Restorations in vain?

Published: Thursday, 23 September 2021

IN THE 'good old days' of British Waterways £30 millions was spent on re-opening the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, writes Lawrence Fenton.

It did not take me long after this before we set off from our moorings at Newark down the Trent to sample the canal and particularly Standedge Tunnel, in 2002 and what an experience that was.

all wrapped100 years worth of soot

There were four boats ready to go through, all having to be covered in rubber sheeting as there were apertures in the tunnel connecting with the adjacent railway tunnel that had poured around a 100 years worth of soot into the canal tunnel from its steam trains, that would obviously finish up on your boat as it passed through, and then we were pulled though by a tug. And 74 locks in under 20 miles!

Many boaters took the advantage and the 'Narrow' was busy, but what of it now?  Looking at the Canal & River Trust booking page there is passage one way in the morning and passage the opposite way in the afternoon, and for only three days a week.  But much worse that the canal is closed to navigation time after time, and the news is when it is not, so I can judge that not many boaters will now risk it.

What is the point of restorations?

Which brings me to the point of this.  What is the point of all that work by volunteers (I was one some time back on the restoration of the Grantham Canal) if when it is finished and passed into the hands of Canal & River Trust it treats it as it is doing all its waterways, with stoppage after stoppage after stoppage as the structures fall apart through lack of maintenance?

Not only was all those millions spent on restoration of the 'Narrow' but the Rochdale too was restored in 2003 at a cost of £25 millions, and what as happened to that?  It too is closed more than it is open, and purely, again, though lack of maintenance.

Does not brood well

I'm afraid this does not brood well for all those canals that are being restored mainly through the efforts of volunteers, unless of course those volunteers then maintain them, but I'm afraid that there are so many rules and regulations now being applied, that there is little chance of that, and the restorations will be in vain.

And as Canal & River Trust can't look after its present canals, what chance if there of many miles more?