December rains flood waterways & damage boats

Record rain storms in the north of England have flooded canals and rivers. Much of the Aire & Calder and Calder & Hebble navigations, the Yorkshire River Ouse, the River Foss, and parts of the Rochdale and Huddersfield canals have been closed to users following flooding caused by heavy December rainfall on already saturated ground.

Stranded boats on the Aire and Calder

A number of craft, mainly narrow boats, were stranded on the banks or sunk, mainly on the Calder & Hebble (above), and approved recovery contractors River Canal Rescue have been working in the area. There are flood warnings still in force and more rain forecast.

The CRT says that it is clear that a number of towpaths have been washed away and there are places where the flood water has compromised the waterways, including washing away sections of canal bank. It is facing considerable damage along much of the Rochdale Canal, the Calder & Hebble and on the River Aire Navigation through Leeds that may take some time to repair. Volunteers have been offering support to get all the region’s waterways back open as soon as possible and the CRT will have clearer of picture of help required when the full extent of repairs are known.

According to a CRT flooding update on the 4th January, some of the most serious damage includes;

Elland Bridge on the Calder & Hebble Navigation which has suffered serious structural damage. Our engineers are working with Calderdale Council on a temporary footbridge whilst options for repair (and maybe even a rebuild) are assessed.

A 15m section of canal bank between Locks 16 and 17 of the Rochdale Canal has breached

A landslip has blocked the navigation between locks 15 and 16 on the Rochdale Canal. Our contractors have dug a channel through the blockage to enable water to flow along the canal

The embankment between the Rochdale Canal and River Calder at Charlestown has suffered severe scour damage meaning that water levels have been held low to prevent the canal wall from failing

The banks of the River Aire breached in Leeds and inundated the Aire & Calder Canal. Working with Leeds City Council and their contractor Bam, the breach has been temporarily repaired with stone to prevent flooding of the canal.

Following other promises of money, the Prime Minister has pledged £40 million towards flood relief in Yorkshire:  Perhaps some will go to the navigation authorities?

Among the tragic TV images of the earlier December floods and other damage in Cumbria’s Lake District caused by Storm Desmond was the remarkable sight of one of Ullswater Steamer’s large passenger boats standing completely ashore.

Grounded Ullswater SteamerFour of the company’s elegant historic boats were safely moored at its main Glenridding base at the south end of Ullswater. But the Lady Wakefield was at the northern end moored on Pooley Bridge Pier and the flood waters entering from the River Eamont swept her off. The adjacent historic stone Pooley Bridge was completely destroyed.

However, members of the local mountain rescue team managed to get two of the company’s skippers aboard who then took the boat down the lake. Realising that the Lady Wakefield had been holed near the stern they drove her ashore at a convenient point where she was safe. A marine assessor has inspected the damage and there are plans to set up a temporary slipway in order to move her and repair her stern damage.

Thanks to Harry Arnold and Waterway Images for this report and image of the Lady Wakefield. Thanks to Nigel Stevens of Shire Cruisers for the images of damaged boats on the Aire and Calder.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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