Canal News 2006 (1) Jan - June

Irk Aqueduct Breach - canal to re-open

Updated 12th June 2006

The Rochdale Canal is now fully open once again, after the section through Chadderton re-opened on Saturday 10th June, 2006.

This includes the site of the major breach which happened in April 2005 next to the Irk Aqueduct at Chadderton, between Lock 63 and the Rose of Lancaster pub.

Boaters wishing to travel the whole length of the Rochdale Canal will need to phone the Waterway Office in Wigan on 01942 405700 to book passages through the locks between Piccadilly (Lock 83) and Failsworth (Lock 65) and across the Summit pound (Locks 36 and 37).

Irk Aqueduct
The Irk Aqueduct in water once again.
Irk Aqueduct
New reed beds have been planted offside and deep towpath moorings created, with new bollards.
Irk Aqueduct
Side view of the Irk Aqueduct, with the breach repaired and new steps in place.

Boaters wishing to travel the whole length of the Rochdale Canal will need to phone the Waterway Office in Wigan on 01942 405700 to book passages through the locks between Piccadilly (Lock 83) and Failsworth (Lock 65) and across the Summit pound (Locks 36 and 37).

The large void created when the canal bed, towpath and side of the embankment were washed away had to be filled with crushed stone. A new concrete channel was laid across the aqueduct and the site of the breach. On each side of this, the channel was lined with PVC and the wash walls re-built, with a new concrete bed being laid. The works, which cost £1.27 million, stretched for a total of 160 metres.

Stone was recovered from the material washed away so that the wash walls could be re-built using original stone, so retaining its heritage value.

The works included the establishment of additonal reed beds and crayfish habitat, improving the ecology of the site.

The photos below show the work at an advanced stage in April 2006.

The new concrete channel being constructed across the aqueduct and breach site.

View of new wash wall north of the aqueduct, showing how it sits on the PVC lining.

Preparations being made to lay new concrete bed to the north of the aqueduct. New wash walls have already been constructed.

Looking towards the aquect from the south, where a new concrete bed will be laid also. On the right it can be seen how the PVC lining goes up behind the new wash wall.

The new concrete channel looking south.

While the work was taking place, the canal was closed between Slattocks (Lock 54) and Manchester (Lock 83). This closure did not affect the Yorkshire side of the canal, or the "Rochdale Nine" locks through Manchester, which operated normally. However, boaters were unable to cruise the canal from end to end or complete the "South Pennine Ring".

See earlier photos of repair work.

Photos taken immediately after the breach.

Plank Lane Bridge to re-open

12th June 2006

Plank Lane Bridge
Plank Lane Bridge, minus its balance mechanism, being opened with the aid of a crane on one of the opening days.

The Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal had been closed at Plank Lane Bridge, due to the failure of a beam on the bridge structure.

Stop press! BW has announced that the navigation will be fully re-opened from 8.00 am on Tuesday 13th June.

There will be some restrictions in place on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June, due to re-surfacing and minor works. However boaters will not be held up for more than 90 minutes.

The bridge has been closed to navigation since March, with only brief openings on certain Saturdays, where the bridge was opened with the aid of a crane. This followed an incident in which the counter weight used in the operation of the bridge "failed". British Waterways engineers and safety experts initially focused their investigations on the bolts that held the weight in place to the bridge structure. Planned refurbishment was already taking place at Plank Lane Bridge, including the construction of a new abutment. A temporary footbridge was in place for pedestrians.

The three lift bridges on the Peak Forest Canal were among 33 bascule-type bridges that were closed until safety inspections had been carried out. They quickly passed the safety inspections and are now open once again.

For the latest information, telephone 01942 405700.

Plank Lane Bridge
Plank Lane Bridge before the incident.

Plank Lane Bridge
Plank Lane Bridge minus its counterweight.
Photo: Andrew Instone-Cowie

Plank Lane Bridge
One of the beams showing where the counterweight and cross member should be.
Photo: Andrew Instone-Cowie

Plank Lane Bridge
The counterweight and one of the cross members awaiting inspection. There has been speculation that some of the bolts may have sheered.
Photo: Andrew Instone-Cowie

Thanks to Andrew Instone-Cowie for these photos. More can be seen here.

New Gates for Diggle

20th April 2006

A splash of colour has been added to the western entrance to Standedge Tunnel. At the start of this year's boating season, the rusty gates which gave the portal a drab look were replaced by brand new gates with artwork depicting a boat being legged through the tunnel. The bow of the boat is three-dimensional and comes forward several inches from the gates.

George Colebourn of Securiguard Shutters (right) with Brian Minor of the Huddersfield Canal Society (second from right). On the left are Rob and Peter of William Rigby, who made and installed the gates.

The gates were designed by Duncan Hopton of Design Solutions, Rochdale, and George Colebourn of Securiguard Shutters Ltd. based on an idea by local artist Joy Williams. The intricate laser cutting needed for the gates was contracted out to William Rigby (Sheet Metal) Ltd. The gates were constructed from steel plate and bar and were triple galvanised and painted to prolong their life.

The installation of the new gates are first part of a programme of environmental improvements around the tunnel entrance. The work, which will cost a total of £37,500, is being jointly funded by Oldham Council and the Huddersfield Canal Society. Oldham Council's Design and Development Team is designing the improvements to the surrounding area.

Neville Kenyon, Chairman of Huddersfield Canal Society, said "The site is important both historically and from an industrial archaeological viewpoint yet the entrance and surrounding area were poor. We are delighted with the design of the new gates. They will enhance a rather dilapidated area and the landscaping scheduled for later this year will further enliven this important heritage site."

The new gates in place at the Diggle portal of Standedge Tunnel.

Close-up of one of the "leggers".

Laurence Morgan, General Manager, British Waterways, Yorkshire, said "The canal itself is an important tourism and recreation facility running through Saddleworth and its villages and this kind of investment will encourage more people to take an interest in, and visit our waterways. British Waterways is hosting two events in May to leg the whole tunnel, the first of which is starting from Diggle end, so the new gates will provide a fitting tribute to the occasion."

Historically, a chain was placed across the entrance to prevent boats entering the tunnel at the wrong times. Gates were put across the entrance in 1944, when the canal was officially closed, to prevent adventurous attempts to enter the tunnel.

Vandals destroy bridge on Barnsley Canal

18th April 2006

Vandals have destroyed a wooden footbridge across the Barnsley Canal at Haw Park, south of Wakefield.

Clay Royd Bridge crosses the canal at a remote location between Walton and Cold Hiendley Reservoir. The bridge had a modern wooden decking linking the original stone abutments.

During the Easter school holidays, the vandals struck and the bridge was broken apart. It had been noted that the bridge construction was not particularly sturdy and there appears to be some evidence of rot in some of the timbers, which possibly made the vandals' work easier, but such total destruction is hard to believe. The bridge is a mile from the nearest housing.

The Barnsley Canal is mostly in water along the section through Haw Park, although not navigable. The area is a popular one for walking.

Clay Royd Bridge as it was.

Clay Royd Bridge after the attack. (Photo: Rick Sterry)

The smashed remains of the wooden structure. (Photo: Rick Sterry)
See where the bridge fits into the Virtual Journey along the Barnsley Canal

Jubilee crossing the Pennines

4th April 2006

Jubilee approaching Portland Basin
Jubilee approaching Portland Basin, Ashton.

As part of the Inland Waterways Association's diamond jubilee celebrations, the IWA's information, publicity and campaigning boat "Jubilee" is spending twelve months travelling around the waterway system.

Since leaving Preston Brook in September, "Jubilee" has travelled along the Bridgewater Canal to Leigh, Leeds and Liverpool Canal to Liverpool, Lancaster Canal to Tewitfield, back through Preston Brook to Middlewich and the Llangollen Canal, back to Middlewich, then to Congleton and Macclesfield.

Jubilee in Stalybridge
Jubilee draws the crowds in Stalybridge.

In each area the boat passes through, members of the local IWA branches have turned out to act as crew.

Between March 28th and April 9th, "Jubilee" is passing through the Pennine area, stopping at various points along the way to let members of the public on board to see the displays and talk to members about the waterways. Members of the Manchester branch are crewing the boat between Bosley on the Macclesfield Canal and Marsden on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Jubilee at Diggle
Jubilee climbs the Diggle flight.
Jubilee at Standedge Tunnel
Jubilee approaches Standedge Tunnel

On Saturday 1st April, she passed from the Peak Forest Canal onto the Ashton Canal at Portland Basin, Ashton under Lyne. From there she travelled up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Roaches Lock in Mossley, stopping in Stalybridge for the public to visit.

On Sunday, the journey continued to Uppermill, where the boat stopped near the museum for the afternoon before moving to Dobcross for the night.

On Monday, the boat climbed the Diggle locks and passed through Standedge Tunnel to Marsden. From there, members of the West Riding branch are taking the boat to Knottingley, and members of the South Yorkshire branch will take it to Thorne on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

The Jubilee Journey will end in August when the boat reaches the IWA's National Festival at Beale Park on the River Thames near Pangbourne.

Temporary Stoppages

March 2006

Lock 13
Lock 13 on the Ashton Canal

The Ashton Canal will be temporarily closed by two additional unplanned stoppages during March.

The first closure will be at Lock 13, Crabtree Lane, Clayton, from 13th - 17th March 2006, and will involve the closure of navigation and bridge.

The second closure will be at Kershaw Lane Bridge, Audenshaw, from 20th - 25th March 2006, and will involve the closure of both the towpath and navigation.

These closures are at the request of United Utilities, who wish to perform essential maintenance of the utility crossings.

The Rochdale Nine locks on the Rochdale canal in Manchester are closed until 17th March as part of a planned stoppage. These closures will affect boaters intending to do the Cheshire Ring.

Scout Embankment Repairs

24th February 2006

"Be Prepared" to find the Huddersfield Canal closed at Scout Tunnel!

Major repair work is nearling completion at Scout embankment, near Mossley, on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The canal itself is closed and there is a towpath diversion along Wakefield Road between Grove Road and the footbridge across the River Tame at Scout Rocks.

The Scout Embankment had suffered from minor leaks since the canal re-opened in 2001. It had been closely monitored by British Waterways engineers and minor repairs had been carried out previously.

Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Part of Scout Embankment before work started, at a point where an earlier leak occurred, with the River Tame down to the right.
Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
The same location with the re-constructed canal profile and strengthened edge.

A new PVC canal bed lining is being installed and the canal strengthened with the construction of new wash walls and a sloping concrete lining to the offside bank.

The profile of the canal is being modified, making it easier for boats to get in alongside the towpath. Cavities in the embankment caused by leaks have been filled with grouting and the towpath alongside this section of canal will be upgraded.

Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Looking south towards Lock 10w. A new PVC canal bed liner has been laid. A new wash wall and offside bank have been constructed.

John Ackroyd, a Senior Engineer for British Waterways and Project Manager for the Scout site, said: "This is essential work we need to carry out during our winter maintenance programme to preserve this section of the canal for another 100 years. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is well used by boaters, cyclists and walkers and these improvements will enhance the canal and environment for many years."

Scout embankment runs for about 600 metres from Lock 10w to Scout Tunnel, between Stalybridge and Mossley. The site is very remote and nearly a mile of temporary road surface had to be laid in order for heavy plant and machinery to gain access.

This major refurbishment work is costing £1.3 million and is being carried out by Galliford Try Construction. It is scheduled to be completed by March 17th, 2006.

Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Working at the entrance to Scout Tunnel.
Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Looking north from near Lock 10w, showing the reinforced bank, the lined canal bed and the new towpath-side wash wall.
Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
The southern part of the site seen from Lock 11w.
Work at Scout Embankment, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
The northern part of the site seen from within Scout Tunnel.

Irk Aqueduct Breach - progress of repair work

Updated 24th February 2006

Work has started to repair the major breach which happened in 2005 next to the Irk Aqueduct at Chadderton, between Lock 63 and the Rose of Lancaster pub.

The Rochdale Canal remains closed between Slattocks and Ducie Street Junction in Manchester. The towpath across the aqueduct and an adjoining footpath are also closed.

In the meantime the canal between Slattocks (Lock 54) and Manchester (Lock 83) will remain closed.

A £30,000 ground investigation revealed that "the unexpected failure of the embankment was due to the nature of the weak sandy soils from which the embankment had been originally constructed." BW then moved on to the designing and pricing phase of the repair project, the results of which were available in November.

The repairs are expected to cost £1.27 million and involve reconstructing the embankment using an infill of crushed stone. The channel of the canal will be lined with PVC and a concrete channel will be constructed across the adjoining aqueduct. The River Irk has been cleared of debris from the breach. It is expected that the repairs will take 20 weeks, and so be completed by May, in time for most of the 2006 boating season.

This closure does not affect the Yorkshire side of the canal, or the "Rochdale Nine" locks through Manchester, which are operating normally. However, boaters will be unable to cruise the canal from end to end or complete the "South Pennine Ring".

The breach happened on a mile-long pound, which is long by Rochdale Canal standards, so a considerable amount of water was swept into the River Irk, presumably along with fish and other wildlife.

Debbie Lumb, British Waterways' general manager for Yorkshire, comments: "I am delighted that the teams have been highly commended in these awards. It is recognition of the excellent way they look after their waterways."

The breach occurred in the early hours of Saturday 23rd April and was reported by a householder who noticed that a corner of his garden was missing. Like the embankment a mile away at Slattocks that collapsed in August 2004, the embankment each side of the Irk Aqueduct is made up largely of sand, which may have contributed to the seriousness of the breach. The aqueduct itself does not appear to have suffered any structural damage, as the breach happened alongside it, as seen in the photograph below.

Adrian Sains, North West Waterways General Manager, said that it was likely to take months rather than weeks to re-open the canal.

The canal has been closed between Slattocks and Broadway. It is suggested that boaters use the winding points below Lock 50 (Rochdale), coming from Littleborough, or at Oldham Broadway Bridge, below Lock 64, coming from Manchester. However, for the time being, boaters are not being allowed up the canal from Lock 83 in Manchester to Lock 64, as the breach has cut off the flow of water to these locks and using them would quickly drain the pounds.

Boaters wishing to cross the Pennines will need to use the Huddersfield Narrow or the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Any boaters who were planning to travel on the Rochdale Canal should phone the Waterway Office on 01925 847 700 to get the latest information about this stoppage.

Carry on Cruising
The Yorkshire side of the Rochdale Canal is functioning normally, with businesses mostly unaffected. Nigel Stevens of Shire Cruisers said: "We can't give our customers South Pennine Rings, or one-way trips via the Rochdale, but all our (many) other routes are fine, along with the great majority of our customers. We are offering alternatives to those affected, and are quite inventive about this, so they should all get a rewarding holiday."

Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
The location of the breach, looking north. The parapet of the aqueduct is visible. The breach washed the bank out down into the river on the right. The debris has been cleared out and an infill of crushed stone has started to be put in place. The rough stone wall behind the infill is the back of the aqueduct's wing wall. A concrete channel is to be constructed for 40 metres across the aqueduct and the embankment on each side.
Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
Side view of the aqueduct, showing the breach alongside, taken in April 2005, when the breach had just happened. The river bed is full of stones and debris washed down from the embankment.
Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
A close-up of the picture above, showing detail of the back of wing wall.
Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
The site of the breach seen from the other bank, with the River Irk visible through the gap.
Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
Looking northwards towards the site of the breach. The channel is to be lined with PVC and new wash walls constructed for a distance of 50 metres north of the aqueduct.
Rochdale Canal Breach, Irk Aqueduct - Photo: Pennine Waterways
Looking southwards towards the breach. The PVC channel lining and new wash walls will extend for 70 metres north of the aqueduct.

To see photos taken immediately after the breach, click here.

For news about the canal's re-opening following the breach, click here.

"Locks and Quays" - North West Canals Television Series

January 2006

Fred Talbot at Castlefield
Fred Talbot at Castlefield on the Bridgewater Canal.

Television presenter Fred Talbot has launched a new television series about North West canals to be screened in the New Year. The 10-part series, called Locks and Quays, will be shown on ITV in the Granada region, starting on Thursday 5th January 2006 at 7.30 pm.

Fred, who was famous for leaping about on the floating T.V. weather map in Liverpool's Albert Dock, has long had an interest in canals and has enjoyed canal boating holidays for many years. His enthusiasm for the waterways comes through in the programmes as he explains features and talks with people he meets on his journey.

Fred Talbot at Castlefield
Fred Talbot looks at boats at Castlefield.

The programmes follow a route from Liverpool, along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Ribble Link and Lancaster Canal, including the Northern Reaches and Glasson Dock. It also features Wigan, Rochdale, Salford Quays, the Manchester Ship Canal, Anderton Lift, the Peak Forest, Bridgewater and Llangollen Canals, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the "lighthouse" at Monton Green, Eccles, and the MSC steam tug Daniel Adamson.

During the series, Fred meets people who live, work or holiday on the canals and those who enjoy the canals from the towpath. He looks at the plans for the creation of the Liverpool Link from the Leeds and Liverpool canal to the Albert Dock, and at the proposals to restore the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster Canal.

Although the series is only being shown on Granada TV for now, viewers outside the region should be able to receive Granada's programmes if they are subscribers to Sky televison.

The series has been produced by new North West television company Centini. Series producer Eamonn O'Neal thanked British Waterways for their assistance in making the programmes. The company is hoping to follow up "Locks and Quays" with further programmes about Britain's waterways.