Winter maintenance on the North West waterways

Published: Saturday, 20 February 2021

THE northern waterways will be in a much better condition this season.

Canal & River Trust has spent £15 million over the winter on maintenance, included major projects, on the Ashton, Huddersfield Narrow, Lancaster, Leeds & Liverpool, Rochdale plus the Ribble Link, near Preston.

WinterWorksGateLiftKeep it in good working order

As part of the four months programme, which is due to finish in mid-March, the trust’s expert engineering teams are replacing worn-out lock gates, dredging waterways and carrying out a host of tasks to keep the network in good working order.

Due to the coronavirus restrictions, the trust is unable to offer its usual on-site Open Days for visitors to get a special behind-the-scenes view of canal repairs and conservation work in progress.  However instead this year, the trust has produced a Virtual Open Day in Manchester, focusing on the lock gate repair works at Brownsfield Lock (83) (pictured) on the Rochdale Canal in Ancoats, the regenerated heart of the old cotton industry.  The photograph below shows Mark Wigley by the completed installation.

Virtual Day

The Virtual Open Day can be viewed at LINK.  A series of ten short films give a fascinating insight into the regeneration of the canal and how old lock gates are repaired, including footage of the gates being lifted out by crane.  Other films explore the heritage and history of the area and include a new poem 'Love the Rochdale Canal' by Lynn Pegler.

The North West canal winter works programme includes:

Ashton Canal: Repairs to the Kershaw Lane Road Bridge in Audenshaw, and grouting work to Beswick Aqueduct, near the Etihad Stadium, to reduce leakage.

Rochdale Canal Mark Wigley Huddersfield Narrow Canal: Washwall and leakage repairs to Lock 30 at Diggle and Mann's Wharf Embankment at Greenfield.

Lancaster Canal: A short section of the canal through Bolton-le-Sands, from Bridge 122 to Bridge 126, will be improved by repairs to the embankment, canal bed and washwalls.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal: In Wigan, six locks will benefit from new gates, grouting, repair and maintenance work to reduce leakage.  At Johnson's Hillock Lock 58, near Chorley, new bottom gates and fenders will be installed, lock ladders repaired and masonry repointed. In Blackburn, Highfield Road Lock 53, leakage will be reduced by repairing the bottom gates and cills . And at Locks 49 and 51 in Barrowford, new gates will be installed, ladders and other lock chamber equipment mended.

Ribble Link (which connects the Lancaster Canal to the River Ribble, near Preston): Leakage will be reduced by repairs to gates at Lock 6 and Lock 8, Ashton-on-Ribble.

Rochdale Canal: Lock gate replacements, repairs and masonry works at Lock 83 in Ancoats, Lock 81 (Butler Street), Lock 72 (Newton Heath, Lock 62 (Middleton) and rebuilding the upstream lock landing at Lock 54 (Slattock's).
Shropshire Union Canal: Leakage at Lock 9 (Christleton) and Lock 4 (Audlem) will be reduced by lock gate replacements, repairs and masonry repointing.  Boater safety will be improved by the upgrade of lock ladders.

Stay on top of regular maintenance

Daniel Greenhalgh, North West regional director for the Canal & River Trust, explains:

“With many of the region’s canals constructed over two centuries ago, it’s important to stay on top of regular maintenance and keep the waterways in good condition.  We always try to minimise inconvenience to boaters by carrying out this routine work in the winter months.

“Our specialist engineering teams have continued to work in covid-safe bubbles throughout the lockdowns.  They have had to deal with some incredibly challenging weather, including Storm Christoph, bringing storm damage and flooding.  They’ve made great progress over the last few months and by carrying out these works, we will be protecting our historic waterways for future generations—ensuring they continue to make a real difference to people’s lives today.”