Drought closes Northern waterways to boaters

Five Pennine canals have lock flights padlocked because of the current dry weather with no cross Pennine routes open to boaters. The Rochdale, Huddersfield Narrow, Leeds and Liverpool, Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals are all affected. With the Shropshire Union Middlewich branch breach already closing the Four Counties Ring and the L&L into Liverpool closed by a breach many northern boaters and hirers will find their 2018 holiday options severely restricted.

Hebden Bridge

June was the third driest month since records began in 1910, and the dry weather continuing into July has seriously depleted reservoir holdings and other sources of water that feed the canal network. The Canal & River Trust is implementing a further package of measures on parts of Northern England waterways, which also suffered below average winter rainfall, as the exceptionally dry weather continues. CRT say it’s not clear how long these closures will have to last for, but it’s likely to be throughout August, and potentially beyond if there is no significant, sustained rainfall.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal had some restrictions introduced in June to conserve water and from Monday 30 July will close part of the canal to boats, between Wigan and Gargrave. The lock flights at Wigan (locks 65 to 85), Johnsons Hillocks (58 to 64), Blackburn Flight (locks 52 to 57), Barrowford Locks (45 to 51), Greenberfield Locks (42 to 44), Bank Newton Locks (36 to 41) and Gargrave (locks 35 to 30) are being be padlocked closed and the gates ashed up to reduce leakage. To prevent unauthorised access though vandalism, measures are being be taken to make the locks inoperable.
The Rochdale Canal will be closed to boats from Monday 6 August between locks 1 and 48 (from Sowerby Bridge to Littleborough) – with the exception of a short stretch between locks 6 and 19 (east of Mytholmroyd to Todmorden) where navigation through locks will be restricted to the period between 10am and 2pm under a local booking system. (Image above Hebden Bridge)
UPDATE 25/7/2018  ‘ … water levels have dropped so low we have had to close passage between Lock 7 and Lock 11 from 25th July’ .
The locks, 19 to 48, will be padlocked closed and the gates will be ashed up to reduce leakage. To prevent use, measures will be taken to make the locks inoperable.
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal will be closed to boats from Monday 6 August between locks 24 West to 1 East (from above Uppermill across to Huddersfield). The locks, 24 West to 1 East, will be padlocked closed and the gates will be ashed up to reduce leakage. To prevent use, measures will be taken to make the locks inoperable.
Bugsworth BasinThe Macclesfield Canal Bosley Flight (locks 1 to 12), is currently restricted to the period between 8am and 2pm. Whilst this will conserve water in the short term it is planned to close the canal at Bosley on Monday 13 August. The Lower Macclesfield Canal (below Bosley) will remain unrestricted.
The Peak Forest Canal Marple Flight (locks 1 to 16) is already closed due to movement in the lock walls at Lock 11 and will remain closed until they can be re-built. Boating on the Lower Peak Forest (below Marple) a will remain unrestricted but access to Bugsworth Basin (right) will be closed to conserve water from Monday 13 August.
The Lancaster Canal Glasson Flight has been closed since July 2nd to help conserve water.

The closures will seriously affect holidaymakers and many boating businesses, such as hire firms. CRT say they will continue to work with boating businesses in the affected areas to put contingency plans into place so that people can still enjoy a boating holiday. The Trust is also publishing maps detailing where restrictions or temporary closures are in place so that boaters can plan their summer’s cruising.

Jon Horsfall, head of Customer Service Support for the Canal & River Trust, said; “There’s just no getting away from the fact that we haven’t had enough rain and that’s affecting our ability to supply certain sections of canal in the North with the water they need. We’ve been trying to make the water last as long as possible by restricting opening times but each time a boat goes through a lock it uses around 300,000 litres of water. Without rainfall to replenish our reservoirs it’s becoming a real challenge to provide these vast quantities of water in some parts of the northern network. Of course, visitors and the local community can still enjoy the towpath, canoeists can go for a paddle and anglers can fish on their local canal. Boaters too can still make limited use of lock-free sections, or venture further afield to unaffected parts of the network. We’re continuing to work with boaters and boating businesses to try and minimise the impact on them as much as we possibly can, including giving them information to help plan their cruising. We’d like to thank them for their help and understanding in these exceptional circumstances and can assure them that we will re-open canals for boats to use as soon as the water supply is back to a sufficient level.”

CRT suggest boaters can help conserve water by:
• Sharing locks where possible and making the best use of the water available.
• Ensuring paddles are fully closed once they’ve passed through a lock.
• Aiming for minimal contact with gates so that they don’t cause any minor damage which could increase leakage when navigating through locks, by ensuring gates are fully open before they pass through.

To find out more about how the Trust manages its water, including water management FAQs and a monthly Reservoir Watch visit their website.

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