We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

The Shropshire Union Canal: Emergency Appeal

Part of the Shropshire Union Canal has collapsed and is in need of urgent repair. We've started an appeal to help with the restoration of this much-loved waterway.

Middlewich breach from the air Middlewich breach from the air

What's happened?

Part of the Shropshire Union Canal has collapsed, causing water to drain from the canal. While events such as this are rare - they are very expensive to repair.

Our emergency engineers were quickly on the scene, but the collapse has impacted people and wildlife and we need to rebuild as quickly as possible.

How you can help?

We've launched an appeal - the Shropshire Union Canal: Emergency Appeal - to help people who use the canal - whether it's using the towpath to get to work or school, visiting to get some peace and quiet or boating on the 200 year old waterway - to do so again.

You can support our appeal:

Online: by going to our JustGiving page now

Text: LEAK515 to 70070 to give £5 (you'll be charged £5 + one message at your standard network rate)

Donate by post: FREEPOST RSXX-XSGE-KKUE, FAO: Shropshire Union Appeal, Canal & River Trust, Station House, 500 Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, MK9 1BB

Your generous donation will go toward restoring this beautiful and treasured canal.

Latest updates on the Middlewich breach

18 April - Our contractors have installed a stone access road. Next, they will install the temporary stone ramp to allow construction vehicles access to the bed of the canal.

The design to repair the breach is progressing well. The topographic survey information shows that 2,800m3 of the embankment has been washed away – that's over 200 lorry loads - and it will need to be replaced. Our engineers are assessing the condition of the arch of the aqueduct, currently there has been no structural damage to the arch, however due to the loss of ground, a careful assessment is needed to confirm whether construction vehicles can or cannot cross it.  

Badgers around the breach

Due to badger setts on the opposite embankment, we'll face significant constraints on delivery of materials. The main active badger sett is not directly affected by the breach repairs itself, but is close to the access route and western section of lining. It means we will need a disturbance licence. We’re installing cameras to monitor any badger activity and applying for necessary licences.

We're hoping to confirm realistic budgets and timescales by the end of May, but at the moment our best estimate is that repairs will take six months from June at a cost of between £2m and £3m.

4 April - the Canal & River Trust's chief executive, Richard Parry, visited the breach to meet with the engineers, project manager and our contractors to see how the plans for works are progressing.

Richard was very impressed by the support shown by the local community, as are the rest of us in the Canal & River Trust!

If you are organising a local event to raise funds for the breach and would like our support - please do get in touch.

29 March – thank you for the fantastic response from the community -  with offers of volunteering, free use of meeting rooms, and of course, the people who've helped in fundraising.

The updates so far...

  • A fish rescue moved 300lb weight of fish to the Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Around 20 large trees were removed from the embankment and the River Wheelock
  • A dam has been put in place across the canal bed at Middlewich Aqueduct
  • 4 pumps have pumped up to 865,000 litres of water back into the canal to help the stranded boats move onto the Trent and Mersey Canal
  • Ecologists have completed a survey looking at the breach's impact on the local wildlife
  • 4 truckloads of debris were collected and removed.

We're in consistent contact with boaters who've been affected to keep them up to date on progress. Our waterway chaplains have been at hand on site, offering help to boaters that live on board.

Also, our team has been working extremely hard to update all local residents, as well as local landowners. It’s been one of our priorities to advise local schools of the safety precautions to make sure they understand the current situation regarding the breach.

Safety signs and barriers are now in place around the site.

Middlewich Branch breach dam

23 March - Principal engineer, Mark Durham, talks about what we've been up to on site over the last couple of days.

21 March - volunteer group SUMBA (Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Association) worked really hard alongside our local customer operations team clearing as much rubbish as possible from the bed of the drained canal. You can see from the photo just how much has accumulated in this short stretch.

We've installed a portadam downstream of Stanthorne Lock to start the process of re-watering the section. This will be done using three, six inch pumps which will pump water from the Trent & Mersey Canal by Wardle Lock to enable the stranded boats to be re-floated and allow them access onto the Trent & Mersey Canal. The pumps will be arriving by boat today and it is anticipated that pumping will start on Thursday morning. 

Middlewich Canal Bed Rubbish Middlewich canal bed rubbish

19 March - project team manager, Clive Mitchell, was on site of the breach and gave a brief update in the short video below on the damage.

17 March - fast action by emergency staff has resulted in nearly 10,000 fish being rescued from the stretch of canal

16 March - our emergency engineers were on site all night dealing with the breach

The Middlewich Branch connects the Trent & Mersey Canal just south of Middlewich town to the Shropshire Union Canal at Barbridge Junction, a distance of about 10 miles. Constructed in 1827, it is nearly 200 years old.

Last date edited: 18 April 2018