Bennerley Viaduct stands as a monument to a former age when coal was king. Built in 1877, the wrought iron viaduct is one of two that survive in this country.
The viaduct has local, regional and national importance and is protected by its grade 2* listed status. Situated in the heart of D.H. Lawrence country, the 440 metre long wrought iron giant straddles the River Erewash and connects Derbyshire with Nottinghamshire. It is a tribute to the ingenuity of our Victorian engineers.
Since 1968 when train wheels last rolled over the viaduct, it has been marooned and virtually abandoned. The embankments have been removed from both ends and the track has been lifted, but remarkably the viaduct has survived calls for its demolition. Since the early 1980s, aspirations to give this majestic structure a new lease of life as a walking and cycling trail have been put forward. Bennerley Viaduct’s time has come and that aspiration is moving closer towards being a reality.
In 2015 Sustrans was awarded £40,000 by Heritage Lottery as the first stage in a project aiming to raise local awareness and appreciation of the viaduct with a longer term view of giving the structure a new life and purpose.
The local community has embraced the Bennerley Viaduct Project with enthusiasm. More than 16,000 people visited an exhibition at the Erewash Museum in Ilkeston which showcased the viaduct’s rich industrial and natural heritage. The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct and Sustrans volunteers have been active in preparing the viaduct for a detailed engineering inspection. Hundreds of volunteer hours have been given to remove damaging scrub vegetation from under the viaduct. Hundreds of tons of ballast has been removed from the deck to allow engineers to inspect the viaduct’s drainage system.
Sustrans Network Development Officer Bill Tomson said: “The most effective way of saving the viaduct is to bring it back into use. There is a good network of walking and cycling trails in the valley and the viaduct will be an important link within that network. In the longer term, the viaduct will be an iconic centrepiece of the Great Northern Greenway, a traffic free trail which follows the line of the Great Northern Railway between Nottingham and Derby. These sustainable transport routes will be used by commuters and by those who enjoy cycling and walking in local countryside.
Community Development Officer Kieran Lee added: "This project will provide benefits to health, heritage tourism, business and education. Local people have welcomed this project with open arms and are excited by its potential to regenerate this part of the valley. As well as providing traffic-free walking and cycling, the viaduct will be celebrated as a living monument to the rich industrial heritage of the Erewash Valley. It will also be an important place for the community to enjoy and appreciate the wealth of wildlife in this corner of D.H. Lawrence country.”
The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct Facebook page is where you can find regular updates on the Viaduct and is visited by people from all around the globe.