The School Experience on Water for schools that are less than one hour’s drive from Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Stoke on Trent.
Being fully insured for 40 passengers, Birdswood is ideal for carrying a full class of pupils, their teachers, support staff and accompanying parents or carers. Many aspects of both the Foundation Stage Early Learning Goals and the National Curriculum Programmes of Study can be covered as the boat moves from Cromford Wharf to its turning point at Leawood Pump House. Birdswood cruises on a section of the 14.5-mile long Cromford Canal, which was opened in 1794 to connect the industries of the Derwent Valley — principally cotton, stone quarrying and lead mining — with coal mines further east in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and with the growing national canal system via the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill, then on to Birmingham, Manchester, London and other industrial centres. Each trip will be accompanied by an on-board narrator, with the commentary tailored to the age and aptitude of the pupils and the learning requirements identified by their teachers at the time of booking.
Themes can include the introduction of new vocabulary and narrow boat artefacts, the history of the canal and the identification and interpretation of its engineering and architectural features, and the ecology and wildlife of this Site of Special Scientific Interest. Although this section is short, it runs through a variety of landscapes, from open meadows to self-seeded natural woodland, where different plants and animals have established themselves in varied habitats. The ecology of the canal is complex and unusual, with alkaline limestone feeder streams at the head of the canal being supplemented by more acidic run-off water from the Millstone Grit moorland above the canal’s course.
Passengers can usually see water birds including moorhens, coots, little grebes, mallard ducks and swans; and water voles can sometimes be spotted popping out of their bankside holes and swimming underwater. Topics can range right through to a comparison between lifestyles of today’s children and those of the children and their families who lived aboard working boats in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Schools may wish to combine their canal boat experience with visits to other aspects of the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site of which the Cromford Canal is a small part.
Day or extended field trips could take in Arkwright’s Mills, the Cromford and High Peak Railway Junction complex (the second oldest railway workshops in the world), Leawood Pump House and the recently restored, award-winning railway buildings at Cromford Station.