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Tuesday 6 August

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

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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

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Thursday 25 July

Ellesmere canal warehouse 'at risk'

Supporters of the Llangollen Canal have expressed growing concerns about the deterioration of the canal warehouse at Ellesmere Wharf.

The former Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company building, which dates back to Telford's time, has been Grade II-listed since 1982. It has been empty for over 27 years and appears to be deteriorating.

Councillors are said to have called for the building to be placed on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register, to ensure its protection and help secure grant aid for restoration. Recent photographs suggest the building may be crumbling.

Adding further injury, in May 2018 the structure appears to have suffered additional damage, probably from contact by a boat, which was only rudimentarily repaired.

The warehouse was owned by property and construction company Pochin, but this went into administration in August and reportedly had already sold its property portfolio.

The local IWA branch has written to Shropshire Council, asking it to take enforcement action on the present owners to prevent the loss of the building.

Andrew Denny  | 2.29pm | add a comment

Wey & Arun to host 2020 IWA trailboat festival

The IWA 2020 National Trailboat Festival will be on the Dunsfold Summit of the Wey & Arun Canal restoration. Hosted by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust, it will take place over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (23rd-25th May).

Each year the festival draws attention to various restorations around the country. Next year's event will take place on the exact spot where, on 28th September 1816, the 3rd Earl of Egremont opened what was then the Wey & Arun Junction Canal.

The summit level has been a focus for the Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s restoration plans and has seen major renovation in recent years, including the construction of Compasses Bridge and the Thriscutt Slipway, built by trust volunteers and opened last year. A dredging programme is taking place, and over a mile of channel should be fully navigable.

For more information see waterways.org.uk/trailboat.

Andrew Denny  | 2.23pm | add a comment

Planning approval for Missing Mile

The 'Missing Mile' project of Cotswold Canals Connected passed its last official planning hurdle on 23rd July, when Gloucestershire County Council approved the scheme. The work now moves on to the designers, engineers and fundraisers.

CCC is the rebranding of the old Phase 1B section of the restoration, finally connecting Stroud to the wider canal network. It received a boost earlier this year when Highways England granted £4m towards the Missing Mile, which will get the canal underneath the M5 and A38 blockages.

Plans continue for the surveys, detailed designs and costings that will unlock lottery money to finish the project, although there is still a funding gap of more than £1m to be found.

Andrew Denny  | 2.19pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

Wednesday 24 July

CRT extends customer opening hours

The Canal & River Trust has extended its customer service opening hours to seven days a week.

Since July, the CRT customer service team has been on duty from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and 10am to 4pm on Sundays, in addition to the standard weekday opening hours of 8am to 6pm.

Boaters and other canal users can use it to report damage and vandalism, enquire about stoppages, and ask questions about volunteering and events.

You can contact the team by webform, by calling 0303 040 4040, tweeting @CRTcontactus or contacting the Canal & River Trust Facebook page.

Andrew Denny  | 1.46pm | add a comment

Today's news from the web

Tuesday 23 July

Today's news from the web

  • Cycle hire firms urged to help clear dumped bikes from canals theguardian.com

    Hundreds of dockless bikes are being dumped in canals and rivers and most operators should do more help clean up the mess, the body responsible for the UK’s waterways has complained. The Canal & River Trust said it was growing increasingly frustrated by the number of hire bikes abandoned in and beside its 2,000-mile network. It said more than 100 hire bikes a year were being thrown into canals in London alone....

Tuesday 16 July

Today's news from the web

  • The problem with fibreglass: Environmental concern over old boats itv.com

    Fibreglass transformed boat production, but there is growing concern about what to do with the material when it reaches the end of its life. Since the 1950s fibreglass, made of polyester resin and glass fibres, was seen as revolutionary. It was cheap to produce, strong, and extremely long lasting. It helped make sailing accessible for all, but its environmental qualities are less impressive. There is currently no means of recycling it and with many of those early craft coming to the end of their life, the question is, what to do with it?...

Monday 15 July

Today's news from the web

  • Why has it taken two lads from Lithuania to clean up the canals in Manchester? manchestereveningnews.co.uk

    Two pals from Lithuania who have started a new life in Manchester were so fed up of the rubbish being thrown into the city centre's canals that they decided to clean them up. They bought a £50 dinghy, a £20 licence to allow them on the water and some bin bags before setting out into the filthy water of Rochdale Canal where it passes through Castlefield....

Sunday 14 July

Today's news from the web

  • Historic watchdog to sink canal plan in Inverness inverness-courier.co.uk

    An ambitious project to develop part of the Caledonian Canal next to Muirtown Basin has hit a snag because of the waterway’s huge national, historic and cultural importance. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) fears that a new cafe, storage units and possible base for the sea cadets would be a blight on the canal’s unique ambience. It has told Scottish Canals that the waterway is a scheduled monument and any development would require HES approval....

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