Canal News 2006 (2) July - September

Wigan lock temporary closure

September 30th 2006

Lock 87 on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

An emergency stoppage has been announced for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Lock 87, the bottom lock on the Wigan flight, just above Wigan Pier.

The temporary closure is to de-water the lock in order to carry out investigations and necessary emergency repairs to a damaged top cill in order to maintain water levels.

The lock will be closed from Wednesday 4th to Thursday 5th October 2006.

Visitor moorings are available above Lock 86 at Chapel Lane and at Wigan Pier below lock 87. This should not affect boaters travelling between the upper locks of the Wigan flight and the Leigh Branch.

Right: Lock 87 on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal locks temporary closure

September 19th 2006

Forge Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

An emergency stoppage has been announced for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Forge 3-rise Locks, between Newlay and Kirkstall, near Leeds.

The temporary closure is to enable emergency repairs to the bottom, offside lock gate of the middle lock (Lock 9) to ensure continued safe operation. Strengthening works to the heel post and balance beam will also take place.

The locks will be closed from Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd September 2006.

This means that the Leeds and Liverpool Canal will be closed between Leeds and Newlay until works are complete.

Right: Forge Locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Water Supply News

Updated September 26th 2006

A shortage of water is causing problems again for the region's canals.

On the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, from 21st August, some lock flights will be locked overnight between 6.00 pm and 10.00 am to conserve water in the reservoirs feeding the summit level.

These are:
- Barrowford Locks - last entry 4.30 pm
- Greenberfield Locks - last entry 4.30 pm
- Bank Newton Locks - last entry 5.00 pm
- Gargrave Locks - closed at 6.00 pm

Locks will be re-opened by 10 am and BW advises that boaters may move if they find the locks open before that time.

BW blames untypical low rainfall over the past few months, exceptionally warm temperatures, and increased boat usage, and warns that there is only a few weeks supply available for the summit pound of the canal.

David Crane, Operations Manager, British Waterways Yorkshire, said: "We regret having to take these further measures, but we hope that, by so doing, we can keep the canal open for as long as possible."

Update 14th Sept:
Restrictions on all lock flights have been removed with immediate effect. Water levels have recovered sufficiently to make the time restrictions no longer necessary.

Update 20th Sept:
Reservoirs supplying the area's canals are filling up again, with the Leeds and Liverpool's reservoirs increasing from 45% capacity in August to 47% in September. The Peak Forest and Macclesfield reservoirs increased from 56% to 61% in that time and the Huddersfield Narrow from 64% to 84%!

This compares well with canals in the south, with the Kennet and Avon's reservoirs falling from 52% to 44% capacity.

Reservoirs supplying the Birmingham Canal Navigations have fallen by11% and those for the North Oxford and Grand Union North by 16% and 19% but these figures are partly because some reservoirs are being allowed to empty for repairs over the winter.

Tuel Lane Deep Lock
Tuel Lane Deep Lock

The Rochdale Canal was closed for 10 days at the end of July between Locks 1 and 5 due to low pounds above Sowerby Bridge. This section has now been re-opened.

This problem has occurred partly because the deep lock at Tuel Lane uses a lot of water. This is compensated for by water being extracted from the river at Luddendon Foot to feed the long pound above the lock. However, in times of low rainfall, the Environment Agency stops the extraction in order to protect river wildlife. British Waterways have been temporarily back-pumping water at Sowerby Bridge which is helping the canal levels above the town. They are also increasing the feed from the summit and managing the water levels as it is fed down the navigation.

Tuel Lane Lock is keeper-operated and only open during working hours. Passage must be booked 24 hours in advance on 01942 405700. Narrowboats may have to wait until another narrowboat arrives in order for them to share locks to conserve water. Boaters intending to use this section may check the current situation by contacting BW on 01942 405700.

British Waterways have stated that water supplies to the Rochdale, the Leeds and Liverpool and the Lancaster Canals are low. They advise that boaters share locks, ensure that all paddles are fully closed after use and that any vandalism or misuse is reported to them if observed (01942 405700).

The Glasson Branch of the Lancaster Canal has been temporarily closed to help conserve water. BW may need to close the Ribble Link if water levels continue to fall.

The problem of shortage of water supply is even more acute in the south of England, where the Kennet and Avon Canal has been closed between Crofton and Wootton Rivers and much of the Basingstoke Canal is closed.

Waterfront Quarter planned for Huddersfield

September 22nd 2006

Huddersfield Waterfront Quarter
Artist's impression, looking north across the River Colne, showing a narrowboat on the far side of the square.
Picture: DLG Architects

Huddersfield's exciting new "Waterfront" Quarter" has been given the go-ahead!

Kirklees Council has given approval to the revised plans, which involve a twelve acre site lying in a triangle between Manchester Road, Chapel Hill and the River Colne immediately to the south of the town centre. The site includes part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Locks 2e and 3e - a section which was re-opened to navigation in May 2001.

To those interested in the canal, the most important change from the original proposal is that the canal, at present in a tunnel, will be brought back up to ground level. When the canal was restored in 2001, Lock 3e was re-located to the west of the site, with a cut-and-cover tunnel taking the canal below the factory premises. It is now planned to build a new lock, a few yards west of the original site of Lock 3e, near Chapel Hill. This will then raise the canal back to its original level through the site.

The original proposals for this development included a canal basin, but this has been modified so that there will now be a mooring lay-by above the new lock, alongside the new public square.

Huddersfield Waterfront Quarter
Artist's impression. In practice, the canal would be about 15 feet higher than the river.
Picture: DLG Architects

The scheme will cost £175 million and will see the site, currently occupied by Sellers Engineering and West Riding House, transformed into a mixed development of waterside café bars and restaurants, offices, 500 apartments and a hotel.

Sellers Engineering will move to new purpose built premises close to Huddersfield.

Folly Hall Mills, on the opposite bank of the River Colne, are to be transformed into offices in a separate development, which will be linked to the Sellers' scheme via a footbridge.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal currently runs in a tunnel below Sellers Engineering. Photos showing the construction of this tunnel can be seen here.

Lock 3e is to be re-located back to within a few yards of its original position. The tunnel will be in-filled and the canal re-built on the surface. The work will involve the closure of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal while this work takes place. The whole development will take four years to complete. It is not yet known when work to re-build the canal will take place.

External Link:
Waterfront Quarter website

Unlicenced boats being tackled

September 18th 2006

Boat on Calder and Hebble. Mirfield
Boat at Mirfield. Photo: BW

British Waterway's patrol officers have been continuing their crackdown on licence evasion. During the month of August, the patrol teams have recovered a record £81,000 of unpaid licence fee income, This was the highest monthly figure since BW introduced its new standards for tackling evasion in November 2005.

A record 16 boats were also seized during the month of August using Section 8 powers.

This is good news to the majority of boaters, who pay their licence fees on time, especially at a time when BW's income is seriously threatened. (see below)

In some cases, arrears of up to 3 years have been collected. In cases where no attempt is made to pay, boats have been seized.

BW gives as an example a narrowboat on the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Mirfield (above right), which had been unlicensed for 12 months and which was sold through brokerage to recover both overdue licence fee income and costs.

BW's Simon Salem said, "I'd like to remind law abiding boaters to display their licence and the boat's index number on both sides of the boat. Particularly important is that if you cover your boat in the winter, you must ensure that the index number is still clear for BW patrol officers to see. Otherwise you could end up as a problem statistic - which means money must be spent on following up these cases rather than repairing and improving the waterways."

Getting to grips with trolleys

September 18th 2006

BW's Eugene Baston
BW's Eugene Baston

British Waterways is seeking to develop a national approach to discourage the dumping of shopping trolleys in waterways .

The dumping of trolleys in canals and rivers is a regular and growing cause for concern for both boaters and BW. In a special Spring Clean of canals in April 2006, 337 trolleys were cleared in just two weeks.

At present there are informal arrangements between local BW offices and some supermarkets for the return of trolleys. BW has met with the British Retail Consortium in an effort to establish a national approach to reducing the problem and to be able to be compensated for the work involved in clearing the trolleys.

BW's External Relations Manager, Eugene Baston (right) said: "The costs of continuous trolley clearance are growing and use up vital resources that could be invested into the waterways. Whilst discussions with the British Retail Consortium are in their early stages, we are confident that the solution to the number of trolleys blighting our waterways will be to work in partnership with the UK's major retailers."

Rochdale Canal lock temporary closure

September 18th 2006

Blue Pits Lock on the Rochdale Canal

An emergency stoppage has been announced for the Rochdale Canal at Castleton, between Rochdale and Slattocks.

The temporary closure is due to damage to the offside tailgate cill of Lock 51 (Ble Pits Lock).

It is necessary to de-water the lock in order to carry out investigations and necessary emergency repairs in order to maintain water levels.

This means that the Rochdale Canal will be closed at Castleton (west of Rochdale) until works are complete.

Update: September 20th 2006

Emergency repairs have been completed and the lock will re-open at 9.00 am on Thursday 21st September.

Right: Blue Pit Lock on the Rochdale Canal at Castleton.

Middlewood Locks, Salford

Updated 10th September 2006

Launch of Middlewood Locks development - Photo: Pennine Waterways
A rainy morning does nothing to dampen the spirits at the launch of the Middlewood Locks restoration project in 2005. Celebrating from left to right: Frank White, Mayor of Bolton, Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning, Salford City Council, the late Margaret Fletcher, Chairman of Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society, Martin Clarke, Restoration Manager of British Waterways North West and Steven Treadgold, Mayor of Bury. In the background an excavator has been clearing surface vegetation on the site.

Work is about to start on re-construction of the Manchester Bolton and Bury canal through the new Middlewood Locks development in Salford.

A change in plan means that Salford will have the third deepest canal lock in the country!

In October 2005, excavators moved onto a site in Salford, signalling the start of work that will see 500 metres of canal re-opened as the centrepiece of the stunning new Middlewood Locks development!

This will be the first phase of the restoration of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal. This landmark was celebrated by British Waterways and their partners, Bolton, Bury and Salford councils and the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society.

The section of canal to be restored in this first phase will start at the junction with the River Irwell, through a tunnel beneath the Inner Relief Road, and will terminate near Oldfield Road.

The first two locks of the canal, which formed a staircase coming up from the river, had to make way for the Inner Relief Road, so a single deep lock will now be situated to the west of the railway.

It had originally been planned to construct two single locks west of the railway but the discovery of a major Victorian sewer running across the site at a depth where the new channel would have cut through meant that the plans had to be revised.

Artist Impression of Middlewood Locks development - Picture: British Waterways
An artist's impression of part of the Middlewood Locks development.

The new deep lock will be nearly as deep as Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal.

The third lock, west of East Ordsall Lane, is still in place and will be restored to working order (see photo below). Water will be back-pumped up the locks to ensure that the levels in the pounds above are maintained.

The original masonry of the wash walls between East Ordsall Lane and Oldfield Road is still in place and will be re-used as far as possible.

The £600 million Middlewood Locks development is one of the largest in the area and will include apartments, hotels, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities..

The canal restoration will include a new canal channel, restoration of a stretch of old canal channel, two new locks, restoration of an old lock, a footbridge and a tunnel below the Inner Relief Road, provision for which was made when the road was constructed.

Artist Impression  of Middlewood Locks development - Picture: British Waterways
Diagram of the Middlewood Locks proposals, looking north west, with the River Irwell at the bottom of the picture. Lock 2 will be replaced by a deeper Lock 1.

The canal work will cost £4.2 million and funding will come from European Objective Two Funding, the Northwest Development Agency and Salford City Council.

Work on the Middlewood development started in October 2005 and work on reconstructing the canal should begin by the end of 2006.

The late Margaret Fletcher, Chairman of Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal Society for nearly 20 years, said at the launch in 2005: "After many years of campaigning, our aspirations are being realised. We begin to move from dream to reality."

Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning, Salford City Council, said: "Waterside regeneration is central to Salford's rejuvenation. The restored section of the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal at Middlewood, and all the development that ensues, will undoubtedly become yet another powerful symbol of the new city."


Canal channel at Middlewood at start of work - Photo: Pennine Waterways
The canal channel and Lock 3 at Middlewood before restoration work begins.

For more photos of the canal route before work started, follow these links:
River Irwell to East Ordsall Lane
East Ordsall Lane to Oldfield Road

Emergency Stoppages

August 21st 2006

Leeds and Liverpool Canal - Lock 46 at Barrowford. The lock will be de-watered to investigate damage to the tailgates and carry out necessary emergency repairs. The Barrowford lock flight will be closed to passage whilst these works are being carried out. Begins 8.30 am 22nd August until 1.00 pm 22nd August.
Update 22.8.06: The stoppage will now be extended to last all day.
Update 23.8.06: Lock repaired and Barrowford flight now re-opened.

Emergency Stoppages

August 21st 2006

Rochdale Canal - Lock 78 at Miles Platting. A temporary stoppage will be in place during a police investigation. Begins 21st August until further notice. This will affect assisted passages between Manchester, Lock 83 and Failsworth, Lock 65.
Update 23.8.06: Lock 78 now re-opened.

Family History Week

20th August 2006

Standedge Visitor Centre
Standedge Visitor Centre, Marsden

Visitors to Standedge Visitor Centre, at Tunnel End, near Marsden can take part in Family History Week between August 22nd and 27th 2006.

British Waterways, Yorkshire is inviting people to come and explore their family history and heritage by welcoming visitors to bring along old photographs and memorabilia and to get expert help on tracing their family roots through various workshops.

Throughout the week the Marsden Local History Group will be exhibiting their interpretation boards on topics ranging from agriculture to population to transport, providing a great insight into the many dynamics of local history. Visitors will also have the opportunity to ask questions to representatives of the group who will be on hand and to learn fascinating insights into their family history.

On Tuesday 22nd August, the week begins with a Wild Over Waterways (WOW) activity day for children, between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm.

On Wednesday 23rd and Saturday 26th August, between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm, workshops will be provided by the West Yorkshire Archive Service and Kirklees Local Studies Library, which will give visitors the opportunity to learn the skills needed to trace their family trees and explore avenues into learning about their ancestry.

On Thursday 24th August, the Waterways Trust will demonstrate its online resource of British Waterways' records and archives, which will trace the history of Britain's inland waterways back to its roots, with a wealth of information including drawings, plans, accounts, photographs and audio-visual recordings and other important historic documents.

Laurence Morgan, General Manager of British Waterways Yorkshire said: "Marsden is a closely knit community and the ancestors of many families who still live in the local villages are linked to the history of Standedge and the canal."

Archivist Teresa Wilmshurt of The Waterways Trust said: "This event will enable us to demonstrate just how useful waterways archives can be in helping to trace family history. With the Virtual Waterways website now freely available, people will be able to go away and see it for themselves."

There will be no events taking place on Monday or Friday as the Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre are closed

Guided boat trips into Standedge Tunnel are also available each day except Monday and Friday. The trips last around 30 minutes and run at 10.15 am, 11.00 am, 11.45 am, 1.00 pm, 1.45 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.15 pm and 4.00 pm.

Previous events:
On 1st August, the centre held a successful event to mark "Yorkshire Day". This was part of a county-wide celebration of the region's history and heritage and included writer Craig Bradley teaching visitors about the essence of "Yorkshireness".

On 5th and 6th August, the centre hosted a "Roses and Castles" weekend, where visitors were able to try their hands at the bright and colourful designs traditionally used on narrowboats under the guidance of experienced canalware painter, Ellen Levin.

More information about events at Standedge Visitor Centre can be found on their website

"Rochdale Nine" locks temporary closure

August 17th 2006

Tib Lock on the Rochdale Nine

An emergency stoppage has been announced for the "Rochdale Nine" - Locks 84 to 92 in Manchester.

The temporary closure is due to damage to the cill of Lock 89 (Tib Lock).

This means that the "Rochdale Nine" locks will be closed until works are complete.

Update: The work is complete and the locks have re-opened.

Right: Tib Lock on the Rochdale Nine in Manchester.

Work Affects Lock in Wigan

August 16th 2006

Henhurst Lock in Wigan

A new bridge is to be constructed next to Henhurst Lock (no. 86) on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Wigan.

As part of this work a new by-wash pipe for the lock is being installed.

This means that, for health and safety reasons, there will be times when access to the lock side to operate the lock will not be available.

A temporary lock keeper will be on hand to assist boats through the lock during these times. Boaters are required to moor up and notify the temporary lock keeper of their presence and await further instructions. BW offered apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

Right: Henhurst Lock on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Wigan.

Recognition for BW North West canal workers

15th August 2006

Members of British Waterways' team of ground staff in the North West have won recognition by being highly commended in a prestigious national competition.

A team of canal workers who look after Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in Lancashire were highly commended by the judges of the Lock and Bridge Award celebrating the outstanding way they maintain the canal. They were nominated as maintaining the best kept waterway in the area before going through to the national final where they were up against stiff competition from canal workers from across the country.

The team, Jeff Smith, Stephen Gibbons, Dave Clark, Daniel Clough, Michael Fletcher and Sid Mason, have cared for this part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal for a number of years.

"We're very proud to have been commended in the 50th year of the Lock and Bridge Award," said Jeff. "We're making the waterway a better place to visit for the hundreds of walkers, cyclists, runners and nature lovers who visit this stretch of canal each day."

A second North West team was highly commended for the Waterway Length Award for looking after the Rochdale Canal between Littleborough and Todmorden.

The team consists of Steven Golden, Ray McDonald, Robert Laycock, Jamie Reid, Michael Birks, Darren Mills and David Buckley.

Steven commented: "It's quite an honour to think that we've won an accolade the like of which was first awarded in a time when commercial freight traffic on the canal was an every day sight."

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."

Rochdale Canal - Water Supply News

14th August 2006

Water supplies to the Rochdale Canal are becoming critical and boaters may be delayed for up to 48 hours.

British Waterways has warned that due to the recent hot weather and prolonged dry spell, water supplies to the summit pound of the Rochdale Canal are reaching a critical level.

This is particularly affecting supplies to the west side of the canal where the problem has been increased by recent spates of vandalism to lock gate paddles between Failsworth and Manchester. This has led to reduced water levels and difficulties with navigation.

British Waterways is working with local domestic water supplier United Utilities to maintain supplies to the canal from the summit reservoirs. However, while water levels are recovering, delays of up to 48 hours may be experienced.

BW staff are working to minimise these delays wherever possible and will keep boaters informed locally of the likely period of any delay.

Boaters are encouraged to share locks if possible in order to use less water.

Booking procedures remain in place for passages in either direction through Tuel lane Lock, the Summit level and the section between Locks 65 to 83.

Boaters should contact BW's Wigan office, 01942 405 700, to book passages and to enquire about the latest situation. Information is also available on Canalphone North 01923 201401 and Boaters with a WAP-enabled mobile phone can access

Canal Programme for Young People in Leeds

9th August 2006

Young people from all over Leeds aged 13-19 have been invited to take part in a two week programme, supported by British Waterways Yorkshire, to learn more about the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and use their energy in a constructive way.

The programme is led by Trevor Roberts of Bradford Motor Education Project (BMEP). It will introduce young people to the pleasures of canal life by taking them on a narrowboat, looking at local wildlife and teaching them boat handling skills. They will also look at the possibilities of environmental improvements to encourage access to the canal from the LAZER Centre (Leeds City Council's Learning Action Zone Education and Recreation Centre) at Armley.

Around 20 to 30 young people per day are expected to take part. The activities will initially be for a two week period as a pilot scheme but it is hoped that the project may attract further funding. Bradford Motor Education Project is partnered by British Waterways Yorkshire and has already enjoyed considerable success in steering young people away from becoming involved in anti-social behaviour.

Trevor Roberts is a retired police officer who has been running BMEP for the past 15 years. He said: "Not many people realise that they live near the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and what it can offer in terms of recreation - cycling, walking, fishing, canoeing and boating. Local young people from all over the city are involved in a variety of educational, enjoyable and positive activities at the Centre. There is a great opportunity here for us to provide some constructive opportunities for local youngsters, and I hope that this will be a really positive starting point."

Laurence Morgan, British Waterways' general manager for Yorkshire, comments: "This is a great scheme which we fully support as part of our commitment to social inclusion and to encourage greater use of the waterways. We have worked with Bradford Motor Education Project for a number of years and they are achieving great progress in helping to make more people aware of the waterway network and the enjoyment which can be derived from becoming involved with it."

The narrowboat is operating from the LAZER Centre at Lenhurst Avenue, Armley Leeds, from 10.00 am -5.00 pm.

Anyone wanting to find out more about can contact Georgina Bright or Jim Turner at the LAZER Centre on 0113 2755033 or Trevor Roberts at Bradford Motor Education Project on 01274 613141.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Leeds city centre and Newlay has a reputation for young people hanging around and sometimes causing problems for canal users. It is to be hoped that this scheme will attract some of these youngsters and disuade them from behaving in an anti-social way on the canal.

British Waterways Faces Funding Crisis

9th August 2006

British Waterways has received shock news of a massive cut in its funding from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Funding for British Waterways comes from both DEFRA and the Scottish Executive, in addition to a small income from BW's commercial ventures and local authorities. BW had budgeted to receive £73.5 million in funding this year - £62.5 million from DEFRA and £10.9 million from the Scottish Executive.

The Scottish Executive will still be paying the amount it has promised but DEFRA will not be fulfilling its commitments. In March DEFRA had notified BW that its grant would be cut by 5% (£3.1 million). BW adjusted its budgets accordingly but in August DEFRA announced that BW's funding would be cut by a further 7.5% (£4.5 million) with the possibility of a further 2.5% (£1.5 million) being slashed in November. This lower level of funding is to continue through 2007 and perhaps until 2012.

This is as a result in a financial crisis in DEFRA itself. It has run into severe money problems, with a huge backlog in payments to farmers. The Treasury has refused to bale DEFRA out so they are cutting funding to all of its dependednt organisations, even those, like BW, not connected with farming.

Robin Evans, BW's Chief Executive, has written to all BW employees to inform them of the situation and to encourage them to identify all ways of cutting any expenditure that does not deliver any of BW's three priorities of making the network safe and secure, increasing BW's net income and increasing the number of vistors to the canal network.

One immediate consequence is the reduction of the major works budget by £4 million although this is regarded as "highly undesirable". BW is already in the process of becoming more efficient through moving to smaller offices. Mr Evans is also encouraging the buying of supplies through national contracts and reducing travel and meeting expenses.

Robin Evans and BW Chairman Tony Hales have been having meetings with ministers in attempts to stop these funding cuts, and tryingto persuade them of the need for BW to be properly funded and supported by government in the longer term.

Mr Evans warns that if greater efficiencies are not made, BW will need to look at further cuts in the works programme and at reductions in the payroll budget.

Acclamation for BW Yorkshire canal workers

9th August 2006

Members of British Waterways' team of ground staff in Yorkshire have won recognition with prestigious national awards.

A small team of canal workers who look after Woodlesford Lock on the Aire and Calder Navigation in Yorkshire have won the Lock and Bridge Award celebrating the outstanding way they maintain the canal. The team are the 50th winners of this award. They were nominated as maintaining the best kept waterway in the area before going through to the national final where they were up against stiff competition from canal workers from across the country.

The winners, Andy Ackerman, Mick Fellows, Darren Hulme and Pat Armitage, have cared for this part of the Aire and Calder for a number of years.

"Working on the canal bank gives us great pride," said Andy. "In caring for the waterway we're making it a better place to visit for the hundreds of walkers, cyclists, runners and nature lovers that we see visiting this stretch of canal each day."

Laurence Morgan, British Waterways' general manager for Yorkshire, comments: "I am delighted that Andy and his team have won the 50th Lock and Bridge Award. They are out on the canal bank in all weathers and the award is recognition of the excellent way they look after the Woodlesford Lock."

In addition, a canal worker who looks after a section of the Ripon Canal in Yorkshire singlehandedly was highly commended in a prestigious national Waterway Length Award.

Julie Freytag has cared for this part of the Ripon Canal between Littlethorpe Sanitary Station and Oxclose Lock for around 13 years.

Julie comments: "I'm very proud to have been commended in the 50th year of awards recognising excellence. It's quite an honour to think that I've won an accolade the like of which was first awarded in a time when commercial freight traffic on the canal was an every day sight.

Vandals close Huddersfield Narrow Canal

August 8th 2006

Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Mossley

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal was closed for one day at Mossley, following overnight action by vandals.

The half-mile long pound between Locks 12w and 13w was dewatered by vandals opening the paddles at Lock 12w, near Scout Tunnel.

The pound gradually filled up with water flowing through the by-wash of Lock 13w and from a stream inlet. British Waterways expected the level to be back to normal and the pound open again within 24 hours.

Update, 9th August: The level is now back to normal and navigation is again possible.

Right: Huddersfield Narrow Canal recovering at Mossley.

Marina for Greenfield

August 4th 2006

Work started on 1st August on a new small marina which is being built alongside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Frenches Wharf below Lock 21w at Greenfield.

The Knoll Mill and Frenches Wharf site will include a pub, restaurant, a small Tesco store, possibly a chandlery shop and up to 100 "luxury homes". Moorings for up to 18 boats will be provided in the marina, as well as service facilities for visiting boats using the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Frenches Wharf
An artist's impression of the scheme at Frenches Wharf.
The canal runs across the front of the site, with Lock 20w just off to the left and Chew Valley Road on the right. The River Tame flows through the middle of the site.
Frenches Wharf
An artist's impression of part of the scheme at Frenches Wharf.

The development is being undertaken by Paul Speak Properties and Wigget Homes. The 10.5 acre scheme will cost £25 million and is expected to be completed by Spring 2008.

Alan Carter, Estate Manager for British Waterways North West said: "Demand for marina moorings on Britain's canals and rivers is increasing every year as the waterways become ever more popular. The new marina facilities at Greenfield will provide an ideal stop-off at a location where boaters had previously passed. This facility will attract more visitors to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal which will increase its vibrancy and investment into the local economy."

A number of local shop owners have opposed the scheme, fearing that the inclusion of a supermarket will harm local businesses.

Historic Boat Gathering, Bugsworth Basin

2nd August 2006

Loading Maria with limestone at Bugsworth in 2005
Loading Maria with limestone at Bugsworth in 2005

Bugsworth Basin is to be the backdrop to a gathering of historic narrowboats.

Over the weekend of August 5th and 6th 2006, boats belonging to members of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners' Club will gather at Bugsworth Basin on the Peak Forest Canal.

Members are invited to assemble at Marple on 4th August and travel in convoy to Bugsworth.

The weekend will see, once again, the loading by hand of the Ashton Packet Boat Company's horse boat "Maria" with 25 tons of limestone. "Maria", built in 1854 and believed to be Britain's oldest wooden narrow boat, originally worked out of Bugsworth Basin carrying limestone as she will do for this event.

More information about the Historic Narrow Boat Owners' Club can be found on their website

Standedge Visitor Centre - a Gift to the Community

22nd July 2006

Judith Donovan
Judith Donovan cuts the ribbon. Photo: Bob Gough

British Waterways' Standedge Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public once again on July 22nd 2006. In addition to the new display areas, part of the building has been made available for local community use. as part of a £150,000 scheme.

The centre was officially re-opened on Friday 21st July by Judith Donovan of the Millennium Commission. Guests at the opening ceremony included pupils from Marsden Infants School.

The building has had a £150,000 facelift and has new displays and an audio-visual show which tells the canal tunnel's story as well as that of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Mike Lucas as the mill owner. Photo: BW

The audio-visual show features local actors playing some of the miners involved in digging the tunnel. Mike Lucas plays the part of a local mill-owner.

The centre has been developed over the last five months by tourism and leisure experts, the Continuum Group. Colourful directional signage has been installed to navigate visitors from the car park and railway station in Marsden, along the towpath and around the site itself. Admission to the new exhibition on the ground floor of the centre will be free although there is a charge for the boat rides into the tunnel.

Miners in a scene from the audio-visual show. Photo: BW

Improvements have been made to the specially designed glass-roofed boats which take visitors on short trips into the Tunnel, adding new audio effects to the tour and new external lighting to better illuminate the features of the Tunnel.

On the first floor of the building, a new education room will be available for visiting school groups and will host special events. Out of normal opening hours, the first floor will also be opened up for hire by community and corporate groups.

Laurence Morgan, British Waterways General Manager for Yorkshire said "I am confident that the availability of the first floor of the warehouse will attract a lot of interest. This is our gift to the local community."

Laurence Morgan at Standedge.

The Visitor Centre was opened in 2001 by Prince Charles, but closed its doors in 2005 following a decline in visitor numbers. Mr Morgan was delighted to be announcing the new exhibition: "We are thrilled that the extra investment we have put into the Centre's displays and signage has given us a really exciting new offer for our customers and we are hoping that they will feel the same way. We carried out intensive consultation with people before embarking on this project and now I feel that we have got the product right."

The Millennium Commission's Judith Donovan said: "The Commission is proud to have supported the renovation of the Huddersfield Canal with lottery money. The exciting new exhibition at the Standedge Visitor Centre will help visitors understand the canal's importance and help round off a really great day out for the family. The additional education facilities will also mean that more young people have the opportunity to enjoy their industrial heritage."

There is a new path around Tunnel End Reservoir to enable school children to take part in pond-dipping activities. Education Resource packs are to be produced.

For details of opening times and prices of boat trips, please visit the Standedge web site.

Vandalism at Dobson Locks

18th July 2006

Dobson Locks

Yet another act of vandalism resulted in the closure of one of the region's canals.

This time the stoppage was on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Dobson 2-rise Locks at Apperley Bridge, 9 miles west of Leeds. The locks were expected to be closed for one week, but luckily have now re-opened after 5 days.

Dobson Locks are overlooked by cottages and are on the doorstep of BW's Apperley Bridge office and maintenance yard.

There have been previous problems with vandalism on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal out of Leeds but it has normally been restricted to the area between Leeds and Newlay Locks.

There has been a spate of vandalism on canals in the Pennine area recently, mostly consisting of pounds being emptied.

For the latest information on any stoppages in the Yorkshire area, boaters can phone 01977 554351.

New Lease of Life for Standedge Visitor Centre

Updated: 15th July 2006

Standedge Visitor Centre
Mark Bates (right) from the Continuum Group explains his vision for Standedge Visitor Centre to Laurence Morgan and Janet Baverstock from BW.

British Waterways is to re-open Standedge Visitor Centre to the public on Saturday July 22nd as part of a £150,000 scheme.

The centre, which now has free admission, has new displays and an audio-visual show which tells the canal tunnel's story as well as that of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The centre will be officially re-opened on Friday 21st July by Judith Donovan of the Millennium Commission. Guests at the opening ceremony will include pupils from Marsden Infants School.

Boat trips into the tunnel (small charge) will run daily (except Mondays and Fridays) until October.

The Visitor Centre was opened in 2001 by Prince Charles, but closed its doors in 2005 following a decline in visitor numbers. British Waterways has listened to the comments of visitors and have commissioned the York-based Continuum Group to revitalise the Tunnel End site. The award-winning Continuum Group is a leading creator of exhibitions and visitor attractions, with clients such as The National Trust, Castle Howard, The Oxford Story and the National Coal Mining Museum.

Janet Baverstock, Service Manager for British Waterways, said that when the centre re-opens, admission would be free. Visitors would only be charged for the boat trips into the tunnel. There would be new interpretation signage around the site, including along the towpath and at Tunnel End Reservoir. There would be improved facilities for school parties, with a classroom area and indoor picnic space on the first floor, pond dipping at Tunnel End Reservoir. Education Resource packs are to be produced.

The boat trips into the tunnel re-commenced at Easter and are available daily until October (except Mondays and Fridays). The Visitor Centre re-opens on July 22nd when re-furbishment is complete. Tunnel End Cottages will remain open offering café facilities.

The Visitor Centre will be made available for local community activities outside of normal opening hours.

Mark Bates, Business Development Manager of the Continuum Group, said that the emphasis was going to be on story telling - finding ways of relating the stories of the people who were involved with the tunnel. The boat trips were to be made more atmospheric, making use of lighting and sound. Some of the staff could be in historic costume. Trails for children and adults could lead visitors around the site. Care would be taken to ensure that the complete age range of visitors is catered for.

Lawrence Morgan, General Manager of BW Yorkshire, recalled that it was 200 years ago that Thomas Telford was brought in to put the construction of the tunnel back on track. He made a comparison with the Visitor Centre getting back on track. He said: "We are confident that the additional investment will bring positive results. The new interpretation will reflect the importance of this attraction as part of our national heritage. We are delighted that the Millennium Commission is supporting our plans and that we have the go-ahead to encourage more community groups to use the building for meetings and educational purposes."

He said that BW was working with Kirklees Council on a Visitor Improvement Plan, which includes improved boater facilities at Slaithwaite and environmental enhancements at Milnsbridge.

Judith Donovan of the Millennium Commission said: "The re-launch of the Standedge Visitor Centre will create a fun and interactive centre, enabling people to experience Britain's rich canal history while providing an important educational resource. The Millennium Commission is proud to be supporting this project which has resurrected one of the most spectacular canals in the UK, acting as a catalyst for regeneration and creating a lasting legacy for generations to come.".

BW to sell off Rochdale lock cottage?

July 4th 2006

Summit Lock Cottage

British Waterways may be considering selling the last remaining working lock cottage on the Rochdale Canal.

The lock keeper's cottage under threat is at Summit, between Littleborough and Todmorden and is occupied by lock keeper Ray McDonald.

Ray looks after the canal and 19 locks between Littleborough and Walsden and was runner-up lock-keeper-of-the-year two years ago. Part of his role is to engage the local community in the canal which is easier to achieve by living on site.

Read more on the Rochdale Observer website.

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Floods close canal

Between Locks 11 and 12

Between Locks 11 and 12

July 4th 2006

The Yorkshire side of the Rochdale Canal has now fully re-opened after it had been temporarily closed at two points between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden after storms had washed debris into the canal

On the evening of Sunday 2nd July, heavy thunderstorms brought torrential rain to this area of the Pennines. Floodwater was several inches deep on roads in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge.

Between Locks 11 and 12, just west of Hebden Bridge, a huge amount of water swept down the steep hillside depositing earth and boulders into the bed of the canal, which became blocked (see photo).

Three miles to the west, between Locks 18 and 19 in the centre of Todmorden, sections of a 40 metre embankment slipped into the canal causing a second blockage.

British Waterways engineers visited both sites to assess the scale of the damage and dredgers were brought in to remove the blockages. The canal was re-opened between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge on 11th July.

The material excavated from the canal bed has been deposited on the offside of the canal to allow passage of boats.

This material will be fully removed later in the year but it cannot be removed from the site until standard contamination testing has taken place and approval is given by the Environment Agency.

Photo, top: The Rochdale Canal blocked by debris between Locks 11 and 12. Photo: British Waterways

Photo, bottom: A BW operative makes a start. Photo: British Waterways