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Canal News 2008


Ashton Canal finally re-opens

Lock 17 Ashton Canal
Lock 17, Ashton Canal

December 12th 2008

The Ashton Canal has finally re-opened to through navigation after being closed following damage to the gate of Lock 17.

The canal was closed on 15th October after damage to the gate caused its operation to be considered dangerous. British Waterways staff investigated whether it could be quickly repaired but found that a new gate was required. A new gate was ordered to be manufactured as soon as possible.

British Waterways issued a stoppage notice warning that the canal was likely to remain closed for at least a week. However the stoppage was extended several times due to various delays.

On Nov 14th BW announced that the replacement gate has been manufactured and delivered to the local depot. Work to install the gate was to start the following week with the canal expected to re-open on 28th November. However, on 28th November, BW announced that work had been delayed "due to unforseen circumstances" and that the canal should be re-opened by 10th December. Following a further delay the canal was finally re-opened on 12 December.

The stoppage affected boaters doing the Cheshire Ring and the South Pennine Ring. It caused potential difficulties for boaters attempting to reach places before the winter stoppage programme began on 3rd November. Some concern has been expressed about the length of time taken to complete this repair on the Ashton Canal compared with the speedy repairs that are carried out on more popular canals further south.

Prince Charles visits Sowerby Bridge Canal Wharf

December 4th 2008

Prince Charles at Sowerby Bridge Photo: BW
Robin Evans of BW shows Prince Charles around Sowerby Bridge Canal Wharf. Photo: BW

In late November, Prince Charles visited Sowerby Bridge Wharf to see for himself the extensive conservation and regeneration of the area.

The project to regenerate the wharf area was established by his charity, The Prince's Regeneration Trust, in 1996, at a time when the wharf was in a state of decline and the warehouses facing dereliction.

The project conserved and restored a unique collection of historic canal buildings, benefiting and supporting existing businesses at the wharf, attracting new businesses to the area and bringing visitors to this historically important site. The wharf with its warehouses is situated at the junction of the Calder and Hebble Navigation with the Rochdale Canal.

The focus of the project was the regeneration of the Grade II listed Salt Warehouse and the Grade II* listed No. 4 Warehouse, which in turn attracted further development.

The Prince toured the warehouses and met those running businesses there. He saw the wet dock and named a newly-built canal boat. He spoke to local Sea Scouts who had initially saved the Salt Warehouse from collapse by renovating part of the structure and erecting a temporary roof, before the start of the regeneration project.

Stephen Baines of Calderdale Council said: "The Council has worked for many years to achieve the regeneration of the canal basin area and is very grateful to The Prince for the commitment and support of his Regeneration Trust. This major transformation has been the result of close working with the local community."

Maddy Jago of English Heritage, which provided design and conservation advice, said: "The conservation of the canal warehouses has extended regeneration to the wharf and it is wonderful to see them once again being used and enjoyed by the local community."

Ashton Canal Remains closed after gate damage

Lock 17 Ashton Canal
Lock 17, Ashton Canal

October 16th 2008 updated 24th Oct, 14th Nov, 28th Nov, 9th Dec

The Ashton Canal remains closed following damage to the gate of Lock 17.

British Waterways staff have investigated the extent of the damage and found that a new gate is required.

BW's workshop has been informed, timber has been ordered and a new gate will be manufactured as soon as possible

The canal is likely to remain closed for at least a week.

This will affect boaters doing the Cheshire Ring and the South Pennine Ring.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Update: Oct 24th 2008
The canal remains closed to through navigation. Measurements have been taken and the workshop has started constructing the replacement gate, but it could be up to 4 weeks before navigation is restored.

Update: Nov 14th 2008
The canal remains closed to through navigation. The replacement gate has been manufactured and delivered to the local depot.

Works to install the gate will commence early next week and the canal is planned to re-open to navigation on Friday 28th November.

Update: Nov 28th 2008
The canal remains closed to through navigation. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the installation of the replacement gate has been delayed and the canal will now re-open to navigation on Wednesday 10th December.

Update: Dec 9th 2008
The canal remains closed to through navigation. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the installation of the replacement gate has been delayed and the canal will now re-open to navigation on Friday 12th December.

Very Limited Opening at Salterhebble Guillotine Lock

November 14th 2008

Salterhebble Guillotine Lock

There will be very restricted passage through Salterhebble Guillotine Lock on the Calder and Hebble Navigation over the winter period. This follows a technical breakdown in May, since which the guillotine has had to be manually operated by BW staff.

The Guillotine Lock will be operated by BW staff during the following period only:
 • 12.00 noon - 1.00 pm daily

Passage will be possible outside these hours but this must be booked 72 hours in advance by telephoning the Yorkshire office on 0113 281 6860.

For enquiries about the stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

Extension to Liverpool for Bridgewater licence holders

November 11th 2008

Princes Dock on the new Liverpool Link
The new Liverpool Link at Pier Head.

British Waterways has agreed to extend its arrangement with the Manchester Ship Canal Company to allow pleasure craft displaying a valid Bridgewater Canal licence to travel through to Liverpool.

This extension is for a limited period of time, from 1st January 2009 until 31st December 2013. This means that when the Liverpool Canal Link opens in Spring 2009, Bridgewater licence holders will be able to travel along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal beyond Burscough and to use the Liverpool Canal Link through to the Albert Dock.

Currently, Bridgewater licence holders can travel for a period of seven days free of charge along the Leigh Branch and from Wigan to Burscough and from Wigan to the bottom of Blackburn Locks. In a reciprocal agreement, BW licence holders can use the Bridgewater Canal free of charge for up to seven days.

This arrangement is hoped to increase the number of boats expected to travel along the under-used western end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and onto the new Canal Link through to the southern docks. Some improvements have been made to the section of canal between Litherland and Liverpool but long-term improvement can only come from increased use, so that boats become a regular sight.

The present destination of Eldonian Village, while being an attractive location, has not been a sufficient draw to bring large numbers of boats along the western end of the canal. The exciting new route through the central docks and across the vibrant Pier Head area to the new destination of Salthouse and Albert Docks has already caught the imaginations of boat owners and is expected to attract a lot more boats to journey along the canal to Liverpool.

The new agreement between British Waterways and the Manchester Ship Canal Company was reached following a request by a boater on the Bridgewater Canal and will allow Bridgewater licence holders to cruise to Liverpool without additional charge.

The section of the new Canal Link through the Pier Head in Liverpool was filled with water recently and the public has been allowed back onto this part of the Pier Head. This has met with wide approval, with Liverpudlians keen to see the Link fully opened and boats coming through.

The latest photos of the Canal Link can be seen here.

New Mile Posts for Leeds and Liverpool

New Milepost
Mike Clarke and Trevor Roberts with the first of the new mile posts.

New Milepost
The castings used for creating the faces of the mile posts.

October 25th 2008

An interesting project is under way to restore missing mile posts along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

This involves a collaboration between the Bradford Motor Education Project, British Waterways, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society and the Inland Waterways Association.

Bradford Motor Education Project's marine division, "Dreamweavers", which supports the education, training and personal development of young people, has co-ordinated the project, with senior trainees having been involved in pattern making, casting the mile plates, surveying the sites and installation of the posts.

At first, the mile posts will be installed between Shipley and Bingley. It is hoped eventually to complete the length between Apperley Bridge and Skipton.

Some of the funding for the project came from a donation to the IWA for the benefit of canals in the West Yorkshire area.

Considerable support in the manufacturing of the mile posts came from Carnaud Metal Box of Shipley and the first post was installed outside their door!

The new mileposts are replicas of the original design. The form for the post itself was found in a BW workshop. The form for the lettering section was developed bythe "Dreamweavers" team.

Top right: Mike Clarke (Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society) and Trevor Roberts (Bradford Motor Education Project) with one of the new mile posts.(Photo: BW)

Bottom right: Some of the castings used in the making of the mile posts, including "positives" and "negatives". (Photo: Peter Scott)

For photos of most of the surviving mileposts, half and quarter mile markers, see this web site.

Hunting the Ghosts of Standedge!

October 25th 2008

David Vee

One of Britain's top ghosthunters, David Vee, has once again been called in to investigate paranormal activity at Standedge.

Following last year's fantastic success, Standedge is opening this mysterious and chilling experience to the public once again by offering the chance to join David and members of his paranormal team on board a boat to venture into the tunnel in a bone tingling quest for ghosts, ghouls and all things creepy!

Those that can hold their nerve will explore inside the haunted tunnel before venturing up to the visitor centre where a vigil to connect with the paranormal world will be held.

David Vee said: "The event at Standedge is a great opportunity for anyone who is curious about ghosts to get an understanding of what we do on an investigation. Standedge is a great prospect for us as it has real history and an air of mystery. I picked up on some activity around the site when I last visited, particularly in the tunnel, so I can't wait to lead people on this journey and see what we can discover."

The haunting experience with special guest David Vee starts at 9.00 pm, finishing at 2.00 am and costs a spooky £40 per head, but you must be over 16 years old and bring suitable warm clothing and footwear. Places can be reserved by contacting the Standedge team on 01484 844298. Cheques should be made payable to British Waterways and sent to James Dean, Visitor Services Manager, Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre, Waters Road, Marsden, Huddersfield, HD7 6NQ.

For younger spook-seekers or those with less bulging wallets, Standedge will host a series of Hallowe'en themed boat trips in to the tunnel on Wednesday 29th. Thursday 30th and 31st October.

Stoppage on Bridgewater near Leigh

Lingards Footbridge
Lingards Footbridge, Leigh Branch

October 24th 2008

There will be a major stoppage on the Leigh Branch of the Bridgewater Canal this winter.

New safety gates will be installed on the navigation near Lingards Footbridge, close to the A580 East Lancs Road crossing, between Boothstown and Leigh.

The area is very prone to mining subsidence and the safety gates are needed to protect the canal from the effects of this subsidence, due to fissures that cross the line of the canal. The gates will close in the event of any sudden water loss.

Work will begin on Monday 10th November 2008 and continue until Friday 30th January 2009 or until such time as the work is complete.

There are winding holes for boats to turn west of the A580 (Morleys) Bridge and at Boothstown marina. There will also be towpath restrictions and diversions as needed.

Peel Holdings say that there is unlikely to be any temporary opening of the route over the Christmas period.

Pollington Lock Re-opens

Pollington Lock
Pollington Lock during refurbishment work. Photo: BW

October 24th 2008

Pollington Lock on the Aire and Calder Navigation is to re-open on Monday (27th October) after being closed for three weeks.

British Waterways needed to drain Pollington Lock to enable its operations team to carry out repair works at the site, which involved the replacement of two of the seven sluices and general repairs to the lock gates and cills.

However, Pollington Lock is no ordinary lock - it is one of the largest locks on the waterway system! The original lock was built around 1825 when the Knottingley to Goole section of the waterway was opened to avoid the tidal River Ouse. The lock was extended a number of times, most recently in 1970, to accommodate larger commercial vessels.

The lock has four sets of gates, which are all operational, which can be used in combination to create a chamber of varying length, according to the size of vessel passing through.

Click here to see a Google aerial view of Pollington Lock.

Around 850 loaded barges pass along the Aire and Calder each year, carrying mainly oil or sand. Each barge holds about 13 lorry loads, keeping around 11,000 loaded lorries off local roads each year.

The route through Pollington is also used by thousands of pleasure boaters, as it forms a vital link from Leeds and Wakefield to Doncaster and to the tidal River Trent at Keadby.

Click here to see more photographs from British Waterways showing some of the work that has taken place at Pollington Lock.

Self-Steer at Standedge Tunnel

October 19th 2008

Passenger module at Standedge Tunnel, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

British Waterways will change the way that boats pass through Standedge Tunnel from 2009!

Boaters have been told than a new system of "Chaperoned Operation" will be used for diesel powered boats.

The present system, which started when the tunnel re-opened in 2001, is a complex operation, requiring an electric tug and passenger module pulling customers' boats through in a convoy on just two days a week. A safety vehicle in the adjacent disused railway tunnel shadows the convoy. The operation is very labour intensive and costly to run and the limited passage times is a disincentive for boaters to use the canal.

Tests carried out during 2007 showed that it was feasible for diesel engines to be operated routinely within the canal tunnel, with gas emmision levels well within HSE limits for safe working. During 2007 and 2008 BW carried out a series of trials involving first hire boats of Shire Cruisers and later privately owned boats with the approval of the owners. By working with a variety of boats of different types BW has been able to assess potential operational problems.

As a result of the tests and the positive feedback that the new system was more flexible and effective, a system of "Chaperoned Operation" will be introduced from 16th March 2009, with competent BW staff accompanying boat owners as they take their boat through the tunnel. The BW staff wll be there to advise and may steer if required.

BW has indicated that the operation of this systen is likely to include:
 • All boats to undergo a safety assessment before transit.
 • Critical points of the boats to be fendered.
 • Boat owner or steerer and BW chaperone to be equipped with authorized Personal Protection Equipment (e.g. hard hats, etc), additional lighting and two radios. Other crew members to remain inside the boat cabin.
 • A returnable deposit of £50 along with a small at-cost charge will be taken either in cash or by credit card, to ensure that guidelines are abided by and equipment returned in good order. This deposit will be asked for at the point of booking to ensure boats turn up.
 • Competent BW staff to accompany boat owners through tunnel on their craft. BW staff to act as 'chaperones' and advise boaters on navigating the tunnel. BW staff may be prepared to steer through difficult points, under the consent of the boat owner.

It should be possible for certain boats, such as petrol powered vessels, to be towed through the tunnel as at present.

Another new development will benefit local people and visitors who are not boaters. Up until now, anyone can book to join one of the convoys by buying a "hiker's ticket" but the days and times have had to fit in with the boat convoys. In 2009 BW will trial special passenger trips right through the tunnel. These are to be on the first Saturday of the month for a six month trial period. This initiative will give the non-boating community the opportunity to see the entire tunnel.

In preparation for the self-steer operation for boaters, BW will be working on the tunnel during the winter stoppage period, improving some of the tunnel's "pinch points" where boats can sustain damage. Improvements in communications within the tunnel will also be made.

It is understood that tunnel passages will be available on more than the current two days a week. Further information will be published as it becomes available.

Gate Damage closes Ashton Canal

Lock 17 Ashton Canal
Lock 17, Ashton Canal

October 16th 2008

The Ashton Canal has been closed following damage to the gate of Lock 17.

British Waterways staff have investigated the extent of the damage and found that a new gate is required.

BW's workshop has been informed, timber has been ordered and a new gate will be manufactured as soon as possible

The canal is likely to remain closed for at least a week.

This will affect boaters doing the Cheshire Ring and the South Pennine Ring.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

An update notice will be issued by BW on Friday 24th October.

Report Unlicensed Boats!

October 15th 2008

boat craning

Photo: BW

British Waterways is urging boaters to report boats that are not licensed.

One of the problems that has been found in the past is that some boats not displaying a licence or displaying an out-of-date licence are in fact licensed, which wastes time for enforcement officers.

To help get around this, a new online report page has been introduced where you can check whether a boat is licensed and report it if it is not.

If you see a boat that you think may not be licensed, go to BW's online checker and enter the boat's registration number. The database will then tell you whether the boat is licensed. If it is not, you will be invited to enter details about the boat's location so that a licence inspector can investigate.

If the boat is not showing a registration number, you can enter the location and details such as the boat's colour, etc. so that it can be investigated.

It has been infuriating for boaters who pay their licences promptly to see other trying to get something for nothing. If a boat in unlicensed it may also lack insurance and a boat safety certificate. BW has been having a purge on boats that are unlicensed or which overstay at moorings, with the enforcement team having been strengthened.

On the north west's waterways15 boats have been seized and impounded in four months and £180,000 collected in unpaid licence and mooring fees.

BW's Jane Thomson says: "We are acting in the interests of our canals and customers by reducing the number of unlicensed and derelict craft blighting our waterways. Every penny is being ploughed back into maintaining and improving the network for everyone."

To find out more about buying a licence, licence conditions, etc. see

Link to BW's online checker.

Sheffield Stoppage

Tinsley Locks

Tinsley Locks

October 7th 2008

A stoppage on the Tinsley Locks on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation is to continue.

The pump system that back-pumps water up the Tinsley Locks near Sheffield has been causing problems. This has led to low water levels, so no passage is possible through the Tinsley lock flight until the pump is fully repaired.

British Waterways has announced that problems are continuing and so the flight will remain closed for now. A further update will be issued on October 13th.

Update: Oct 13th 2008
The flight will re-open at 8.00 am on Wednesday 15th October.

Weir Damage Closes Calder and Hebble

- navigation now re-opened

Mirfield Cut
Mirfield Cut above Shepley Bridge Lock - levels have been low here.

October 7th 2008

High volumes of water coming down the River Calder over the weekend have washed away part of the weir at Ledgard near Mirfield.

This has resulted in low levels on the river below Battyeford Lock and along Mirfield Cut to Shepley Bridge Lock. It is reported that boats moored in the mile-long Mirfield Cut are now sitting on the bottom.

British Waterways engineers have been on site to assess the extend of the damage. The Calder and Hebble Navigation is now closed between Battyeford Lock and Shepley Bridge Lock. This stoppage will be initially for one week but could be extended.

Update: Oct 11th 2008
Work on the weir is progressing and water levels are rising. The navigation has re-opened but boaters should proceed with caution until works are complete and levels back to normal.

Update: Oct 13th 2008
Work is now complete and normal water levels have resumed.

Two Women Rescued in Canal Plunge Drama

October 6th 2008

Two women were rescued from the Huddersfield Narrow Canal last week following a bizarre freak accident.

The two women, Jackie Lewis, who was in a motorised scooter, and her carer, Catrina Paton were visiting the Kirklees area from Devon. During a visit to Tunnel End, near Marsden, they were exploring the canal towpath when they were caught in a sudden heavy shower. Reports suggest that while they were hurrying back to their car, a gust of wind blew Jackie's hood over her eyes, causing her to veer off the towpath into the canal, knocking Catrina into the water as well.

At the point where this happened, the towpath is around 6 feet above the water so neither lady was able to climb out. Their shouts were heard and the alarm was raised. A visitor ran round and threw a life ring for the women to hold onto and three British Waterways staff rushed from nearby Tunnel End Cottage bringing a pole. They were able to pull the two women to a point where they could be pulled out of the water and taken back to the BW office until the ambulance arrived.

Fortunately the place where they fell in is a winding hole (boat turning point) so the water was deep. Had they fallen from a height into shallow water they could have sustained injury.

The fire brigade was alerted and a full water rescue procedure initiated, with fire engines sent from Marsden and Slaithwaite and special units from Brighouse, Cleckheaton and Bingley. Fortunately these were not needed thanks to the prompt action of the British Waterways staff.

It was reported that BW send their Health and Safety specialists to visit the scene on Thursday and that they are looking into the possibility of putting railings along the edge of the towpath at this location.

Forty Years at Standedge!

Fred Carter at Standedge Tunnel
Above: Fred Carter at the controls of a tunnel tug.
Below: Fred Carter (centre) with Huddersfield Canal Society members Neville Kenyon, Ronnie Rose, Paul Leeman, Andrea Fisher and Keith Sykes

Fred Carter with Huddersfield Canal Society members

September 27th 2008

On 23rd September, Fred Carter celebrated 40 years of working on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Standedge!

To mark Fred's 40 years on the canal, the Huddersfield Canal Society gave him a handwritten citation, complete with a specially-produced hand-cut wax seal, granting him honorary life membership of the Society.

It was presented to him by Ronnie Rose, a long-standing volunteer with the Society, who has come to know Fred very well over the years.

Fred is often to be found steering the passenger boat or acting as tunnel guide. His genial manner combines with his extensive knowledge of the tunnel to guarantee an interesting journey!

"I have seen the canal come full circle!" he says. He remembers seeing the locks filled in and "cascaded" to make them safe and he remembers seeing them restored years later.

When the canal re-opened in 2001, Fred became a tunnel pilot and a guide aboard the passenger boat in Standedge Tunnel. He loves working on the tunnel convoys. "You get some really nice boat crews travelling through the tunnel," he says, "and the time really flies". He takes turns at the different jobs in the tunnel and still has time to do regular reservoir inspections.

Recently, he has played a part in the trials that have been carried out to test the practicalities of boats passing through Standedge Tunnel under their own power. He has made over a thousand passages through the tunnel and knows every bit of it. "I'm so used to the dark, they won't let me drive boats in the daylight now!" he laughs.


First boats back on Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal!

Sept 19th 2008

Margaret Fletcher Tunnel, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal

The first boats entered the newly restored section of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal in Salford today.

Boats gathered on the River Irwell to enter the new Margaret Fletcher Tunnel leading to the new lock.

The lock has a fall of around 4m (16 ft), depending on the river level. It replaces the original Locks 1 and 2, which formed a staircase. These had to be replaced by a tunnel under the Relief Road and the new lock to the west of the railway.

After the first boat, the Prince William, rose in the lock, speeches were made and a plaque was unveiled.

Photo, right: The first boat entering the Margaret Fletcher Tunnel.

See more photos of the first boats onto the restored section of canal and the unveiling of the plaque.

See new photos of the canal in water between the River Irwell and Oldfield Road.

Boats in new lock, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal
Boats in the new deep lock.

Boats above new lock, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal
Boats above the new lock.

Stranded Boat Refloated

September 11th 2008

Recovery of Pipistrelle

Recovery of Pipistrelle

Photos: Neil Sanford

A narrowboat, which has been stranded on the towpath near Wakefield since January, was re-floated yesterday afternoon.

NB Pipistrelle was lifted onto the towpath of the Calder and Hebble, out side the Navigation Inn, Broad Cut, by a sudden flood in January 2008. Another narrowboat nearby was capsized during the flooding. See photos of the boats after the flooding.

Because of the difficulty of getting a crane to the location, NB Pipistrelle has been sitting high and dry across the towpath ever since.

Yesterday a salvage team arrived to retrieve the stranded boat. Arrangements were made with British Waterways for temporary stoppages to navigation during the recovery process.

Eye-witness accounts of the recovery suggest that it was unorthodox and undignified! The bow of the boat was under water for a time and a quantity of water appears to have been taken on board. It is believed that the propellor and prop shaft were removed beforehand to avoid damage but there appears to have been some damage to the rudder and skeg during the removal.

It is not known whether the contractors were acting for the boat owners or an insurance company and it is not known what will happen to the boat now. It has now been towed away from Broad Cut.

The photos (right and below) are shown courtesy of Neil Sanford and are taken from a video recording.

Recovery of Pipistrelle

Recovery of Pipistrelle

Recovery of Pipistrelle

Photos: Neil Sanford
Recovery of Pipistrelle

The video of the recovery can be seen here. Please note that this lasts around 20 minutes and is only suitable for broadband users.

September 11th 2008

Mann Island Lock
Lock gate being lowered into position. Photo: BW

Work on the construction of the new Liverpool Canal Link is reaching its final stages.

In August the new lock between the Canal Link and Canning Dock was completed at Mann Island with the installation of lock gates.

The gates were 5 metres (16 feet) high and weighed 4 tonnes. They were built a few miles away by Twinbridge of Burscough before being taken to British Waterways' workshop at Stanley Ferry to have the paddle sluices and operating gear fitted.

In addition to the normal pair of gates at each end, there is a third pair of gates at the Canning Dock end, facing the other way, to act as a flood lock on the occasions when the water level in Canning Dock is higher than that in the Canal Link.

The section of new canal channel across the Pier Head area is now almost complete. Another lock is currently under construction at the northern end of this channel where it connects with Prince's Dock.

The construction of the remainder of the Link should be complete by December. After that, there will be a period of testing and commissioning before the Link opens to boats in Spring 2009.

Click here for more photos of the new canal channel and lock at Mann Island.

Photos of the construction along the whole line of the Canal Link can be seen here.

[It is hoped to have a new set of photos on this site showing progress along the whole route in the next few weeks.]

From Bank to Bank on the Ashton Canal

September 8th 2008

Lock 27w
Volunteers working on a previous event. Photo: BW

There is to be an influx of bank staff on the Ashton Canal - literally!

On Wednesday 10th September, 180 volunteers from the Royal Bank of Scotland are going to carry out work on the banks of the Ashton Canal around the Fairfield Locks in Droylsden.

The work, which should significantly improve the appeal of this waterway corridor to visitors, will include towpath repairs, graffiti removal, vegetation management, building maintenance, landscaping, dry stone walling and wash wall repairs.

According to Steve Higham of British Waterways, the volunteers are to be split into task groups, with each group under professional supervision from BW operational staff.

He said: "An attractive environment is proven to attract more pedestrians and cyclists from the local community along with visitors from further afield."

The area to be worked on will stretch over a mile between Bridges 14 and 20, with the towpath the whole way through Droylsden being closed for the day to allow the works to proceed safely.

This event is part of BW's ongoing policy of increasing the input that volunteers can have in helping to maintain the waterway environment.

More problems on Huddersfield Narrow Canal

September 7th 2008

Lock 27w

Problems with locks and vandals have caused closures of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The Diggle flight has been closed for several days while gate repairs are made at Lock 27w. The tail gate appears to have suffered heavy impact from a boat, resulting in three of the thick cross beams being cracked [see photo, right]. There was felt to be a danger of the gate collapsing outwards with the weight of water behind it when filled.

It is believed that the impact occurred some time ago but the gate has become weaker to the point that it was considered dangerous to use.

BW staff began to make repairs last Wednesday but found that the damage was more serious than at first thought, requiring more substantial repairs. Metal bands have been bolted to the cross beams and to the inside face of the gate to act as strengthening braces. There had also been some damage to the lock's head gate which may not have been related.

Three boats were heading westbound through Standedge Tunnel on Wednesday morning and these boats are still waiting at Diggle. A number of boats are waiting at Wool Road and Uppermill for a tunnel passage, having been booked to go through on Wednesday or Friday.

The work appears to have been completed and, hopefully, once the gates have been inspected on Monday morning, the Diggle flight will re-open. It is understand that BW may convey the delayed boats through the tunnel on Monday.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

The pound above Lock 10w was completely drained last week. This has been blamed by some on youngsters and by others on poachers attempting to capture the fish. The canal was closed for around 36 hours until enough water had been sent down to refill the pound.

Update: Sept 8th 2008
The navigation has now re-opened.

Swimming the Manchester Ship Canal!

September 6th 2008

James Whittaker
James Whittaker (left) preparing for the swim (Photo: Peel Holdings)

This weekend sees the first attempt to swim the length of the Manchester Ship Canal!

James Whittaker is swimming the 36 mile length of the canal on 5th and 6th September in an attempt to raise £250,000 for The Children's Hospital Appeal. James is a Development Director for canal owners Peel Holdings. Peel is donating £1 million to the charity.

Although James will swim on his own, he will be accompanied by a safety boat and friends in kayaks for moral support! The 36 mile swim is the equivalent of swimming 2.400 lengths of a public swimming pool.

James has been training by swimming lakes such as Coniston Water, Bala Lake, Rivington Lake and two-way swims on Ullswater and Windermere.

The New Children's Hospital Appeal was launched in 2006 to raise £20 million to fund projects in the New Children's Hospital in Manchester.

You can sponsor James and help him to reach his target by making a donation through the Just Giving website. Taxpayers can make a Gift Aid declaration which will boost their donations.

As well as raising money for the New Children's Hospital Appeal, the swim coincides with the launch of Peel Holdings' Ocean Gateway regeneration scheme, which will involve a £50 billion regeneration of the Manchester Ship Canal corridor and Liverpool Estuary areas.

Read more about James and the preparations for the swim on the Ocean Gateway Challenge website.

Read more about the New Children's Hospital Appeal on the Appeal's website.

EA Probing Rochdale Canal Pollution

August 22nd 2008

Experts from the Environment Agency have been investigating the pollution incident that closed the Rochdale Canal for several weeks.

They have now discovered that a large quantity of pesticide was poured down a road drain on the Oldham Broadway Business Park in Chadderton. The road drains flow into the canal at The Causeway. The EA's Steve Walters said "We believe somebody may have come along and dumped the herbicide down the drain undetected."

An estimated 15,000 fish were killed and a quantity of rare plant life destroyed. The fish included roach, perch and pike. The canal was closed to boat traffic between Manchester and Chadderton in order not to spread the effects of the pollution.

The investigation is still ongoing and the EA has urged anyone with any information about this to contact them on 0800 80 70 60.

Rochdale Canal Now Re-opened Following Pollution Incident

August 18th 2008

The Rochdale Canal is to re-open after being closed between Chadderton and Ancoats following a serious water pollution incident at the end of July.

The canal between Locks 64 and 83 will re-open at 8.30 am on 19th August.

This section of canal was closed in order to restrict the effects of the pollution while investigations by the Environment Agency and British Waterways took place. It was necessary to wait for the results and analysis of testing to ensure that secondary pollution would not occur from the re-opening of the canal.

Although the test results indicated that secondary pollution is unlikely to occur, because of the sensitive nature of the canal as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, British Waterways decided to conduct a trial re-introduction of boat traffic so that the effects could be monitored.

The "Rochdale Nine" locks through Manchester and the rest of the canal through Rochdale, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge have not been affected.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Short Stoppage at Bingley Locks

Bingley 5-Rise Locks

August 18th 2008

A short emergency stoppage is required at Bingley 5-Rise Locks to replace the heel post of a lock gate.

The locks will close at 5.00 pm on Monday 18th August and re-open at 12.00 noon on Wednesday 20th August.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 2816860.

South Yorkshire closed at Holme Lock

Holme Lock

July 18th 2008

There is currently a stoppage on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation at Holme Lock, upstream of Rotherham.

The sluices have failed on the tail gates, requiring emergency repairs to be carried out to the sluices and lock gates. Passage will not be possible between Rotherham and Sheffield until the works have been completed.

At times, water levels may fluctuate up to 300mm down between Ickles Lock and Jordans Lock.

British Waterways will issue an update on Thursday 24th July.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

Update: July 24th 2008
The navigation has now re-opened.

Rochdale Canal Festivities Announced

July 16th 2008

A week of fun activities for young people beside the Rochdale Canal has been announced!

Oldham and Rochdale Councils have teamed up with British Waterways and The Waterways Trust to offer a week of free eco-fun packed activities for children and young people along the Rochdale Canal.

The week starts with a Fun Day at Ealees, behind Littleborough railway station on Saturday 19th July and ends with a Fun Day at Failsworth Basin near Tesco on Saturday 26th July.

The week includes bike rides, fishing lessons, kayak lessons, ghost walks, teddy bears picnics and treasure hunts.

A full list of all the events in both Oldham and Rochdale can be seen on this page.

Horrific Accident with Swing Bridge

Buxton Lane Bridge

June 24th 2008

A horrific accident has taken place at Buxton Lane Swing Bridge on the Ashton Canal.

A 15-year-old girl has had both legs amputated after becoming trapped between the bridge and the side of the canal. It has been reported that she had been dangling her legs either from the bridge or a concrete wall against which the bridge opened. Her friends pushed the bridge away to release her before the arrival of the emergency services.

The accident is being investigated by British Waterways, the Greater Manchester Police and the Health and Safety Executive.

The bridge is normally locked shut when not being used by a boat. It is not known at this stage whether a boater left the swing bridge unlocked or whether the children had acquired a key.

[Read BBC News report]

Aldwarke Lock re-opens

June 13th 2008

Aldwarke Lock

Aldwarke Lock, on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation between Rotherham and Swinton, has now been repaired and will re-open from 14th June.

The navigation has been closed since June 1st after the top gates were damaged and had to be removed for repair off site. [See earlier report]

Huddersfield Narrow closed

Lock 13w

June 6th 2008

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is currently closed because of a problem at Lock 13w in Mossley.

The lock has suffered damage to the tail gate cill and has been closed to through navigation between locks 14w & 8w.

It is thought that the bolts holding one half of the wooden sill corroded. When the lock was filled, the pressure of water in the gap below the gate forced the cill block upwards and washed it several yards downstream.

British Waterways estimates that the repair work will be completed by Sunday 8th June.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Update: June 8th 2008
The navigation has now re-opened.

Sheffield & South Yorkshire closed

June 2nd 2008

Aldwarke Lock

The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation is currently closed because of a problem at Aldwarke Lock, between Rotherham and Swinton.

The top lock gates at Aldwarke have sustained damage and the lock is inoperable. For boaters' safety, the navigation has been closed between Eastwood and Kilnhurst.

An update will be issued on Wednesday 4th June.

For enquiries about this stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

Update: June 4th 2008
A top lock gate has been removed to be repaired off site, which will take about one week, after which it will need to be re-installed.

A further update will be issued on Friday 13th June.

Update: June 13th 2008
The repairs are now complete and the navigation will re-open from June 14th.

More Tree Trouble Blocks Canals

June 2nd 2008

Two more canals have been blocked by fallen trees, weakened by the high winds of last week.

The towpath and navigation of the Peak Forest Canal has been closed by a tree that has fallen on the north side of Hyde Bank Tunnel (about a mile from Marple Locks).

A fallen tree is blocking the Rochdale Canal near Bridge 6 at Luddenden Foot, about 2 miles west of Sowerby Bridge. This blockage is expected to have been cleared later this afternoon.

For enquiries about these stoppages, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Update: June 5th 2008
The canals have now re-opened to navigation.

Rochdale Stoppage

May 27th 2008

There is an emergency stoppage at lock 49, Moss Upper Lock, on the Rochdale Canal.

This is due to the head gate paddle which requires replacement.

British Waterways will issue re-open notices as soon as the work has been completed.

Boats can be winded below Lock 50 or below Lock 48.

For enquiries about the stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Update: May 27th 2008
The gate paddle has been replaced and the canal has now re-opened to navigation.

Trees Block Leeds and Liverpool

May 26th 2008

Strong winds in the area have resulted in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal being blocked in two places near Adlington by fallen trees.

One fallen tree has blocked the towpath and navigation near Ridding Bridge (number 74).

A second tree has blocked the navigation 3 miles nearer Wigan, between bridges 64 and 65 (between Adlington and Red Rock).

British Waterways will issue re-open notices as soon as the blockages have been cleared.

For enquiries about the stoppage, contact British Waterways on 01942 405700.

Update: May 27th 2008
The tree near Riddings Bridge has been removed and the canal has now re-opened to navigation. The tree between bridges 64 and 65 is expected to be removed on Wed 28th May.

Update: May 29th 2008
The tree between bridges 64 and 65 has been removed and the canal has now re-opened to navigation.

Limited Hours at Salterhebble Guillotine Lock

May 23rd 2008

Salterhebble Guillotine Lock

Passage through Salterhebble Guillotine Lock on the Calder and Hebble Navigation is now possible again, following last week's closure, but the lock is only open during restricted hours.

The Guillotine Lock will be operated by BW staff during the following hours only:
 • 9.00 - 10.00 am
 • 12.00 noon - 2.00 pm
 • 4.00 - 6.00 pm

A further statement is expected on 20th June.

The gear box on top of the guillotine broke a week ago, rendering the lock inoperable.

This restriction will affect boaters on the South Pennine Ring, those crossing the Pennines via the Rochdale Canal and some hirers of boats from Shire Cruisers, based nearby at Sowerby Bridge.

For enquiries about the stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

Meet the Boss!

May 18th 2008

Robin Evans, photo: Chris Smyth
Robin Evans at Marple, 2006
Photo: Chris Smyth

Boaters, anglers, walkers and other canal users are to get the chance to meet the boss of British Waterways and to air their views.

Robin Evans, BW's Chief Executive, is to take a nationwide tour to give customers an opportunity to discuss issues relating to the management of the waterways. The 20 meetings are in addition to the regular user group meetings held in each area.

Robin describes the meetings as being useful for generally understanding and responding to customers' concerns. "Hearing and exchanging views at first hand will help develop the right policies for the future."

In the north, meetings will take place at the following locations -

Thursday 5th June:
 • Dukinfield Town Hall, SK16 4LA, 9.30 - 11.00 am
 • The Orwell, Wigan Pier, WN3 4EU, 6.00 - 7.30 pm
(to attend, contact Denise Bradshaw on 01942 405793)

Tuesday 29th July:
 • The Pastures Lodge, Mexborough, S64 0JJ, 9.30 - 11.00 am
 • East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley, BD20 5EL, 5.30 - 7.00 pm
(to attend, contact Linzi O'Neill on 0113 281 6861)

Salterhebble Guillotine Lock Closed

May 16th 2008

Salterhebble Guillotine Lock

The Calder and Hebble Navigation is closed at Salterhebble until further notice, following a breakdown of Salterhebble Guillotine Lock.

The gear box on top of the guillotine has broken, rendering the lock inoperable.

British Waterways expect it to be at least a week before the canal can be re-opened at this point. A further statement is expected on 23rd May.

This will affect boaters on the South Pennine Ring, those crossing the Pennines via the Rochdale Canal and some hirers of boats from Shire Cruisers, based nearby at Sowerby Bridge.

For enquiries about the stoppage, contact British Waterways on 0113 281 6860.

Horse-drawn to Huddersfield (2)

May 12th 2008

Horseboat Maria is towed from Uppermill to Diggle.

The Horseboating Society has once again re-enacted the passage of a boat along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal by horsepower. The historic wooden narrowboat Maria was towed from Ashton to Huddersfield and is currently on its return journey.

The highlight of the journey was when the boat was legged through Standedge Tunnel.

Maria was previously legged through Standedge Tunnel in 2006, when she was the first boat to have been legged through for around 60 years. [See report]

Local Oldham East and Saddleworth MP (and Defra Minister) Phil Woolas travelled aboard the boat from Uppermill to Diggle, where an enthusiastic crowd turned out in spite of heavy rain.

Ashton-under-Lyne MP David Heyes, in whose constituency the boat is based, joined the boat at Diggle and helped to leg through the tunnel.

The passage took just under 3 hours, so no records were broken!

Maria will pass back through Standedge on Wednesday as part of a normal convoy, continuing from Uppermill to Ashton on Thursday.

Legging through an easy brick-lined stretch of Standedge Tunnel. Some sections are of uneven rock, making the legging more difficult.


Breakthrough on Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal!

May 9th 2008

Margaret Fletcher Tunnel, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal
The last section of sandstone is cut through to complete the tunnel.

A "breakthrough" was celebrated today on the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal.

British Waterways engineers, construction workers from Volker Stevin and members of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society were on hand to witness the breaking through of the new Margaret Fletcher Tunnel in Salford.

The new tunnel beneath the Inner Relief Road and Manchester to Liverpool railway is named after Margaret Fletcher, the late chairman of the Canal Society, who successfully secured funding for its design and construction. The tunnel will emerge into a new deep lock replacing the original staircase locks leading from the River Irwell.

Two lines of concrete piles were sunk into the ground before construction of the relief road started. The sandstone rock between the piles was then excavated from beneath the finished roadway to form the tunnel.

The canal through the tunnel could be open to navigation later in 2008. It will lead to the restored Lock 3 and a stretch of canal as far as Oldfield Road. The canal will become the centrepiece of the Middlewood Locks development.

More photos of the work will appear on Pennine Waterways in the next few days. Please check back.

Margaret Fletcher Tunnel, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal
The excavator has broken through and construction workers from each side of the tunnel meet with a traditional hand shake!

Margaret Fletcher Tunnel, Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal
Inside the new tunnel, looking towards the deep lock. There will be a landing on the right, with steps leading up to the lock side.


Horse-drawn to Huddersfield

April 30th 2008

Maria being horse-drawn
Maria legged through Standedge Tunnel in 2006

Members of the Horseboating Society are going to re-create the past of the waterways in May when they take the horse-drawn narrowboat "Maria" across the Pennines from Ashton to Huddersfield and back.

In addition to the boat being towed all the way by horse, it will be legged through Standedge Tunnel in the traditional manner!

The boat sets off from the Ashton Canal on Thursday May 1st, through Stalybridge to Mossley. The following day it will continue along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Uppermill, where it will be on show during Saturday.

On Sunday the boat will ascend the Diggle lock flight to Standedge Tunnel, to co-incide with the Diggle Canal Festival, alongside the top lock, where there will be traditional rope skills demonstrated, games, stalls, etc. Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas will help the boat up the locks.

Ashton MP, David Heyes, a member of the Parliamentary Waterways Group, will help to leg the boat through Standedge Tunnel. Energetic members of the public will be able to join the boat horse on a guided walk "over the top", across the moors to Tunnel End, Marsden.

Standedge Tunnel is the UK's longest canal tunnel, at more than 3 miles. The legging will take around 3 hours and will be done by pairs of leggers taking turns. The tunnel was built without a towpath and "legging" was the traditional means of propelling boats through tunnels.

"Maria" will be on show at Tunnel End on Bank Holiday Monday. The boat will continue its horse-drawn journey to Slaithwaite on Tuesday and to Huddersfield on Wednesday.

The return from Huddersfield to Slaithwaite will be on Saturday 10th May. The boat will climb the Marsden lock flight on 13th May.

On Wednesday 14th May, "Maria" will return through Standedge Tunnel, this time as part of a normal convoy, before continuing to Uppermill. The following day the boat will carry on to Staybridge and Ashton.

"Maria" is the oldest surviving wooden narrow boat, built at Marple in 1854. The horse being used for this journey is Bilbo Baggins. "Maria" was previously legged through Standedge Tunnel in July 2006 - the first boat to have been legged through for around 60 years!

Towpath Improvements in Lancashire

April 30th 2008

Leed and Liverpool Canal near Hapton

Improvements are under way on the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Burnley.

Two-thirds of a mile of towpath between Hapton and Shuttleworth Hall are having the pathway widened and finished with a waterproof stoned surface. This will improve safety and appeal to walkers and cyclists.

The £27,000 work is being funded by Lancashire Environmental Fund and Lancashire County Council.

The towpath work will add the finishing touches to a major repair programme along this stretch that has included strengthened the embankment.

Boaters have not been left out, as the works have included vegetation clearance and new mooring bollards.

The photo is looking eastwards towards Hapton from Shuttleworth Hall.

Monster Fish on Rochdale Canal!

April 17th 2008

Rochdale Canal at Failsworth

The Middleton Guardian reports that a monster fish has been striking terror on the Rochdale Canal to the east of Middleton. [Read article]

Fisherman saw a large pike grab a duck near Scowcroft Lock, under the railway bridge known locally as the Iron Donger.

They threw stones at the pike and rescued the duck, which was then taken care of by a local woman.

The fishermen are warning youngsters not to dip their toes into the water or to jump from the bridge, as the pike has "piranha-like teeth" and can be vicious.

Photo (right) shows boat near the "Iron Donger" bridge.

Development Manager for Rochdale Canal

April 16th 2008

Rochdale Canal at Failsworth

The Waterways Trust is to appoint a Development Manager for the Rochdale Canal.

The trust is looking to appoint "a talented professional to re-establish the canal as a community resource and catalyst for social and economic regeneration".

They are looking for someone who will "deliver projects that encourage people to value, care for and use their local waterway". This may be a challenging goal in some areas along the canal.

The Development Manager will build partnerships with a range of local organisations and provide stakeholders with regular progress updates.

The Waterways Trust took over ownership of the canal from the Rochdale Canal Company following the completion of the canal's restoration in 2002.

Details of the position may be found at The Waterways Trust website.

Wall Collapse blocks HNC Towpath

Plank Lane Bridge

April 14th 2008

A retaining wall collapsed onto the towpath of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal yesterday.

The towpath is closed between Locks 16w and 17w near Mossley until further notice. The canal remains open for navigation but crew operating locks will need to board their boats to pass the obstruction.

Walkers using the towpath will need to divert between Manchester Road Bridge and Division Bridge via Manchester Road and Calf Lane.

A wall collapse in March blocked the towpath of the Macclesfield Canal.

Yet Another Restriction at Plank Lane

April 14th 2008

Plank Lane Bridge

Boaters face yet another restriction at trouble-hit Plank Lane Lift Bridge on the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

As a result of an electrical fault, the bridge will be operated manually by BW staff. There will be just 3 opening periods each day until further notice:
 • 9.00 - 10.00 am
 • 12.00 noon - 1.00 pm
 • 3.00 - 4.00 pm

Boaters arriving at the bridge are required to moor up and notify the bridge keeper of their presence and await further instructions.

The restrictions will continue until the essential repairs can be carried out. A further update notice will be issued once the contractors have assessed the structure.

In March, the bridge was closed to boat traffic for around 24 hours after a barrier was damaged. In 2006, the bridge was closed for some time after the counterweight fell off. [see report and photos].

Enquiries about the current restrictions should be made to BW on 01942 405700.

Police Seek Burnley Blockage

April 10th 2008

Burnley Embankment

Following a series of stone-throwing incidents at Burnley Embankment, police are asking for the canal across Yorkshire Street aqueduct to be "gated off".

Youngsters recently threw stones at traffic from the aqueduct which carries the Leeds and Liverpool Canal across this busy road midway along Burnley Embankment. A bus and a car had their windscreens smashed.

The Burnley Citizen reports that police are to meet with British Waterways "to try to get them to gate off the section of the canal where the viaduct goes over Yorkshire Street".

It would be a serious reduction in public access and an alarming precedent if the towpath across the aqueduct were to be blocked off.

The dangerous stone-throwing behaviour in the area is not limited to the aqueduct and there have been a number of similar incidents at the nearby Gannow motorway roundabout.

Boaters have commented that the police do not take the same interest when youths throw stones at boats from road bridges.

You can comment on this story at Pennine Waterways News Blog.

Rochdale Canal Re-opens

April 4th 2008

Plank Lane Bridge

The Rochdale Canal has finally been re-opened between Locks 53 and 54 following vandalism to the bank in January.

Following the incident, local farmer Chris Jones was sent to prison for 3 months for breaching a court injunction banning him from interfering further with the canal bank. [See earlier report]

The canal has remained closed since then until British Waterways engineers could arange access to the private land to inspect the damage and assess the safety of the canal.

Engineering assessments to inspect the canal have now been completed and the canal will re-open to navigation on Saturday 5th April 2008.

The photograph (right) of the location in January shows the repairs to the earlier breach and the disturbed bank to the right.

Boaters wishing to travel between Manchester and the Summit will need to phone BW on 01942 405700 to book passage through locks 83 to 65 and locks 37 to 36.

Another Problem at Plank Lane

March 27th 2008

Plank Lane Bridge

There has been another incident at Plank Lane Lift Bridge on the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Earlier this week a barrier at the bridge was damaged and was failing to open.

The bridge was closed to boat traffic for around 24 hours until the barrier was repaired. The bridge re-opened to navigation on 27th March.

In 2006 the bridge was closed for a time after the counterweight fell off. [see report and photos].

Rochdale Electrics Fixed

March 20th 2008

The electrical problems on the Rochdale Canal have now been fixed.

Valndalism at Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge (Chadderton) and an electrical probolem at Library Lock (Todmorden Guillotine Lock) had meant boaters needed to call BW to come and operate these structures. [See earlier report.]

Fortunately BW has managed to get these problems sorted out in time for the long Easter weekend, so both structures are now boater-operable again.

Tameside Canals Festival Sunk

March 19th 2008

Tameside Canals Festival
Tameside Canals Festival

The annual Tameside Canals Festival will not take place this year as the voluntary organising committee has been disbanded.

The event, which has taken place around Portland Basin at the junction of the Ashton and Peak Forest Canals, has attracted tens of thousands of local families and many boaters over the years.

The event has been taking place since 1975, and some committee members have been involved from the beginning!

Vice Chair, Hazel Maskell said: "Our Committee was aging and several members had already decided to step down after last July's event and so, unfortunately, the remaining members have decided to call it a day."

The first canal festival at Portland Basin was organised by the Inland Waterways Association's Manchester branch, the North Cheshire Cruising Club and the Peak Forest Canal Society to highlight the restoration potential of the nearby Hudderfield Narrow Canal. In later years, the festival was organised by the Huddersfield Canal Society. Since 2001, the event has been run by volunteers supporting and raising funds for Willow Wood Hospice.

"Unfortunately, the weather was particularly poor for the Festival weekend last year," explained Hazel. "Willow Wood decided to withdraw from any involvement in future Festivals and without their charitable status, it made it difficult for us to continue."

If any other local community group wish to discuss taking over the organisation of future Festivals, they can contact Hazel on 01457 837826.

See pictures from past Tameside Canals Festivals.

Power Problems on Rochdale

March 19th 2008

Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge
Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge

Lock 19, Todmorden
Lock 19, Todmorden

Further problems lie in wait for boaters travelling on the Rochdale Canal.

The Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge, between locks 75 and 76 in Chadderton, has suffered an act of vandalism in which the key barrel has been damaged.

Repairs have been ordered, but due to the damage, British Waterways assistance is required to operate the bridge (see below).

A similar problem awaits travellers at Library Lock 19, the guillotine lock, at Todmorden. In this instance, because of an electrical failure, BW has for safety reasons isolated the electrical mechanism to the key barrel.

Boaters requiring passage through either bridge should call BW for assistance.

In office hours between 9 am and 4 pm, please call the Wigan office on 01942 405700. Outside of these hours, please call Free Phone Canals on 0800 4799947.

(Please note the Wigan office will close for the Easter weekend at 5pm on Thursday 20 March and will re-open at 8:30am on Tuesday 25 March.)

Another Macclesfield Wall Collapse

Macclesfield collapse, photo: Debby Francis
Macclesfield collapse, photo: Debby Francis

14th March 2008

The force of gravity and the action of water penetration have once again combined to bring down a section of retaining wall onto the towpath of the Macclesfield Canal.

This week's collapse was between Bridges 40 and 41, less than half a mile south of Macclesfield Canal Centre and Hovis Mill.

It is only a few yards from the spot where another wall dropped onto the towpath several years ago.

The towpath is closed between Bridges 40 and 42. The canal is open for navigation but there may be restricted passage while engineers are on site.

An access track runs immediately above the 20 foot high retaining wall and several vehicles are believed to have been stranded by the collapse.

Macclesfield collapse, photo: Roger Olver
Macclesfield collapse, photo: Roger Olver

New Proposals for Standedge Tunnel Passage

March 3rd 2008

Passenger module at Standedge Tunnel, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

British Waterways is proposing major changes to the way that boats pass through Standedge Tunnel!

The present system (which will continue in operation during 2008) is a complex operation, requiring an electric tug and passenger module pulling customers' boats through in a convoy on just two days a week. A safety vehicle in the adjacent disused railway tunnel shadows the convoy. BW staff are positioned on each boat, fending it off the tunnel sides. The operation is very labour intensive and costly to run.

Tests carried out during 2007 have shown that it is feasible for diesel engines to be operated routinely within the canal tunnel, enabling British Waterways to rethink how boats can be taken through the tunnel.

BW's proposal is that from 2009 customers' boats would pass through the tunnel under their own power, piloted by a trained qualified British Waterways staff member.

Boaters would be able to remain on their boats and pets will also be allowed to remain on board.

To make this feasible, BW proposed some modifcations to the tunnel, including removing some hazardous rock projections and highlighting or fendering others, improving safety signage, adding distance indicators and installing more flexible communications systems within the tunnel.

The proposals, if approved, will result in a faster passage time of around 1.5 hours and improved welfare arrangements for British Waterways staff.

BW will continue talking with partners Network Rail and the Emergency Services regarding the safety issues as the proposals have implications for their operations.

The guided visitor trips from Tunnel End on the glass roofed boat using electric tugs will continue but BW will be keeping the operation under constant review because of concerns about the future reliability of the electric tugs.

BW's Laurence Morgan said:

"We carried out a number of trials this year with a diesel tug operation to establish definitive information about potential problems with noxious fumes, test welfare and emergency responses as well as our control of the tunnel operations.

"The tests showed that gas emissions inside the tunnel were not a cause for concern and it may be possible to reduce the time taken to go through the tunnel down to one and a half hours.

"Moving on from this we are now considering a piloted operation of customers' own boats by British Waterways trained qualified staff. This will be far better than the very complex operation we have at present.

"For 2008 we will be keeping the operation as is but a project team will be running some further low level trials to ensure that the business case is robust.

"Although it is early days yet, we are very enthusiastic about the proposed changes as we feel this will offer our customers a vastly improved level of service and enable them to enjoy the trip through the highest, longest and deepest tunnel in the country far more than is possible at present."

The proposed changes should result in a more flexible operation for boaters, which could include passages on more than the present two days a week.

The piloting of boats by BW staff should reduce concerns that Network Rail may have than adventurous boaters might stop off and investigate the adits through into the active rail tunnel. It would also mean that in the event of an emergency, the qualified BW operative on board would be in radio contact with the tunnel office to ensure that emergency procedures are followed.

The 2008 season at Standedge starts from Saturday 15th March with the first through trips scheduled for Wednesday 19th and Friday 21st March. Boaters wanting to book passage should contact BW on 0113 281 6860.

New Towpath Guide for "Narrow"

March 2nd 2008

Towpath Guide

A brand new Towpath Guide for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal has just been published by the Huddersfield Canal Society.

The new 90 page guide has over 500 full colour photographs and detailed maps covering the length of the Narrow, plus short sections of the Ashton and Huddersfield Broad Canals.

The illustrations below show a typical double spread, with a detailed map on the left and photos on the right. The photos show the view in both directs along the canal, with the location of each photo indicated on the map.

The guide has been written and compiled by Huddersfield Canal Society Administrator, Dr Bob Gough, who describes it as "a labour of love".

The guide costs just £4.99 + £1.50 for post and packing. It has been subsidised by the Society as part of its aim to promote the canal for the enjoyment of all.

Please see this page on the Canal Society's website for more details, including an order form.

Towpath Guide
Towpath Guide

Canal Protest Farmer Goes to Prison

February 28th 2008

Damaged balance beam Lock 53
Balance beams sawn through, May 2007

A Rochdale farmer has been sent to prison following a further act of vandalism to the canal near his farm.

Christopher Jones of Maden Fold Farm, Castleton has been involved in a long-running dipute with British Waterways originating from the routing of the Rochdale Canal through a tunnel under the M62 that had previously been used for farm access. It was reported that Mr Jones was not happy with the alternative route provided, which included two new bridges across the canal.

In 2001, when the canal first re-opened, Mr Jones blocked Lock 53 with the arm of his fork lift truck as a protest. He made the news again in 2002 when he jumped into the water ahead of the boat carrying the VIPs to the official opening ceremony of the Rochdale Canal.

During 2007 a number of incidents occurred near Maden Fold Farm, including the canal bank being breached with machinery and the balance beams of the nearby lock being sawn through. (Scroll down the page for reports of these incidents).

In February 2007, Mr Jones was issued with a court injunction requiring him not to cause further damage to the canal. However, following a further incident in April, Mr Jones appeared in court in June and was given a 3-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, subject to his not breaching the injunction within that period.

Further damage to the canal was allegedly carried out in January, as a result of which, Mr Jones has now been sent to prison.

British Waterways has issued the following statement:

"Over the last 12 months Mr Christopher Jones of Maden Fold Farm has breached the Rochdale Canal with an excavator on a number of occasions.

British Waterways, acting on behalf of the Rochdale Canal Company and The Waterways Trust sought and obtained an injunction last year from Manchester High Court stopping him from interfering with the canal. Later in the year he was given a three month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for breaching the canal again.

He again breached the canal in January 2008, and yesterday (Monday 25 February) was found guilty of breaching the court injunction. The suspended sentence was lifted and he began his three month sentence. The court felt the Mr Jones had been given every possible generosity but that this had been rejected.

British Waterways has pursued this application after serious consideration, and has not taken these steps lightly. The organisation cannot condone actions of this kind which lead to damage of property, along with the high resultant costs to the tax payer. They are not wishing to be either vindictive nor malicious, but simply wish to peacefully operate the canal for the enjoyment of all users."

BW Funding for 2008-9

28th February 2008

DEFRA has announced its grant to British Waterways for 2008/09. The grant is £56.624 million.

Once repayment of £1.024 million of National Loans Fund is excluded, the comparable figure for 2007/08 was £56.4 million.

This amounts to a "flat cash" settlement, meaning more or less the same money this year as last year. Taking inflation into account this means a reduction in the value of the money received. This is clearly bad news for our waterways although not as bad as if the funding had been cut as it has in 2006 and 2007.

BW's Robin Evans said: "In the current difficult government funding climate this is a reasonable settlement and in line with our expectations. It shows that Defra has listened to the arguments that further funding cuts would be very damaging."

Historic Wharf could be lost

11th February 2008

Vaudreys Wharf, photo: Tim Boddington
Vaudreys Wharf, photo: Tim Boddington

A remote wharf on the Macclesfield Canal is at risk of being stanked off, drained and returned to nature.

Vaudrey's Wharf is a short arm off the Macclesfield Canal near Bridge 72, east of Conlgleton.

It was built in 1835 to serve Charles Vaudrey's Bath Vale mills. When the North Stafforshire Railway opened a line in 1860, passing under the canal nearby, the wharf became used as an interchange.

When the railway closed the track and the wharf passed into the ownership of Congleton Council. There have been long-term leaks from the arm through the embankment of the railway cutting but the council has not felt able to fund the repairs.

The leak is now more serious and, apart from being an unacceptable loss of water, there is also a potential risk of a breach on this nine-mile pound, threatening property in Congleton.

The canal arm is unusual in belonging to the council rather than British Waterways. BW was unwilling to take on the liability for the repairs. An agreement was being drawn up whereby the council would pay for the repairs and then BW would take over ownership.

BW was then forced to withdraw from the proposed agreement because funding cuts had left them without the necessary money.

Because the leak is a continuing threat to the Macclesfield Canal, BW is considering stanking off the arm at its own expense.

The result of this could be that the arm and wharf becomes overgrown making any future repais and restoration much more expensive, so the wharf could be lost for ever.

Follow this link for full details of the problem and possible solutions.

Festival to Light up Standedge

February 1st 2008

Imbolc Festival

The annual Imbolc Celtic Fire Festival is to be celebrated on Saturday 2nd February at Standedge Tunnel.

The spectacle, which has been held for 14 years, includes a torchlit procession, starting from Marsden Railway Station car park at 7.00 pm, along Reddisher Road to Tunnel End.

The crowds will be entertained by drummers, live music and spectacular fireworks.

Imbolc is a 2000 year old Celtic Festival which marks the first signs of spring, marking the time when the Earth begins to wake-up after its winter sleep. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun.

Members of the public are asked not to bring dogs as the fireworks may distress animals.

Floods Hit Yorkshire Waterways

January 23rd 2008   updated Jan 24th

Capsized boat at Broad Cut. Photo: Neil Sanford
Capsized boat at Broad Cut. Photo: Neil Sanford

This week has seen further flooding on the Yorkshire Navigations.

Heavy rain over the Pennines earlier in the week has been making its way downstream, causing flooding in Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Mirfield along the way.

Today, flood defences were breached between Figure of Three Locks and Broad Cut allowing flood water and debris to wash into the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Narrowboats moored at Broad Cut near Wakefield were lifted onto the towpath. One remained stranded there while another capsized when the waters receded.

Significant flooding has also occurred north and east of Leeds, around York, Selby and Naburn. The River Ouse is reported to be a mile wide in places.

A number of navigations are still closed at this time, including the Calder & Hebble, Sheffield & South Yorkshire, Stainforth & Keadby, River Ure and River Ouse.

Update: See photos of boat recovery.

boat on towpath at Broad Cut. Photo: Neil Sanford
Narrowboat stranded on towpath at Broad Cut. Photo: Neil Sanford

flooding in Leeds
River Aire swamps Leeds Lock. Photo: BW

Third series of Locks and Quays starts

Matthew Corbett
Matthew Corbett. Photo:

January 2nd 2008

A new series of the TV programme "Locks and Quays" starts on Thursday 3rd January, on ITV Granada in the North West. It is due to be shown on ITV in the Yorkshire region at a later date.

This is the third series of ten programmes and this time the series is presented by canal enthusiast, actor and former keeper of "Sooty", Matthew Corbett.

Matthew will be taking a coast-to-coast journey from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, with inserts of visits to other locations. The first lap of the journey is along the Humber and into the port town of Goole, heading to the start of the Aire and Calder Navigation.

Briefly, the remaining programmes will feature:
 • Programme 2 - Aire and Calder, Wakefield, Leeds, Ellesmere Port
 • Programme 3 - Leeds and Liverpool, Kirkstall, Saltaire
 • Programme 4 - Leeds and Liverpool, Bingley Five Rise
 • Programme 5 - Leeds and Liverpool, Skipton, Worsley
 • Programme 6 - Leeds and Liverpool, Foulridge, Burnley Embankment and Weavers' Triangle
 • Programme 7 - Leeds and Liverpool, Blackburn
 • Programme 8 - Leeds and Liverpool, Johnsons Hillock and Wigan Lock flights, Bradford Canal
 • Programme 9 - Leeds and Liverpool, Appley Bridge, Parbold, Rufford, Burscough, Stanley Ferry Workshop
 • Programme 10 - Leeds and Liverpool, Liverpool Canal Link, River Mersey

The programmes are broadcast on ITV in the Granada area at 7.30 pm on Thursdays (dates for Yorkshire not yet known). They can also be seen by people outside the area on Sky (see below).

The previous series of Locks and Quays can currently be watched online on ITV Local
I don't know when Series 3 will be available to watch online or whether it will then replace Series 2.

Instructions for tuning in to Granada on Sky:
Granada is available on Astra 2 (Sky): 10758MHz, Vertical, 22000SR, 5/6FEC.
See: for more information.