National waterways and wellbeing charity, the Canal & River Trust, is asking drivers to take much more care when crossing the 200-year-old hump-back bridges that span the nation’s canal network.

Broken canal bridge

Among its 2,000-mile network of canals and rivers, the charity looks after 2,800 historical bridges. Hump-back bridges, synonymous with Britain’s canal network, were built 200 years ago for the passage of horse-drawn carts. Today’s modern vehicles and HGVs cause up to £1M of damage to bridges each year.

The majority of accidents are ‘hit and run’, leaving the Trust unable to recoup the cost of the damage from drivers’ insurers, and diverting vital funds away from work to conserve the nation’s waterways.

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Within its 316-mile network of waterways in Yorkshire & North East, Priest Holme Bridge, a Grade II listed bridge on a rural section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, between Gargrave and Bank Newton, has been frequently struck by vehicles. The Trust’s team will be carrying out repairs to the bridge over several weeks, the project is scheduled to take place between April and October 2022, with dates to be confirmed nearer the time.

Sean McGinley, director of Canal & River Trust Yorkshire and North East, said: “Priest Holme Bridge has been damaged several times over the years by vehicles mis-judging the road. Not only are these bridge strikes inconveniencing other motorists and the local community, they damaging the region’s waterways heritage and costly to repair. Each time our charity is left to pick up the bill, which is usually in the region of £25,000 to repair. We are working closely with North Yorkshire County Council’s highways department on this issue to find a way to resolve this ongoing issue.

“The region’s waterways are wonderful for people to use and enjoy but they are costly to protect and preserve. It is important we have funds available to carry out such works to keep the canals flowing – for example the conservation work we are currently undertaking at nearby Eshton Road Lock as well as Bingley Five Rise Locks.”

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Ruth Garratt, heritage advisor at Canal & River Trust, said: “Bridges are such an important part of the canal’s character and the area’s heritage. Each time a bridge is hit a small bit of history is lost.

“If motorists just slowed down a bit and paid more attention, they would save a lot of cost and aggravation. It’s important that people respect the weight limit of the bridge and, if they exceed it, then we’d ask them to please find an alternative route.”

For more information on the work of the Canal & River Trust including how to volunteer or donate visit

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