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Bugsworth Basin

Stephen Middleton

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Bugsworth BasinIan EdgarHeritage LotteryHigh PeakPeak Forest Tramway

Bugsworth Basin 1: L - R : Ian Edgar, Mark Tiddy, Vernon Brown filling the holes in Bugsworth's ‘colander’-like canal!

Bugsworth Basin once functioned as a sort of pulmonary artery pumping minerals around the body of an idea that has directly affected the lives of billions of people around the world for at least the last two hundred years; an idea that we have come to know as the Industrial Revolution. In this context its historical importance is commensurate with any castle, stately home or cathedral and similarly its structure is well worth preserving.

Enter Ian Edgar...

In the early 1970’s, prior to his involvement with the restorations of the basin, Ian, then living in Liverpool, had hired a boat and was on the Llangollen Canal. So appalled was he at the terrible state of the locks he made inquiries and found out that there were no plans to restore canals. ‘In fact, they were filling them in left, right and centre so I came back and decided to look for somewhere nearer home, which was here,’ he said.

Ian's passion as a volunteer was soon recognised with an invitation to take over the managementship of Bugsworth Basin following the demise of the original restorers,  an elderly couple, who were 'digging it out with picks and shovels!’ That was in 1974. “I’ve been doing it every other Sunday ever since” beamed the spritely seventy-seven year old.

Convinced of the need to mechanise operations Ian rallied assistance from across the UK financed by international benefactors following the Basin's trial opening in 1995 when it was discovered that the canal ‘leaked like a colander!’ ‘We spent a lot of European money, bless it; in the millions, basically.  And then that dried up. They said, ‘We’ve spent too much money on canals.  We have to spend it on something else.'  So then the Heritage Lottery popped up.’

Bugsworth Basin was opened permanently in 2005.  But it still leaks-quite a lot!  Presently, there is a nucleus of around 15 volunteers who regularly devote much of their free time to maintain this valuable site.  Although, unlike Ian not every weekend. ‘People have their own lives to lead,’ he says.  ‘In the summer we can muster probably ten people. That includes people in the shop and meeters and greeters. We have biochemists, doctors, electricians, people in the computer industry.  I was trained as a gunsmith.  It has the dual purpose of getting them out of the office into the fresh air and getting mucky,’ he chuckles.

Bugsworth Basin attracts an astonishing fifty-thousand visitors each year. But who, and why? Ian responds, ‘People come here to look at the boats; fish, walk - a circular walk down to Marple and back again. Kids come here to enjoy themselves. Canoeists come here from Castleton. It’s ideal for training them because the water’s deep enough and there's no rubbish in the bottom to hurt themselves when they capsize. ‘What a wonderful place’, the visitors say.  Look at the comments in the visitor’s book !’

‘Why do we do it?’  proclaimed Ian passionately, ‘because it's the only one left!’

For a concise history of Bugsworth Basin, the canal, and the Peak Forest Tramway, the reader should view the Trust’s superlative website: www.bugsworthbasin.org.