August 2018 - The sheer scale of the closures and restrictions, both drought-related and the physical failures of the network’s structures has been brought home in Canal & River Trust’s usually chirpy and lightweight Boater’s update, as Peter Underwood observes.

Boater’s Update is usually unrelenting in its cheerfulness but – as it records - June was the third driest month since records began in 1910 – and the hot dry weather has continued.

What is more the weather forecasters can’t guarantee enough rain in the weeks to come. The Trust is now taking ‘further precautionary steps now to manage the possible effects of continued dry weather.’

As Boater’s update records - from August 10, C&RT will be: “locking gates overnight at certain targeted locks on the Regent’s, Grand Union and Hertford Union canals to minimise wastage through paddles being left open.

“Outside of London, from 13 August, similar measures will be taken on the Grand Union and Oxford canals. Locking up the gates at the end of the day will protect reservoir levels and enable backpumps to recirculate water ready for the following days boating.

David Baldacchino, head of operational support at the Trust is quoted: “It’s unclear how much longer the exceptionally hot and dry weather will continue so it’s sensible that we all take some simple steps to make best use of our water over the remainder of the summer.

“It’s quite possible that we may not see significant rainfall over the coming weeks and so we’re appealing to boaters to use water wisely and help us to protect the levels within our reservoirs.

“By adopting just a few simple common-sense steps - which many will already be doing - boaters can play a key role in helping us to manage the effects of the dry weather if, as looks likely, it continues through August.”

The Update says “To date the exceptionally dry conditions have been felt most keenly on waterways in the North West with the Trust announcing temporary closures on parts of the Leeds & Liverpool, Rochdale, Huddersfield Narrow, Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. The temporary closures will prevent boaters from using certain locks although they can still make limited use of lock-free sections.”

Boaters’ Update records that in London the following locks will be closed overnight between 9:00pm - 7:00am .

- Regent’s - Hampstead Rd Lock both locks
- Regent’s – Acton’s Lock - top gates
- Regent’s – Old Ford Lock – top gates
- Regent’s – Mile End Lock - top gates
- Grand Union - Lock 90 top lock only
- Hertford Union – Lock 1 – top gates

Details of the locks being closed overnight from the middle of August are:

- Leicester Line (Grand Union), Watford Locks 1 to 7, open 8am to 6pm (last entry on the flight 5.15pm)
- Leicester Line, Foxton Locks 8 to 17, open 8am to 6pm (last entry on the flight 5.15pm)
- Northampton Arm (Grand Union), Locks 1 to 17, open 9am to 6pm (last entry on the flight 3.30pm)
- North Oxford, Hillmorton Locks 2 to 7, open 9am to 6.30pm (last entry on the flight 5pm)
- South Oxford, Napton Locks 8 to 13, open 8.30am to 6pm (last entry on the flight 5pm)
- South Oxford, Marston Doles Locks 15 & 16, and Adkins Lock 14, open 9am to 6pm (last entry on the flight 5pm)
- South Oxford, Claydon Locks 17 to 21, 9am to 5pm (last entry on the flight 4pm)

As the Update also says: “Please also note that, with reluctance, we need to close the Caldon Canal at Hazlehurst lock. The Trent & Mersey (T&M), much akin to a motorway of the waterway network, has had greatly increased traffic because of various restrictions in the north and north west (due to a combination of the exceptionally dry weather - resulting in restrictions - and the breach on the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie). So, by closing the Caldon at Hazlehurst, we’re able to divert water into the T&M to benefit the maximum number of boaters.

“If you have a mooring on the closed side of Hazlehurst Lock you can book a passage through the locks by contacting the local regional office. If possible, please try and give 24hrs notice.

And then there are the other closures ranging from the Middlewich Breach – unlikely to reopen till Christmas and the breach on the Leeds and Liverpool near Liverpool which should reopen ;late in August.

The Update lists the major closures due to drought or structural collapses:

- Bridge 10 (Holmes Swing Bridge) to Stanley Lock Flight / Eldonian Village - Leeds & Liverpool Canal
- Between Newlay and Kirkstall locks, Leeds & Liverpool Canal
- Lock 24W to Lock 1E, Huddersfield Narrow Canal
- Wigan to Gargrave, Leeds & Liverpool Canal
- Lock 48 to Lock 1, Rochdale Canal
- Docklands, Montgomery Bridge
- Welshpool Lock, Montgomery Canal
- Peak Forest Canal, Lock 11 Marple, Marple Flight
- Glasson Flight, Lancaster Canal
- Middlewood Locks, Manchester, Bury & Bolton Canal
- Marsh Lock, Weaver Navigation/Manchester Ship Canal
- Stainton Aqueduct - Lancaster Canal
- Standthorne Lock to Wardle Lock, Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union
- Three Mills Lock, Prescott Channel
- Bridge 46 Bevans Lane Bridge, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Add them all together and the picture is a daunting one for both boaters and Canal & River Trust.

Photo: The Caldon Canal - partly closed to improve water flow to an over-used Trent & Mersey Canal.

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