Better late than never

Published: Wednesday, 20 April 2011

NEWS that the rock fall that has been partially blocking Woodseaves cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal will finally be cleared in early May has been greeted with a mixture of relief and anger.

Relief and anger by businesses working on the canal that believe the delays have been discouraging boaters from using the waterway and so depriving them of business.

Large piece of rock

Simon Jenkins (pictured)  Managing Director of Norbury Wharf Ltd, explained:

"The problem began back at the start of the year when the icy conditions made a large piece of rock at the top of the slope of the cutting unstable.

"British Waterways had specialists in to break up the the rock but they left the pieces in the cutting, with buoys around it so that it was still possible for a boat to pass.

"However, I'm afraid they didn't do much to make it clear the canal was open for business, and a lot of boaters we have been speaking with say the restriction notice issued by British Waterways led them to think the canal was closed."

The rock fall was due to have been cleared in early March but British Waterways cancelled the operation, citing ‘technical difficulties' and, until now, had failed to give any indication of when the fall would be cleared, despite the busy Easter holidays.

Silly decision

British Waterways has finally advised that the contractor who won the job wanted to use a specialist machine that could be driven on tracks along the bed of the canal. Unfortunately no-one seemed to know that the cutting had a bottom that was formed from deep soft mud. The attempt was abandoned due to the possibility of damage to the machine and the canal. Richard Hall's photograph shows part of the rock fall.

It now plans to use a specialist dredger on pontoons to remove the fallen rock, but that was not going to be available until early May, when the holiday season will be in full swing.

Simon Jenkins added:

"We certainly welcome the fact that the work is going to be done, although you would have thought that there were experienced people inside British Waterways who could have told them what the canal bed was like in Woodseaves Cutting.

"It would also have been better still if they had made it clearer that the canal was still open for business."

British Waterways has advised that it will update its stoppage notices and apologised if it has caused any confusion.