Boaters' Update 22 Oct 2021

Welcome to the latest edition in which you can find an update on the breach on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, read about the ongoing work on locks and bridges, news of more Green Flag awards and how we need your help to rate canal scenes. The fourth article continues our green theme with an update on eco-moorings in London and, last but not least, if you’re planning on boating to next year’s Commonwealth Games, our final article has some questions for you…

Birmingham canal Birmingham, UK

Welcome! It’s a rather eclectic edition which starts with an update on the breach on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and is followed by a report on the ongoing work on locks and bridges. We have news of more Green Flag awards for our beautiful waterways and we need your help to rate canal scenes in terms of their scenic value (we’ll let you know how to get in with a chance to win a top of the range camera!).

The fourth article continues our green theme with an update on eco-moorings in London and, last but not least, if you’re planning on boating to the city with more miles of canal than Venice for next year’s Commonwealth Games, our final article has some questions for you…

As always, a round-up of news and stoppages can also be found below.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 15 Oct – The Princess Royal officially opened a unique underwater wild fish viewing gallery on the River Severn at Diglis in Worcester as part of the biggest conservation project of its kind in Europe.
  • 15 Oct – 40 new miles of waterway, including the iconic locks at Foxton and urban canals in Coventry, Manchester and Stoke, have been awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy. More on this below.
  • 18 Oct – We're close to completing our £1.6 million programme of improvements to the reservoirs at Earlswood Lakes.


Update on Leeds & Liverpool Canal breach

Before getting on to talking about a small sample of some our recent work on bridges and locks, some of you may know that there was a culvert failure and subsequent breach on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal east of Blackburn.

Leeds & Livepool breachAt around 10.30am on Sunday 10 October our local teams were alerted to what was then described as a small leak in between Bridge 109 and Bridge 110. Our engineering team were on site quickly the same day to assess the situation further.

The team worked through the day and night to try and prevent the leak from escalating but, despite their best efforts, at around 5am on Monday morning the canal breached. 

Our North West customer support team started to contact boaters and marinas within a 20-mile radius to alert them of the breach and impending water loss. Advice was given to loosen ropes, secure any valuables, not to navigate and to call us via our regional direct line if they needed any immediate help.

Leeds & Livepool breach 2Since then local teams have been out in the impacted areas to talk to boaters about their immediate needs and discuss possible solutions – this has resulted in, among others, purchasing generators, and fuel, for those boats unable to charge their batteries by running their engines, and looking for alternative winter mooring locations for those now having difficulty in reaching their planned location. Boaters have also been equipped with direct contact numbers for members of the operations management team should they need to get in touch.

Dams have been installed and pumps, with over half a kilometre of pipe so far, are set up to move water over the affected area to stabilise water levels either side of the breach. We also carried out a fish rescue for those left high and dry.

Water levels outside of the dammed-off section continue to be monitored and are getting back to more normal levels and we’ve been able to reopen the nearby Barrowford Lock Flight. We will continue to stay in touch with those affected by the breach and will regularly update the stoppage notice as we plan and carry out repairs to get the canal open as soon as we can.


Our work on bridges and locks

The breach detailed above involved intensive working around the clock to stabilise but work around the rest of the network continues and, when you’ve been getting in touch recently, you’ve mostly been asking about bridges and locks. It’d take many thousands of words and no small number of photos to talk about all the work we’ve been doing on those two types of waterway structures but below you’ll find a few examples of the sort of work that is going on (probably daily!) around the network.


Bridge repairs S&W 81 beforeWhen you’re cruising along the cut, enjoying the serenity and sense of wellbeing that comes with being on or by water, you’ve probably admired the deep sense of heritage that permeates the network. Sadly, not everyone shares our, or your, sense of reverence.

Costly and incredibly frustrating, bridge strikes, where drivers hit and damage Bridge repairs S&W 81 afterbridge parapets accidentally, are not intentional and we try to recoup repair costs where we can from the guilty party - who cause up to £1 million pounds of damage to bridges each year. Just earlier this year we set up CCTV on the Grade II listed bridge 166 on the Lancaster Canal as it’d been hit for the seventh time in ten years.

Gypsy Lane Bridge beforeWhile the Lancaster Canal suffers from the most bridge strikes across the whole of our 2,000 miles of waterways, it does happen elsewhere. Recent work at bridge 81 on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal has restored it back to its former glory and hopefully will remain so for a long time to come! 

Another, much higher, level of frustration is reached when someone purposefully goes out of their way to deface a scheduled ancient monument.  This is what happened at Gypsy Lane Gypsy Lane Bridge afterBridge on the Rochdale Canal. Unlike your average block of garages where the local council can use very high pressure washers, cleaning chemicals or simply paint over it, we take exceptional care to remove the graffiti without damaging, or changing, the underlying structure. 


From time-to-time, issues arise with one of our 1,600 or so unique locks. Sometimes it’s easy to spot what the problem is (see Southcote Lock in the last edition), but more often than not a meticulous process of inspection and fault finding Lock 13 Rochdale Canal repairsneeds to be done before a repair plan can be developed. This was the case at Lock 13 on the Rochdale Canal. The gates unexpectedly dropped and this raised concerns about the safe operation of the lock so unfortunately a temporary closure was advised. An obvious cause for this would be a damaged, or subsided, chamber floor, but this wasn’t the case.

After mobilising a tug and crane (which brought its own problems due to access), installing stop planks and draining the lock fully, a leak beneath the lock floor was identified. Alongside this the Lock 13 Rochdale Canal repairs (2)gates were lifted out to examine and their seating points refurbished. Silt, at the top of the photo right was also recorded and removed.

It’s not always the big things – gates and lock chambers – that, when they fail, prevent a lock from working properly. At Gunthorpe Lock on the River Trent a combination of smaller things – a bent spear rod, broken needles and corrosion – all needed resolving to get the lock back in operation. And while there are nearly 170 major projects being undertaken during our winter works programme, there’s a year-round need to respond to unexpected issues such as these. 


Hard work rewarded with Green Flags

40 new miles of waterway, including the iconic locks at Foxton and urban canals in Coventry, Manchester and Stoke, have been awarded prestigious Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy.

As you’ll imagine, the past 18 months have seen our plans and volunteering activity impacted by the pandemic. Despite this, we were able to add new stretches across England and Wales to the 400 miles which already hold the quality mark.

Green and blue spaces on your doorstep

Arial photo of Foxton LocksJulie Sharman, our chief operating officer, comments: “Our efforts to win Green Flags are founded on the principle of local community action. Canals offer amazing green and blue spaces on our doorsteps teeming with nature and wildlife, but we do need the community to act now to help look after these 200-year-old special places.

“I’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who works or volunteers with us, including those in the community, and of course boaters, who do their ‘little bit’ to help look after their local canal. The Green Flags are thanks to those efforts. Every action makes a difference, from picking up the odd piece of litter on a towpath walk, or while you’re waiting for a lock to fill, getting involved in adopting a stretch of canal, or making a donation to help fund the repairs and maintenance that keeps the canals open and available for people to use. We welcome everyone who wants to make positive changes.”

Astonishing achievements

A stretch of the Rochdale Canal in the heart of Manchester between Dukes Lock on Castle Street and the Aytoun Street Bridge has been added to the existing award, with twelve and a half miles of the city’s canal now holding Green Flag status. This is an astonishing transformation in an area that has previously suffered from antisocial behaviour. In Saddleworth in Greater Manchester, a stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal also gained a Green Flag.

Boating and cycling on the Coventry Canal2021’s City of Culture, Coventry, has another reason to celebrate, with five and half miles of the Coventry Canal receiving a Green Flag, while the Trent & Mersey Canal is bringing quality blue-green space into Stoke, with just over seven and a half miles awarded a Green Flag.

Other waterways achieving Green Flag status include Foxton Locks on the Grand Union Canal, Wigan Lock Flight on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Red Bull to Harding’s Wood on the Trent & Mersey Canal, and a further stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Green Flag Award Scheme

Commenting on our success, Green Flag Award Scheme Manager Paul Todd said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making the canals worthy of a Green Flag Award.

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure that these waterways have high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and is a place that supports people to live healthy lives.”

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.


What do you find beautiful?

Scenery not just greenery has been shown to be key to better health and wellbeing. A study by Warwick University found people feel healthier when they spend time in more scenic areas, and that canals and rivers are the most scenic places, particularly in towns and cities.

A view of the canal from a bridge in BanburyNow, working with Warwick University, we’re undertaking the biggest ever study to look specifically at the Science behind Scenic Beauty by water. As a boater you’re likely to be on or by water more than most and are likely to know what kind of waterway environment you find most scenic (and not!) so we’d love you to play our ‘Rate this Scene’ game and help be part of something transformative.

Through this study we’ll be able to determine what makes these spaces so scenic and using this data we can work together to protect your precious canal spaces and revive the ones that are most vulnerable.

Wide shot of city, byt the canalHaving regular access to blue and green spaces helps us to find beauty in the everyday and has significant wellbeing benefits for everyone, especially the those who boat, visit regularly, or live nearby. Spending time on or by water can make you feel happier and healthier.

Our research shows that our network around £1bn in savings to the NHS each year through physical health and wellbeing benefits offered to boaters and everyone that visits. So it is critical that we work together to protect this valuable resource.

As well rating the existing photos already online, you can upload a picture of our waterways and, thanks to the lovely people at Sony, you'll have the chance to win a Sony camera worth £749!


Eco-mooring zones electric in London

In partnership with the London Borough of Islington we created the first eco-mooring zone in London which, after a trial, is now open for bookings. The project, supported by funding from DEFRA, is on the Regent’s Canal located between King’s Cross and Angel, on either side of Islington Tunnel.

Islington after eco zoneThe eco-mooring zone includes three visitor mooring sites with a total of nine electric bollards, each with four connections. Currently they are a mixture of 16 amp and 32 amp. Five bollards are installed at Colebrook Row, one at Caledonian Road and four bollards at Treaty Street. The visitor moorings can be booked 14 days in advance on our boat licensing portal. Please note that a Meter Macs account will be required to access the electricity supply.

The initiative with LB Islington is set to be followed by more around the capital. We are currently undertaking a joint project with LB Camden to install four electric bollards to the west of Camley Street on the Regent’s Canal.

The project is scheduled to complete in December. This will be a towpath mooring and will not require pre-booking. But like the Islington moorings it will still require a Meter Macs account to access electricity supply. A further set of electrical moorings should also be available very soon at Brentford.


Maintenance, repair and restoration work this weekend

As someone who’s out on, or by, the water more often than most, you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list of what may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat this weekend:

When any restrictions to navigation happen, we get them up on to our website as soon as we can – always best to have a scan before you set off. You can set up your smartphone to automatically alert you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. Check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.


Visitor moorings and the Commonwealth Games – Birmingham 2022

It’s been easy to forget with everything that’s happened over the last year and a half, but next year, starting 28 July, will see Birmingham host the 2022 Commonwealth Games until 8 August.

Urban area with canalside bars and pubsThe Birmingham Games will be a ‘green games’, with visitors asked to avoid using private vehicles and rely on active travel or public transport to get to the venues. Many of them are next to, or within a short distance of, the canal system, so it’s an ideal opportunity for boaters to enjoy the games or to just soak up the atmosphere of the many small pop up events..

To help us prepare and ensure we have enough moorings near to the various sporting venues, if you are looking to visit please answer and send the questions below to

Q1. What sporting venue or destination are you hoping to visit?

Q2. Where is your preferred mooring location, bearing in mind you have the option of mooring in one location and traveling to your preferred venue using public transport.

All the event details are listed on the official Games website.

Please note that the email address above is only for answering the questions relating to the Games moorings and any other questions about the Games. For any general West Midlands enquiries please send them to the usual email address of Thanks!


Bits & Bobs

  • Do you boat on the Kennet & Avon Canal? If so please join us for the Wales & South West winter user forum, (at 6pm on 27 Oct), which is all about the K&A! In the first half of the session you can learn about projects and improvements we have been making as well as what’s coming up. The second half of the session is Q&As. If there’s a specific question you would like to ask in advance, please send them to us at by 27 Oct (or raise them at the event!). Please follow this link and register for a free Eventbrite ticket. Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email which will enable you to join the meeting. You will not be able to access the event prior to this time. We look forward to seeing you there!
  • Finally, don’t forget that the winter flu vaccination programme is well underway and that you may well be entitled to a free jab. You don’t necessarily need to visit your GP surgery for this as pharmacies all over the country can also administer it. Simply use the NHS website to find one near to you.


Happy boating,


Last date edited: 22 October 2021

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The boaters' update

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