High hopes for the future of Cromford Canal as workers get ready to clean up route
THE Friends of Cromford Canal believe their membership could treble once a 1.3-mile stretch is cleaned up in a £300,000 project.
The work, due to begin on Monday, will allow narrow boats to run from Cromford Wharf to Leawood Pump-house for the first time in 24 years.
Material such as decomposing plants and soil particles which get washed into the canal will be removed by Derbyshire County Council to make the water deeper.
John Barker, of the Friends group, said it was thrilling news for the charity, which lobbied hard for the investment.
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He said: "It's a heck of a boost to us. We have 800 members currently but I reckon that will double or triple in a very short time once a boat is back.
"There's been an awful lot of interest. We've had 80-90 people coming to meetings every Monday in Ironville."
The work, which is expected to take nine weeks to complete, comes as a £4.5 million project to bring an historic five-storey mill back into use at Cromford Mills gets under way.
Once complete, the mill will have a visitor gateway and four floors of office space. It is a project that is expected to attract a further 50,000 visitors each year to the area.
Mr Barker said the canal work and Cromford Mills project would boost the local economy.
"It's fantastic for the area," he said.
County council deputy leader Simon Spencer said the dredging of Cromford Canal would bring "great benefits" to the area.
The Tory councillor said: "It is not only essential for the environment by helping wildlife but will also help to boost tourism in the area. Tourism is an integral part of the Derbyshire Dales economy and the work will enable boats to be run on the canal for the first time in many years.
"Increasing visitor numbers to the area will create jobs and opportunities for local businesses."
The county council owns the five miles of Cromford Canal, which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, from Cromford Wharf to Ambergate, and parts of it also fall within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Ebsford Environmental, of Leeds, has been appointed to carry out the work and will be using cutter suction dredging machines to draw silt out of the canal. The silt which has been collected will then be dried in bags for two to four weeks before being spread across a field.
The Friends of Cromford Canal plan to start running boat trips along the section in the summer.