Region: East Midlands

Disabled Facilities: No

Category: Day Trip Destinations

Address: Birdswood Historic Canal Boat, Weighbridge Office, Gothic Warehouse, Mill Road, Cromford, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3RQ

Contact: 07552 055455



Birdswood is the historical narrow boat belonging to The Friends of Cromford Canal. Come and enjoy a peaceful journey along the Cromford Canal and get up close to the fabulous wildlife and take in the amazing scenery.

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Exactly what does your venue offer to educational visits?
School trips on Birdswood offer outdoor experiential learning in a safe but stimulating environment. Our bespoke cruises offer educational, entertaining and engaging child-centred activities with lots to see and do.

The boat runs on a scenic rural stretch of the Cromford Canal, built during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, now under restoration and forming part of the UNESCO-cited Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. This area has a rich history and many interesting sites related to Transport and Industry.

A Birdswood cruise is a unique, fun opportunity to explore and investigate National Curriculum links at EYFS, KS1 and KS2 levels in history, science, geography, numeracy, literacy and arts/crafts.

We strive to incorporate your specific curriculum requirements and are happy to discuss current themes and desired outcomes with teachers.

We offer one-to-one pre-trip advice/consultation by email, by phone or in person at our Cromford base (prior appointment necessary).

Why you are you a great place for educational visits?
Birdswood is the only heritage canal boat in the Midlands that is equipped to carry a full primary school class plus adult helpers (max 41 passengers).

Many children come to us with little experience of boats and waterways activities; and most of our younger visitors have never been on a canal boat before.

As well as Birdswood’s heritage value as an important type of transport from a past era, the boat was also home to the boatman’s family, who lived and worked together in conditions that are hard to imagine today. Birdswood’s snug but tiny back cabin has been preserved to give children a glimpse of what life would have been like for a canal child in the 1950s. All school trip passengers are invited to enjoy a short guided visit to this unique home setting, and see and handle artefacts from the past.

The boat cruises through an area rich in wildlife; the whole of our section of the Cromford Canal is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on account of the diversity of habitats and species – animals, birds, amphibians, fish and plants. Birdswood glides through this watery world almost silently, getting ‘up close and personal’ to our natural world in an exciting multi-sensory environment.

We can offer special Horse-Drawn Adventures, being one of only four canal boat operators in UK using traditional boat horse haulage. This costs a bit more but has been a huge hit with schools that have experienced it.

Do you have the LOtC Quality Badge or any other accreditation such as AALA?
We are working towards LOtC Quality Badge status in collaboration with Derbyshire County Council Outdoor Education, whose LOtC events we attend.

What does a typical educational visit include?
All trips and planned onboard activities are tailored to the children’s age/stage and curriculum topics. We are keen to work closely with teachers so that your class gets the most from its day out.

No two school trips on Birdswood are alike. A typical cruise could include:
a brief intro with Q&A about canals, boats and cargoes;
a quiz-type activity;
and either a making activity (e.g. creating a traditional ‘ribbon’ plate or a sailors’ bracelet);
or a guided walk.

What group sizes do you cater for?
Maximum 35 children plus teachers/assistants/adult helpers (maximum passenger load is 41 people). All trips are designed for the 4-11 primary school age group.

Two similarly-sized groups can be accommodated on a 2 x single trip basis – 35 on the outbound leg to High Peak Junction, a similar number on the return leg. We can provide guided activities for the group that is not on the boat, e.g. observational ‘I Spy’ type games, or a nature or heritage walk.

Do you provide projects, teacher’s packs, work sheets or any useful information?
A digital teacher’s pack is included with all our school charter packages, tailored to age/stage and topics to be covered.

Your pack will typically include preparatory and follow-up resources plus linked activities such a games, background video material, plus useful links to other canal, waterways and heritage websites.

Our teacher packs were originated by a panel of three ex-primary teachers and are adapted and updated to meet schools’ specific needs.

Worksheets for specific activities are provided on the day of trip, along with pens and pencils.

Are you happy for children to take photos, video or audio?
Children are encouraged to make memories and record their Birdswood experiences using any medium – analogue or digital.

We leave the schools themselves to enforce their policies regarding restrictions on recording and posting digital media.

We have a strict policy regarding photography by our own staff; this is not done unless all necessary permissions and consents are in place.

What is your process for booking pre arranged risk assessments?
A standard risk assessment specific to the risks of being on the boat and in a waterside environment is provided at time of booking.

Schools can incorporate this into their own outdoor trips assessments. Alternatively they are welcome to inspect the boat and amenities by appointment in advance, to draw up their own assessment.

Does your venue have an education officer?
Education Officer: Marie Keane (retired primary and special needs teacher), email

Education Liaison: Nic Barfield, email mobile 07900 824359

What is the cost of the visit?
All costs are based on charter hire basis where Birdswood operates solely for the use of the school, rather than on a ‘per head’ basis. 2017 prices are:

Travel from Cromford to High Peak Junction on the outward leg. After leaving the boat near Leawood Pump House, your group can visit DCC’s Countryside Services small railway workshop museum and information centre at High Peak Junction (by separate arrangement; group fee applies). This option can include a return trip on Birdswood or be combined with a guided walk back to Cromford along the towpath (approx 1.25 miles, level ground).

A shorter out-and-back trip departing from and returning to Cromford Wharf, with no half-way disembarkation or walking involved. This option is particularly suitable for EYFS children or those with special needs.

2 x SINGLE TRIPS for 2 GROUPS @ £220
An option enabling up to 70 children (max 35 per trip) to enjoy a Birdswood trip and onboard activity combined with a guided walk or other onshore activities.

Birdswood is hauled by Chelsea, a sturdy but gentle boat-horse, for a 2.5 to 3-hour return trip. Two groups (max 35 children, 6 adults per group) can travel if required: one outbound, one inbound. In this case the group not on the boat can participate in a guided walk or other onshore activities.

Is specific clothing required for the trip?
Ordinary ‘street’ clothing or school uniform are appropriate.

We advise all passengers to bring an extra layer in the spring and autumn months, and to wear/carry a waterproof outer garment and sensible shoes if a walk is to be part of your itinerary.

Do you have first aid on site or will the group need to bring a qualified first aider?
Every passenger trip has a qualified First Aider on board (usually the boat master/skipper). A basic First Aid kit is carried.

Schools must ensure that any passenger with specific serious health issues (e.g. epilepsy, allergic reaction/anaphylaxis) has access to their medication and that a member of school staff is authorised to give such medication if required.

Please list facilities available.
There are public toilets at the boat’s base, Cromford Wharf, and also at High Peak Junction, near where the boat turns round before the return leg.

There is a café at Cromford Wharf, and a small shop selling drinks and snacks at High Peak Junction (although this may be shut out of peak season). Additionally, the Friends of the Cromford Canal run a small shop at Cromford selling canal-related artefacts and pocket money-priced souvenirs.

A small range of inexpensive snacks are available on board Birdswood.

Most school parties bring packed lunches, which they eat on board or at either end of the trip. There are picnic tables in attractive settings at both Cromford Wharf and High Peak Junction.

There is coach parking (pay and display) at Cromford Wharf, also on Cromford Meadows, and a short walk from High Peak Junction.

Cromford railway station (on the East Midlands Trains line between Nottingham/Derby and Matlock) is a 10-minute level walk away. The train company offers attractive discounts for groups – this works out far cheaper than coach transport. We can devise a timetable for that allows access to Birdswood by train.

What are your disabled facilities?
Birdswood is a 79-year-old ex-working canal boat. Access is via steps with a hand rail, and our staff members are always available to support when passengers board or leave the boat.

There is no wheelchair access or hoist, so regrettably people who are completely non-ambulatory cannot travel with us. However, many people with limited lower limb function who can walk/stand with assistance have travelled with us; most people who can articulate their legs by about 7 inches vertically can get on and off the boat safely.
We can accommodate folding lightweight wheelchairs (max 2) in the boat cabin or on the roof, according to passenger numbers carried.

We are always happy to talk to schools about access and activities for children with special needs, and we make every effort to accommodate people of all abilities. One of our staff has experience with children with MLD and SLD.

What are your opening days and hours?
School trips can be booked from March to October on any Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday (except in July and August when public trips run on Thursdays).

A typical school trip will take 2.5 to 3 hours from arrival on site to departure for home. Start and finish times are flexible to suit your day trip itinerary and transport requirements.

Do you have any testimonials from previous schools we can include?
“ A fantastic trip... the crew volunteers were enthusiastic and the planned activities were pitched at the right level and delivered well. ”
Stretton Handley C of E Primary - EYFS/Y1 trip

“ The visit is excellent value for money and a fantastic resource. It is great that the boat has so many heritage features e.g. the rose and castle decorations and the cabin is fantastic - you couldn’t possibly explain what it would have been like to live on a boat without actually seeing it! ”
St Giles C of E Primary, Matlock

“ Thank you for a wonderful trip – thoroughly prepared and well organised. The follow up resources were very useful and have been used for further work back at school. ”
Norbury C of E Primary, Derbyshire – Y1/Y2 classes

Is there anything else that you feel is important and want to include in your information?
Birdswood and its dedicated Education Team are relatively new to the school trips sector, having only launched in 2014. So we don’t have lots of stodgy hard-and-fast ideas about what your school’s perfect day trip should look like.

Our trained staff – some of whom are ex-teachers themselves – believe passionately in experiential learning and enabling children to enjoy their experiences fully. So we’re always keen to enter into dialogue with teachers about what YOU want from us, rather than trying to follow a one-size-fits-all agenda. We’re flexible and we can adapt to varied needs and teaching styles.

Birdswood volunteers are not paid – job satisfaction is our only reward! And seeing happy, engaged children enjoy a day out on the boat and then go away wanting to find out more about canal life gives us a real buzz. So if you have ideas that will make your class’s day out even more special, do give us a call or drop us a line!

Age of Children / Pupils: Pre-school 5 – 7 years 8 – 10 years 11 – 13 years 14 – 16 years College University

Type of Visit: Boat Trips Historic Buildings Historical Heritage Museums Picnic Areas Walking Tours Wildlife and Nature

Curriculum Topics Covered: Art and Design English Engineering Geography History Leisure & Tourism Mathematics Science

Months Open: All Year Round January February March April May June July August September October November December

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