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Tuesday 13 August

Today's news from the web

  • Canal barge spotted submerged in Yorkshire yorkshirepost.co.uk

    A sunken barge was spotted in a Yorkshire canal by a worried witness. The submerged canal boat was spotted at Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire by a passing motorist who "feared the worst."...

Monday 12 August

Rain mars Audlem

Extremes of weather made for some discomfort in the run-up to this year's Audlem Festival of Transport on 26th-28th July. Attended by 28 historic boats, the event was marred by weather too hot for enjoyable locking in the run-up, and too wet over the weekend, almost wiping out attendances by the general public.

Nevertheless Audlem has become a fixture on the historic boat tour, one of the half-dozen favourite gatherings for enthusiasts, and the crews still enjoyed themselves.

The Saturday hogroast at the lock cottage was abandoned during the downpours, but the Historic Narrow Boat Club found an alternative venue in marquees left up in a field after an earlier Ramblers Club annual picnic.

The attenders and organisers, all enjoyed the weekend, but the purpose was to put on a spectacle for the public, to remind them of this marvellous form of transport and wonderful setting, and the weather worked against this. Better luck next year!

Peter Silvester, Audlem Mill 

Andrew Denny  | 2.18pm | add a comment

Grantham celebrates 50th birthday

On 28th July the Grantham Canal Society held a 50th birthday party at its headquarters in the Woolsthorpe depot.

The society came into being as an idea of the Grantham Civic Society in 1969, and held its inaugural meeting at The Plough Inn, Hickling, overlooking Hickling Basin.

That first meeting was chaired by local architect and archaeologist Garland Grylls, who died in 2006. His daughter Jane, current treasurer and membership secretary, was present at the birthday party, along with two of the original members from 1969, Chris Tizzard and Jim Barker.

Chris and Jim represented those who, in the 1970s and early '80s, fought attempts to turn the canal into a linear rubbish dump, helped thwart the mining of the Vale of Belvoir (subsidence would have destroyed the line) and challenged the indifference and negativity of British Waterways at the time.

Also present was Francis Bailey, who in the early days was instrumental in setting up what became the Hickling Reach Project, the first real success of the canal. Hickling Basin was rejuvenated, nearly 3 miles of canal dredged and three new accommodation bridges

The society celebrated its birthday with optimism. The lottery-funded restoration of Woolsthorpe locks 15 and 14 should be completed next year, membership has nearly tripled to over 650 and it has over 70 active volunteers.

Plans are now shaping up for the completion of the two remaining locks of the Woolsthorpe flight, while the society has also turned its attention to the Cropwell Bishop dry section as its next project.

Andrew Denny  | 1.47pm | add a comment

Friday 9 August

A trow for Stourport

The Hereford Bull, a replica Severn Trow built for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, is seeking a new home, after the consortium that owns it decided its location in Gloucester felt too limiting.

The boat was commissioned by an informal Hereford collective of naval officers, rowers, sea cadets and others, and was based for a few years on the Wye. It was built in Tommi Nielsen's yard in Gloucester Docks, and is back there while a decision is being made. 

Now a new group has put forward the case for Stourport. Calling itself the Stourport Trow Sailing Trust, the group will hold an inaugural meeting on 24th September, with the aim of agreeing any conditions of transfer and to start fundraising. 

Trows were historically the native barges of the Severn, Wye and tributaries, but apart from the replica have not been seen afloat for over a century. When the canal arrived in Stourport in the 1770s they transhipped with narrowboats, and were a familiar sight in the two basins, but their trade ceased before World War I.

David Struckett, a member of IWA's Navigation Committee who is heading the campaign, said “The town has a heritage narrowboat in Bramble, but a trow would be even more appropriate as it pre-dates the canal.”

For more information email david.struckett@waterways.org.uk.

Andrew Denny  | 2.30pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Historic Ashton-under-Lyne canalside mill destroyed by fire bbc.co.uk

    Residents were evacuated from their homes overnight as up to 70 firefighters tackled a blaze at a complex of canalside mill buildings. Oxford Mills was the creation of self-made businessman and Liberal MP Hugh Mason (1817-1881), who created a worker's neighbourhood by the canal as well as a thriving cotton business. The Ashton canal was closed while demolition of the ruins was arranged. ...

Thursday 8 August

Campaign to build replica Sutton Hoo ship

A £1m fundraising campaign has been launched to build a full-sized replica of the 7th century burial ship at Sutton Hoo. Uncovered in 1939, it was said to be the grave of an early Saxon King, and was believed to have been buried about 625 AD.

The impression of the rotted ship’s timbers in the sand suggested it to have been a mastless, clinker-built rowboat about 90ft long, using around 3,500 rivets. Yet while the hull shape has been well mapped out, much is still speculation.

The replica will be tested with a crew of up to 40 rowers. They will also erect a mast and see how well it sails.

A half-length replica, Sae Wylfing, was built in 1993. But this was only one eighth the total displacement, did not properly test the concept, and omits the staggering impressiveness of the full-sized boat.

The build will be a staged appeal, with the first step offering sponsorship of 3,500 numbered metal rivets to hold the ship together.

Details of the project can be found at makeshiphappen.co.uk.

Andrew Denny  | 2.26pm | add a comment

Appeal for BCN canal steps funding

A volunteer group has restored a disused railway line near Birmingham as a leisure greenway, and is now appealing for help to link it with a Birmingham Canal Navigations aqueduct over the line. 

The greenway, which opened this year, uses the old South Staffordshire Railway that once ran between Brownhills and Walsall but closed 30 years ago.

The group's founder, Tim Kitchen, says that at one point the line crosses underneath the Wyrley & Essington Canal on the Anglesey Arm, and it is here that they are appealing for funds to create steps up to the canal.

The aqueduct, dating from 1856, is Grade II-listed, and Tim Kitchen says they are limited in their options.

“Steps to the towpath would created a completely traffic-free route from Walsall to Chasewater and enable many more circular walks to be enjoyed,” he told WW. “We would also add a cycle channel.”

"But the steps are costing considerably more than we estimated when we started,” he added. “This is due the slope requiring a zig-zag and a resting place in the middle to meet regulations.”

More details can be found at backthetrack.org.uk.

The aqueduct on the Wyrley & Essington Canal where Back The Track want to build the steps.

Andrew Denny  | 2.22pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Horse-drawn barge near misses prompt safety action on Grand Western Canal devonlive.com

    Grand Western Canal visitors are being warned of the hazards surrounding the horse-drawn barge and cycling thanks to new signs. The signs at the Canal Basin and Tiverton Road Bridge inform visitors that they are entering the horse-drawn barge operating zone. Canal ranger Mark Baker said: “These signs use photos and text to demonstrate some of the hazards and the safe behaviour requested of towpath users in this zone. “These A2-sized signs have been developed in response to several near misses in recent years whereby towpath users have acted dangerously around the horse that pulls the barge....

Wednesday 7 August

Memorial unveiled to new 'Rochdale pioneer'

In front of a crowd of 40 Rochdale Canal supporters, a memorial bench was unveiled on 16th July at Canal Street, Littleborough, in memory of Brian Holden.

Brian, who died in September last year aged 88, was the founder and life-long secretary of the Rochdale Canal Society from 1974, seeing the restoration through to its full reopening in 2002. The seat honours his decades of fundraising and physical hard work in reopening the waterway.

“Without Brian it would not have happened,” said his friend Bob Weatherley of the Littleborough Civic Trust. “He truly was a latter-day Rochdale Pioneer. In a sense, the canal itself is his memorial.”

Andrew Denny  | 1.49pm | add a comment

Historic Rochdale Canal mill destroyed by fire

The historic Walkley Clogs Mill alongside the Rochdale Canal at Mytholmroyd has been demolished after being devastated by fire on 1st August. Although the blaze was quickly brought under control, the local council took the decision to demolish the building for safety.

Previously home to clog manufacturers Walkley, the Victorian building had been turned into a World of Clogs tourist attraction when the company moved its manufacturing to another mill nearby.

Successive plans to convert it to housing or find a canal-related use fell through and it had become derelict.

The building was better known to succeeding generations of working boatmen as Maude's Clog Mill, and was built to take advantage of the canal. As Maude's it was the largest manufacturer of clog soles in the world, reaching a peak of 1.2m pairs by World War II, although the canal's role in their production ceased in the 1920s.

Andrew Denny  | 1.19pm | add a comment

Tuesday 6 August

Near-misses prompt safety action on Grand Western Canal

The Grand Western Canal Country Park has introduced new safety measures, after reports of several near-misses by towpath users around the popular horse-drawn barge service at the Tiverton end of the canal.

A 3 mile long ‘horse-drawn barge operating zone’ – the UK's first – is now indicated by new signs at either end of the zone, with smaller versions of the sign at towpath access points.

The near-misses occurred in particular under some of the bridges in recent years, when other towpath users acted dangerously or unwittingly around the barge horse.

New signs have also been introduced to encourage more considerate behaviour among cyclists, encouraging them to dismount and walk under the canal’s bridges.

Andrew Denny  | 2.18pm | add a comment

Whaley Bridge reservoir draining almost completed

The emergency draining of Toddbrook Reservoir was close to completion on Tuesday, easing fears that it might collapse and cause catastrophic damage to Whaley Bridge and other local areas.

The near-disaster has caused the evacuation of a quarter of the town's 6,500 inhabitants and the closure of the Upper Peak Forest Canal from Bridge 26 to Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

The Canal & River Trust closed the Upper Peak Forest Canal with stop planks at Dryhurst Bridge (No.26) near Disley. This was intended to avoid potential flooding or risk of breaching further down the canal, should the worst happen.

Over 530 tonnes of aggregate has been dropped in bags by helicopter to reinforce the damaged spillway and prevent further collapse.

In an initial response on the first day of the emergency, Canal & River Trust chief executive Richard Parry said a detailed inspection was last carried out in November 2018, when it was found to be "absolutely fine".

He added that the failure had not been caused by underfunding: “We aren’t short of money to spend on reservoirs... we’re urgently anxious to understand what has happened in this case.”

The new prime minister, Boris Johnson, immediately promised that the reservoir will be repaired or rebuilt. However, since it is the responsibility of the Canal & River Trust, and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, who funds this will be up for debate, and Mr Parry's words might well come back to haunt him.

Andrew Denny  | 2.09pm | add a comment

Winter works include six long-term stoppages

The final list of planned works on Canal & River Trust waters for the coming winter was published on 16th August, and contained few surprises. However, there were a number of long stoppages which could alter winter cruising plans and which are tackling some long-running problems.

Hurleston lock widening cuts off the Langollen 

One all-winter stoppage, from 4th November 2019 to 23rd March 2020, is of Lock 1 on the Llangollen Canal, at Hurleston Junction. One side of the lock chamber has been slowly leaning in over the years, and boats over 6ft 10in beam, including most historic working craft, cannot therefore gain access to the canal.

The leaning wall will be dismantled and rebuilt, cutting off the Llangollen for five months. One payoff should be the ability to see historic boats on the Llangollen Canal for the first time for many years, perhaps at a gathering next summer.

Bollington leaks

Another all-winter relining project will attempt to stop a long-running leak from the Macclesfield Canal at Bollington. For over three years residents have complained about water leaking onto the town's recreation ground, 50ft below the canal embankment, making the field in parts unusable – "neither pitch nor pool," as one local wag joked.

In addition, there appear to be leaks on the offside, at Clarence Mill. The two leaks appear to be related; after attempts to fix the leaks last year on the embankment side failed, engineers suspect that water may be seeping through the canal bed and wash wall into the mill foundations, and then passing back under the canal to the towpath side, finding its way into the recreation ground. The work will involve concreting 90 yards of canal channel and rebuilding a further 72 yards of wash wall alongside the mill.

One local canal expert told WW: "This project has arisen out of the observation that the mill front has started to move or settle, cracks have appeared in some of the apartments, and a lot of surveying has been carried out over the past six months or so to determine how much and how fast.

“I understand that the mill is not very well founded (by modern standards) although the stair tower (built c.1870) is below the canal bed. Consequently, I think the wet ground between the canal and the mill may have reduced its side thrust to hold the mill wall in place. Several voids were found under the roadway between the canal and mill.”

Anderton Lift shuts 

The Anderton Boat Lift will close from 2nd December to 13th March to allow extensive repairs, including the renewal of the lift's control system. However, CRT says the visitor centre will remain open, and the Edwin Clark trip-boat will be running river trips from below the lift.

Lune leaks to be fixed 

On the Lancaster Canal the Lune Aqueduct is being shut from 4th November to 13th March to resolve persistent leakage. This will include de-watering the length and re-lining 330 yards of channel between Lune and Bulk Road aqueducts.

Islington Tunnel stops London boaters

On the Regent's Canal in London, CRT is closing the 960-yard Islington Tunnel for two months from 13th January for brickwork repairs. The stoppage will either be a boon or a nuisance for the estimated 2,200 London liveaboard boaters, who will find it harder to meet their continuous cruising obligations – or will find more excuses to stay put.

Rochdale 3 miles

Another two-month stoppage from 6th January to 13th March will close 3 miles and 16 locks of the Rochdale Canal in Manchester for assorted repairs, from Ancoats Upper Lock (above the junction with the Ashton Canal) to Failsworth Top Lock 65.

Leaks on the Clarence Mill side of the Macclesfield Canal at Bollington are now thought to be responsible for the leaks under the other side of the canal embankment. Photo: Tim Boddington.
Hurleston Junction Lock – closed for five months from 4th November for widening. (Photo: Roger Kidd, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Andrew Denny  | 1.56pm | add a comment

Monday 5 August

Today's news from the web

Friday 2 August

Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals closed as reservoir threatens collapse

Hundreds of people were evacuated from Whaley Bridge on 1st August when the main reservoir feeding the Upper Peak Forest Canal appeared in danger of collapse.

After days of torrential rain the spillway of Toddbrook Reservoir began to give way, and hundreds of tons of aggregate were dropped by helicopter into the gaps.

The Canal & River Trust has suspended navigation on the Upper Peak Forest Canal and upper section of the Macclesfield Canal, closing the Marple and Bosley Locks as a precaution in case the worst should happen.

CRT chief engineer Julie Sharman said it would be several days before they could be sure if the dam would hold, and they were frantically trying to reduce the water levels with extra pumping. Meanwhile chief executive Richard Parry, questioned on BBC TV Newsnight, said the reservoir was inspected in detail every year, the last full inspection in November showing nothing untoward, and a daily inspection spotted the problem immediately.

While Toddbrook Reservoir feeds the Upper Peak Forest canal, which was opened in 1794, the reservoir itself was built in 1831 to boost supply to the newly opened Macclesfield Canal, the last major canal project of Thomas Telford.

It's not the first time the Peak Forest reservoirs have had problems. Toddbrook itself overtopped with destructive flooding in both 1872 and 1930, while the 1872 event also caused the collapse of another reservoir, Adsheads Pools.

At time of writing CRT and Environment Agency staff were frantically pumping to reduce water levels, and holding their collective breath.

Andrew Denny  | 3.17pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

  • Historic Rochdale Canal mill destroyed by fire bbc.co.uk

    A historic mill building at Mythholmroyd, on the Rochdale Canal, has been destroyed by fire. The Victorian building was formerly home to Walkley Clogs, near Hebden Bridge. It closed in 2002 after a spell as a tourist attraction and has been derelict ever since. The Canal & River Trust has closed the canal and towpath while plans are made for the mill's future, but it is thought the ruined building will now have to be demolished. ...

  • Leeds and Liverpool Canal reopens canalrivertrust.org.uk

    The torrential rain that served as a disaster at Whaley Bridge had proved a blessing on the Leeds & Liverpool summit, with a full reopening today (2nd August)...

  • Whaley Bridge dam collapse in pictures bbc.co.uk

    Residents of Whaley Bridge were evacuated on Thursday night, and CRT engineers were holding their breath after Toddbrook Reservoir, which supplies the Peak Forest Canal, was thought in danger of collapsing. An RAF Chinook dropped hundreds of tons of aggregate bags in an effort to short up the spillway ...

Thursday 1 August

Little change in Ombudsman issues

Complaints about the Canal & River Trust in 2018/19 showed "not a significant change" on previous years, according to the seventh and final report of the outgoing Waterways Ombudsman, Andrew Walker, who handed over to his successor, Sarah Daniel, on 26th July.

Forty-three complaints were received, up from the previous year's 35, while 13 investigations were completed.

In an effort to sense the Waterways Ombudsman's effectiveness, this year the complainants were asked to complete a survey before a report into their complaint was finally issued; in previous years they were asked for their opinions after the judgement.

The Waterways Ombudsman scheme deals with complaints about the Canal & River Trust after the trust’s own complaints procedures have been exhausted. Although officially anonymised, some of them are of well-known issues, such as wide-beam boats using the north Oxford Canal or the CRT boat licensing consultation of 2018, and these make interesting reading.

The annual report can be seen at waterways-ombudsman.org – see the 'case summaries' section.

Andrew Denny  | 1.54pm | add a comment

Monday 29 July

Today's news from the web

  • Grand Western Canal named a top green space for 11th year running devonlive.com

    The Grand Western Canal Country Park is among a record number of parks and green spaces to receive a Green Flag Award. It’s the 11th consecutive year that the Country Park has received the honour from the Green Flag Awards Scheme which recognises the best green spaces in the world....

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