As canals close down C&RT celebrate ‘fantastic work’

July 2018 - The Canal & River Trust is celebrating what it describes as “some of the fantastic work carried out by its staff and volunteers over the past year” with the presentation of its annual Waterways Alive Awards at the Anderton Boat Lift, as Peter Underwood reports.

Chief Executive Richard Parry announced the winners the award for Best Operations or Works went to what the Trust describes as “the £2.5m Marple Makeover which saw major repairs to an entire heritage lock flight and aqueduct.”

Other awards went to a staff-led project to replace out-dated mobile technology to over 600 bank staff, a community award for Spirit of Stonebridge which has turned a heavily vandalised area on the River Lee into a busy community hub, and to the South East Boat Licence Support team, who apparently “exemplify how important it is to be true to the Trust’s values when facing some of the more challenging issues that the charity has to deal with when supporting boaters.”

Canal & River Trust chief executive, Richard Parry, said: “All of our finalists have made a very positive difference to our waterways and the people who use them, and the impact they can have.

“We can all be proud of what they - and we all - have achieved.”

C&RT seems immune to irony and the citation for the Marple Flight works explains: “With the flight closed it was the perfect opportunity to carry out 88 pieces of work across the lock flight, ranging from vegetation clearance to large scale washwall repairs.

Unfortunately most boaters know that, when the Marple Flight was reopened, later than planned, it closed again just days later as the wall of one of the renovated locks started to move inwards making passage impossible by long boats and any boats over 6 ft 10 ins wide.

Months later the latest from C&RT is that the works to jack back the chamber wall at Marple Lock 11 have been completed, but monitoring has shown that the chamber wall moved again. It is currently closed ‘to ensure that it is safe’, and when reopened it will still be restricted to 6’10”.

The ‘award winning’ renovation will still need permanent repairs ‘later in the summer’.

While C&RT has been patting itself on the back it seems the system is closing down for a whole variety of reasons.

Apart from breaches at Middlewich (closed till Christmas), Liverpool (closed till late summer at least) and the Wyrley and Easington (delayed as Severn Trent have not done the work), water shortages and equipment failures are affecting large chunks of the system.

The biggest closure is likely to be the Leeds and Liverpool west of Wigan with one hire firm saying it had received notification from the Canal & River Trust that due to extreme water shortages on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal they will be closing the section between Gargrave and Barnoldswick later this month.

When C&RT was asked it said the message was ‘somewhat premature’ and no firm decision has been taken on whether closure or when it might come into effect.
The spokesperson went on “We can’t deny that a temporary closure may be necessary at some point in the future but we’re not at that stage yet.”

Elsewhere in the North West, the Lancashire Canal is very short of water and boaters wanting to use the Ribble Link are being advised to turn back by C&RT staff.

The Grand Union Canal is closed between Camphill Locks and Knowle. The water supply pump at Perry Well, which supplies water to the Birmingham & Fazely canal failed, and this also affects the canal level that feeds the Bowyer St pump that feeds the Grand Union canal between Camphill Locks and Knowle. C&RT advise boaters to leave the GU canal at Lapworth and use the North Stratford as an alternative route.

Elsewhere water levels are so low on the Coventry that full 3ft draft boats are going aground in mid stream and restrictions are also likely on South Oxford and elsewhere.

Boaters struggling to find their way around the waterways might not feel so inclined to congratulate Canal & River Trust.

Photos: (1st) The Coventry Canal - shallow, (2nd) The Liverpool Link - out of use after a breach, (3rd) Lock 11 on the Marple Flight before it began squeezing boats.

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