The Canal & River Trust is embarking on a programme of winter repairs along 2,000 miles of historic canals across England and Wales.
Forty-seven different waterways will benefit, with 138 large-scale works to replace worn-out lock gates, inspect tunnels and aqueducts, repair centuries-old masonry and brickwork, and other important heritage and conservation tasks.
As the nation’s largest canal charity, CRT has raised more than £50 million to carry out the works, which will run over the winter months when fewer boats are using the canal network. Our specialist carpenters have handcrafted 124 lock gates for the works, a vital part of ensuring canals are kept open and safe for boats.
The public is being offered a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at some work sites as CRT hosts face-to-face and online ‘virtual’ open days. The free-to-access events will showcase the vital conservation work needed to keep the 250-year-old canal network in working order.
With thousands of bridges, locks, aqueducts, tunnels and embankments that date back centuries, it is a massive task to keep canals in working order for boats, local communities, and the benefit of wildlife. The effort involves the Trust’s passionate team of specialists aided by thousands of dedicated volunteers, donors and partners.
The open days will tell the story of the vital canal repairs and maintenance this winter through the people who carry them out. Highlights are five face-to-face open days, including at locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal, Shropshire Union Canal and Birmingham Mainline Canal. Time-worn gates are being replaced with new handcrafted oak gates made by the Trust’s specialist carpenters.
The first face-to-face open day gets underway on 3 December on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal at Meadow Lane Lock, where the canal, close to Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and Notts County’s Meadow Lane, is getting new lock gates. This is followed in January by a face-to-face open event at Brent Reservoir in northwest London, where the water is being drained. The activity includes an extensive community clean-up, wildlife improvements, and statutory repairs at this urban nature reserve.
For those who aren’t local or who prefer to ‘visit’ from the comfort of their own home, the charity will be hosting a series of virtual open days on its website, which start with the refurbishment of lift bridges on the Oxford Canal where the Trust has been granted listed building consent to carry out a £650,000 refurbishment on four of the canal’s iconic Grade II Listed lift bridges – a familiar part of the landscape for nearly 250 years. The virtual open days will also look behind the scenes at dredging works on the Trent & Mersey Canal. Early in the new year, attention will turn to the Unesco World Heritage site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is being drained for a necessary 126ft high inspection of the longest aqueduct in Britain and the highest canal aqueduct in the world.
Open days will appear on the CRT website in due course.