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.
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.
“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
PHOTOS: Colin Wareing