Locks on closed North and North West canals which were temporarily reopened over the October half term to allow limited cruising and to enable boats to return to their winter moorings will be closed to through passage again by early November when winter maintenance closures start.
August brought less than half the average rainfall and despite some heavy burst of rain in the last two months water levels in many northern canal reservoirs are still well below drought levels. In September the Leeds and Liverpool reservoirs for instance were at just 15.9% of their total capacity. Reservoirs being taken out of service for essential maintenance have also contributed to the water shortage such as on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals were water supplies were down to 18.7% of reservoir capacity. CRT publishes a monthly Reservoir Watch report which can be seen at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/specialist-teams/managing-our-water/reservoir-watch
Temporary re-opening of locks on restricted waterways include the following canals; Ashton, Caldon, Huddersfield Narrow, Leeds and Liverpool, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Rochdale, Trent and Mersey. All will be closed again by November 7th. More details these and other stoppages including Winter Maintenance Works can be seen at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/notices. UPDATE 28/10 – Due to recent rainfall and level improvements the lock restrictions on the Ashton and Huddersfield Narrow canals are not being reimposed at present.
Anderton Lift remains closed until repairs have been carried out on the hydraulic cylinders. CRT says that their engineers need to detach the hydraulic cylinders from the caissons in order to replace the seals and that once all the repairs have been carried out there will need to be a 2-to-4-week recommissioning. They anticipate that the Lift will re-open to the public at the end of March 2023.
On the Oxford Canal opening restrictions are also still in force on Marston Doles locks 15 and 16 where reservoirs remain at critical levels.
Julie Sharman, chief CRT operating officer, writes in the October CRT Boaters’ Update:
“I appreciate that this has been a disappointing period for many boaters on our northern canals. The combination of a dry spring that continued into a hot, dry summer, coupled with essential reservoir repairs, meant water supplies have been at historically low levels. And although welcome rainfall in recent weeks has improved some canal pound levels, the reservoirs that feed the canals are still seeing modest increases in holding and are well below the 2010 and 2018 drought levels.
“The long-term forecast is still for settled weather, with the Environment Agency warning there is a risk the drought could extend into 2023. So, whilst we need to carefully manage water supplies over the winter to help protect water supplies for boating in 2023, we felt it was important to offer customers a ‘window’ of reopening at locks ahead of the winter stoppage season. In some instances, this will allow half-term cruising, whilst elsewhere where water levels are still particularly low, that ‘window’ of reopening is much more modest but allows those looking to move their boat and perhaps return to a winter mooring, the opportunity to do so.
“Getting underway in November, this winter our works programme will continue to see investment in a significant amount of water saving maintenance work which, together with the ongoing investment in reservoirs, will help improve the resilience of the network for boating in years to come.”
Thanks to CRT for information used in this report.