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John Varley II Bank Holiday Canal Cruises

Type:Boat Trips

Tapton Lock Visitor Centre
Lockoford Lane
S41 7JB
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Tel01629 533020

John Varley II narrowboat on Chesterfeild Canal


Our cruise sets out from the Tapton Lock Visitor Centre where there is an Information Centre and toilets. After winding (turning round), we descend Tapton Lock, following the Rother Valley, past Brimington Wharf  where we wind again just before Wheeldon Mill Lock and then return to Tapton Lock.

Unlike rivers, canals can't go up and down hills! Learn about the working of the 250 year old locks which raise and lower the boats from one level in the canal to another. Locks use a lot of water - each time we use Tapton lock, it takes about 100 cubic metres of water to re fill it. That's the equivalent of about 2500 baths! The water isn't wasted though, it eventually finds its way back into the river.  

Subject to conditions and the skipper's permission, you may be able to help with the locks or have a go at steering the boat. 

Keep a lookout for wildlife – dabbling ducks and moorhen, the majestic heron or iconic kingfisher, martins as they swoop and skim low over the water, tree lined avenues and swathes of bluebells and other spring flowers.

John Varley II is a purpose built 36' narrowboat. Built in 2016, designed and licenced to carry 12 passengers, it replaces an older trip boat, also called John Varley, which was retired off after 24 years' service.

Why John Varley? The route of the Chesterfield canal was originally surveyed by canal engineer James Brindley and he employed John Varley as his clerk of works. Brindley died in 1772 and Varley took over as resident engineer. The canal opened in 1777 and ran 46 miles from Chesterfield to West Stockwith on the River Trent.  

In its heyday, the canal carried malt, hops, gravel, pottery, coal, iron ore, iron products, lead and stone. The boats were all horse-drawn and were called 'cuckoo boats'. Prior to canals, cargoes were carried by horse and cart. The maximum load a single horse could pull in a cart – and remember the roads were rough, muddy and full of potholes – was about one tonne. The same horse pulling a canal boat could pull up to 30 tonnes.

All trips are crewed by qualified volunteers of the Chesterfield Canal Trust, and the profits from all trips go towards the restoration of the last few miles of the Chesterfield Canal.

Guide Prices

Ticket TypeTicket Tariff
Adult£7.00 per adult
Child under 16£5.00 per child

Booking is recommended due to limited number of people who can board the boat per trip.



  • Disabled access
  • Facilities for hearing impaired


  • On-site light refreshments - Tea and coffee available on the boat.
  • Picnic site


  • Children welcome


  • Free Parking - Limited on street parking at Tapton Lock

Opening Times

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Map & Directions

Road Directions

From North/South Leave M1 motorway at junction 29 and take A617 to Chesterfield (approx 4 miles). At traffic light controlled roundabout select right hand lane and take 4th exit (A61, signposted Sheffield). At next roundabout (Tesco’s) select middle lane and take 3rd exit (brown sign for Tapton Lock). There is imited on street parking.

From East Follow A617 to junction with M1 motorway and take 3rd exit (A617 signposted Chesterfield), then follow route from North/South.

From West Follow A619 to Chesterfield. At traffic light controlled roundabout (Matalan) select middle lane and take 3rd exit. Keep in left lane and, at traffic lights, go straight on. Stay in left lane and, at roundabout, select middle lane and take 2nd exit (A632). Turn immediately left onto slip road to A61 (signposted Sheffield). At next roundabout (Tesco’s) select middle lane and take 3rd exit (brown sign for Tapton Lock). here is imited on street parking.

Public Transport Directions

Nearest train station Chesterfield, 1½ miles away

Bus number 90 from Chesterfield town centre to Tesco's, two per hour. Use underpass to cross to Tapton Lock.

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Tapton Lock Visitor Centre and John Varley BoatTapton Lock Visitor Centre, ChesterfieldThe Visitor Centre is open to the public for information, refreshments, gifts, books and maps. Within easy reach of Chesterfield town centre, it is located on the 350 mile long Trans-Pennine Trail and beside the Chesterfield Canal.

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