Following 2022’s drought, which forced the closure to navigation of several canals in the north of the country, the Canal & River Trust is planning ‘windows’ of canal reopening over the coming weeks.  In most instances this will allow boating over the October half term and up to the start of winter stoppage works, whilst elsewhere a smaller period of reopening will allow customers seeking to move their boat ahead of winter an opportunity to do so.

Cw 9086 Work continuing on Barrowford reservoir 10.10.2022.  Barrowford reservoir and locks looking towards Whitemoor and Barnoldswick on the morning of Monday 10.10.2022 as work continues on stabilising the reservoir walls.   This reservoir is fed from the Foulridge upper and lower reservoir’s though both of these have low water levels at present.  On this dry autumn morning work is continuing on the reservoir walls following the draining down of the reservoir being for this work to take place.   With this work on going and a dry winter followed by a very dry summer the Canal and River Trust had closed the locks on the Leeds and Liverpool canal western side and the Bank Newton and Gargrave locks to the east from the 17th of July 2022    This followed on from lock restricted opening times that started way back on the 4th of April 2022.    The CRT reservoir watch report for September 2022 indicates that the seven reservoir’s, Rishton, Barrowford, Upper and Lower Foulridge, Slipper Hill, Whitemoor and Winterburn  that supply the Leeds and Liverpool are at 15.9% capacity the lowest September holdings on record.   Image Cw 9086 copyright Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations  www.thewoolboat.co.uk www.colinandcarolescreations.co.uk  E-mail colinandcarolescreations@yahoo.co.uk  Phone no 07931 356204

Whilst water supplies are still severely constrained, with limited reservoir refill to date following rain in late August and September, the following canals will be opened for passage over the next few weeks:

  • Leeds & Liverpool (Skipton to Lock 1 in Leeds) – 14 October – 31 October (with restrictions)
  • Leeds & Liverpool (Gargrave to Wigan) – 17 October – 31 October (with restrictions)
  • Peak Forest & Macclesfield, Bosley Flight – 27 October – 31 October for booked passage (Marple Flight – remains closed)
  • Huddersfield Narrow West (Lock 1w to Lock 24w) – 21 October – 31 October (Huddersfield Narrow East is closed due to stoppage works until 17 March)
  • Ashton – 21 October – 31 October
  • Rochdale (Lock 7 to Lock 34) – open from 17 October until further notice
  • Rochdale (Lock 34 to Lock 48) – open from 17 October until further notice (locks 34 to 45 booked passage only on Mondays and Fridays)
  • Rochdale (Lock 48 to Lock 92) – remains open
  • Trent & Mersey (Cheshire flight, locks 41-71) – 17 October – 3 November (with restrictions)
  • Caldon (Stockton Flight, summit and Leek Branch) – 17 October – 3 November (bridge repairs mean that the Froghall Branch will remain closed)

Julie Sharman, chief operating officer at Canal & River Trust, said: “I appreciate that this has been a disappointing cruising year for many boaters on our northern canals.  The combination of a dry spring that continued into a hot, dry summer, coupled with essential reservoir repairs, meant water supplies have been at historically low levels.  And although welcome rainfall in recent weeks has improved some canal pound levels, the reservoirs that feed the canals are still seeing modest increases in holding and are well below the 2010 and 2018 drought levels. 

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Cw 9070 Rain and Duck weed at the top of the Wigan flight 30.9.2022 no 1 It’s raining at the top of the Wigan flight of locks on Friday the 30.9.2022. Due to the dry summer and maintaince work on Barrowford reservoirs these locks where closed to navigation on the 18th of July 2022 and no boats has passed up or down the flight since, which has resulted in the duck weed being un disturbed to grow. Will the present rain be enough to provide enough water for the locks to be reopened before next year or the winter maintaince work starts on the locks? Back in 2018 the locks where closed from July but reopened towards the end of October for a few days o allow boaters to get back to their hoe moorings for winter, if it carries on raining may be this could happen again this year? Image Cw 9074 copyright Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations www.thewoolboat.co.uk www.colinandcarolescreations.co.uk E-mail colinandcarolescreations@yahoo.co.uk Phone no 07931 356204

“The long-term forecast is still for settled weather, with the Environment Agency warning there is a risk the drought could extend into 2023.  So, whilst we need to carefully manage water supplies over the winter to help protect boating in 2023, we felt it was important to offer customers a ‘window’ of reopening at locks ahead of the winter stoppage season.  In some instances, this will allow half-term cruising, whilst elsewhere where water levels are still particularly low, that ‘window’ of reopening is much more modest but allows those looking to move their boat and perhaps return to a winter mooring, the opportunity to do so. 

“Getting underway in November, this winter our works programme will continue to see investment in a significant amount of water saving maintenance which, together with the ongoing investment in reservoirs, will help improve the resilience of the network in boating seasons to come.”

Boaters are encouraged to check the Trust’s Stoppage Notices for updates.  The Trust’s drought pages provide information on the current situation: canalrivertrust.org.uk/specialist-teams/managing-our-water/drought

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PHOTOS: Colin Wareing

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