bank has suffered considerable damage from mining subsidence, has had its bank top channel and wash walls removed by bulldozer and been breached in three places, most notably where the Doe Lea river culvert and overlying embankment has been entirely removed leaving the river in a deep cutting.

In addition, mining subsidence has significantly altered the topography of the entire valley making the original canal line vary in height by several metres (up to 4.5m in places) and creating a series of "flashes" on the valley floor. The most significant flash – Mastin Moor Flash – is now county wildlife site and candidate Local Nature Reserve and lies immediately to the south-east of the Puddle Bank. The extent of mining subsidence will force some deviation from the original line although the proposed reinstatement will use as much of the old route as is possible. The reinstatement will retain the same relationship between route and landscape – in other words it occupy a comparable position in relation to the valley topography.

The first diversion from the original historic route occurs at Bellhouse Basin; here the severity of subsidence dictates a new line slightly to the north-north-east running parallel to the original line but slightly higher up the hill slope. The line of the original off-bank boundary fence will effectively become the boundary fence to the new bank.

At a point roughly 700 m from Bellhouse Basin the new canal track turns westward and rejoins the original canal line on a reinstated "New Puddle Bank". This will have three elements; An earth cored embankment on the west flank of the Doe Lea, a steel trough aqueduct over the river and a further length of earth cored embankment on the eastern valley side.

The New Puddle Bank will require partial removal of the degraded fragments of the original bank (see below) leaving an earth bund on the south side of the original line. This bund serves two purposes (a) to prevent encroachment of the works onto the Mastin Moor Flash site and (b) to preserve an archaeological voucher sample of the original construction and to protect a significant cross section of the valley floor palaeosols and associated palaeoenvironmental evidence. The new bank will be built up against, and incorporate, this bund. The resultant bank will, like the original, be earth cored but will be slightly higher than the original to compensate for the overall subsidence of the valley floor – in consequence the crest (and hence the line of the canal) will be slightly north of its original position and will involve some encroachment of the embankment footprint onto the Doe Lea Floodplain on the north side only. This approach will safeguard the Mastin Moor Flash and Norbriggs Cutting.

Originally the Doe Lea passed under the Puddle Bank in an oval stone and brick culvert. This and the overlying embankment was removed in the 1970's to leave a sizable cutting through the bank. The New Puddle Bank will not recreate the original culverts but will replace it with an aqueduct using a post tensioned concrete structure (Doe Lea Aqueduct, Bridge No.14a).

The use of a long structure is dictated by the need to provide adequate flood clearance over the Doe Lea (greatly exceeding the predicted 1 in 1000 year flood levels). It is also desirable to widen the floodplain at this point to improve interaction and exchange between the developed wetland habitats on the south side of the embankment and new wetland habitats which are proposed on the north side.

The New Puddle Bank on the eastern side of the valley will incorporate a new side weir designed to accommodate both storm surges and drawn down for maintenance. This will follow the route of a severely damaged and partially removed weir on the north side of the canal opposite the original junction with the Norbriggs Cutting. Like the original, the new weir will discharge water to the Doe Lea

The Canal Towpath originally ran along the north side of the canal as it ran across the Puddle Bank. It is proposed in the reconstruction to divert the towpath to the south side of the canal from Bellhouse Basin to Uggersall Bridge (below). This will eliminate the need to construct a bridge at the junction of the Norbriggs Cutting with the main canal. As the Norbriggs Cutting is to form part of the North East Derbyshire Greenway network and is also an important local access node it is important to maintain accessibility and minimise gradients. The towpath will then revert to the north-western (historic) side of the canal at Uggersall Bridge (below).

Norbriggs Cutting (not intended for navigation)

The Norbriggs Cutting was a branch canal which originally joined the original line of the canal at the north end of the original Puddle Bank, near Huggester Farm. The Norbriggs Cutting terminated in a wharf on the Worksop road from where ran the first recorded railway (described in the company minutes as a "Newcastle Raile Way") in Derbyshire (1798). The cutting and wharf are of considerable historical importance.

The channel of the Norbriggs Cutting is partially infilled and is no longer level having suffered considerable mining subsidence. At present only small areas of shallow wetland remaining around the un-named crossing about a third of the way along the cutting The remaining majority of the arm is dry and partially infilled with field soil and domestic refuse. There is no intention to restore the Norbriggs Cutting for boating or angling, however, some rain fed shallow ponds will be created for nature conservation purposes and to offer an element of compensation for the loss of shallow water habitats at Norwood in Killamarsh. The Norbriggs Cutting will be managed as an integral part of the proposed Doe Lea (Mastin Moor Flash) nature reserve and provide a link between the LNR and the canal corridor.

A new surfaced multi-user access for all trail will follow the Norbriggs Cutting Towpath and will form an element of the North East Derbyshire Greenway Network.

The new puddle bank being slightly higher and to the north of the original junction with the Norbriggs Cutting will enable the preservation (by burial) of this junction point and the foundations of Norbriggs or Packsaddle Bridge (Bridge No.15) which once gave access to the arm (see below). Interpretation at this point and at the other end of the cutting on the site of the Wharf will explain the historical and environmental significance of the Norbriggs arm.

Doe Lea East & Hague Lane

Once on the east flank of the Doe Lea Valley the canal turns northward, crosses and then follows a course slightly separate to, and up-slope from, the original line. The original line here has suffered extensive and severe mining subsidence (up to 3 m) and is completely infilled. The route is largely lost in the surrounding fields with only an intermittent straggling line of grown-out hawthorn occasionally marking the line of the towpath. To compensate for mining subsidence the new course will run parallel to the original line but slightly higher up the hill slope -- the intention is to reproduce the form and structure of the original canal even where it is not possible to exactly follow the original alignment.

Shortly after gaining the eastern flank of the valley the canal line reaches the site of Red or Uggersall Bridge (Bridge No.16). This occupation bridge gave access from Huggester Farm (then known as Uggersall Farm) to the valley floor. The bridge was entirely removed in the 1970's and the site infilled. The new bridge will be required to take heavy farm machinery and clearly cannot resemble the original stone arch bridge. The solution proposed is to divert the canal track up-slope into a shallow cutting to gain sufficient headroom for a flat-decked concrete beam bridge.

Section two ends at the site of Hague Lane Bridge (No.17). The original arched bridge was dropped and infilled in the 1970's although fragments of the abutment wing walls remain. The lane over the site of the bridge leads to Staveley Sewage Works and carries infrequent HGV traffic and a new bridge will be required. The Canal Track will be diverted upslope, to the east, to provide sufficient water and towpath headroom clearance.

Restoration Sections

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