Boaters' Update 1 July 2022

Welcome to the latest edition. It's a bumper one with everything from an update on recent maintenance for boaters and displaying your boat index and name through to boat parades and events in July with a lot more in between! Of course, the regular news roundup and this weekend's stoppages are also included.

Rochdale Canal from the air at Todmorden Rochdale Canal from the air at Todmorden

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters’ Update. As we edge nearer to schools breaking up for summer, the cut will soon be buzzing with holiday makers, an international sporting event (the Commonwealth Games) and, of course, the many of you who are out enjoying time afloat.

The first article looks at the some of the work recently done in Yorkshire & the North East to help keep the network open for navigation.  It is typical of the work we do, in one way or another, around the country.  Unfortunately, whilst water resources are looking relatively healthy for this time of year across most of the network I do bring news of a temporary closure of locks on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals as due to a lack of rain and ongoing essential reservoir work which means the canals started the season with less water than normal.

After that there’s an update on the Government grant talks – with the contribution from government being crucial to the funding of the network, and a run-down of some the things you can enjoy on or by the cut over the next month.

As ever, this weekend’s stoppages and the latest news are also included.

Happy boating,


PS Don’t forget that there’s still time to win a boating-themed t-shirt by simply sending us a virtual postcard by sharing a selfie of you and your boating buddies! Find out more here.

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:


Working for boaters in Yorkshire & the North East

Coming into Sowerby, Calder & Hebble NavigatonAs you may know, our 2,000 miles of canals and rivers are looked by after by six regional teams. From this edition on, we’ll journey through each region and look at the work the local teams have been getting done to improve boating.

Before getting in to the nitty gritty, you might like a little history on two of the navigations mentioned below. The first, the Calder & Hebble, is 21 ½ miles long and connects the Yorkshire and Pennine canals. Construction started in 1759 but it’s tricky to say when it was ‘complete’ as further additions and amendments were made right up until 1838, just as the railway age was starting to provide stiff competition.

The other, beautifully located waterway, is the Rochdale Canal. For those relatively new to boating, you might be surprised to learn that for 83 years, up until 2002, it wasn’t possible to navigate the entire Rochdale. As with many canals the challenge from the railways , and then road haulage, nearly put paid to it, with an Act of Parliament being sought in 1965 to entirely abandon the canal. Thanks to the tireless efforts of many volunteers and partners, it was saved and slowly started its rehabilitation back to its navigable condition.

So, now you know a bit about their history, we’ll hand over to Sean McGinley, our Yorkshire & North East regional director, to give an insight into some of the work his team have been doing:

Failed ground paddle Elland Lock“The range of work we do is huge and we’ll often talk about the major projects because there’s just too much going on to mention it all! This can sometimes mean that the thousands of smaller jobs that my colleagues and volunteers deliver each and every day remain unheralded. Many of these, however, are dedicated to ensuring boaters can safely use our network and I have picked out a few below that have taken place in recent weeks across the 300 or so miles of our Yorkshire & North East region.

New ground paddle for Elland LockThe team of David, Dale, Dez and Ian have been busy on the Calder & Hebble. The bespoke nature of some elements of our infrastructure means that replacement parts are best fabricated by our own teams.

The pictures above right show a failed towpath side ground paddle from Elland Lock. To bring it back into operation, the team made a new door and stalk in our yard and then installed them and carried out operational checks to ensure all the paddles were in full working order.

Worn out mitre fillet flood gates Calder & HebbleWith climate change throwing increasingly wild weather at us, the flood gates on the Calder & Hebble have never been more of an important part of our infrastructure and regular inspections and maintenance to keep them in good working order means that our network, and our boaters, are as protected as they can be. The team have recently replaced a worn-out mitre fillet on the flood gates at Long Cut End, near Ravensthorpe, as these particular gates had been leaking when in flood. They fabricated the new fillet (shown in the picture, right, underneath the old one) and installed it from our workboat.

Open gearing sluice Salterhebble Top LockOn the same navigation, at Salterhebble Top Lock, the team have made a new open gearing frame for the upstream sluice. The old one was beyond repair, which is our first choice, so needed a more substantial solution. With no small measure of craftmanship, the new frame means that boaters can properly operate the sluice (and looks great!).


Thornes Lock repairWhile you may have previously heard that all of our lock gates are unique and handmade from English oak, this also means that all of our repairs are unique and we can’t pre-make, for example, new gate paddle frames in advance. This is perfectly demonstrated at Thornes Lock on the Calder & Hebble where the team fabricated and installed one on the tail gate.

Bespoke maintenance platform Rochdale CanalThe team that look after the Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow canals recently spent an entire week carrying out a number of paddle repairs and finished off with a by-wash repair.

On the Rochdale, at Lock 17, one of the team used their own bespoke designed and built platform, right, (good job Kevin!)  to access the head paddles which are around two metres below water level. This platform helps immensely and saves a significant amount of money by not having to hire divers to investigate issues.

Next they moved onto Lock 26 on the same canal to carry out an inspection. On this occasion it was to take measurements so they can now fabricate a new paddle which takes about a week.

Cricket bat Rochdale CanalThen it was on to Lock 15 which is another requiring a new paddle and in this case the rod has snapped also. Measurements were taken and a local fabricator will help us with the metalwork.

The team then moved onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Lock 29E which had a hydraulic head paddle stuck in the down position and the team were able to fix this on site.

Not stopping, they then moved up the canal to Lock 35E, and replaced the worn bolts from the ‘cricket bat’, above right. In case you’re wondering, that’s the connecting bracket on the back of the paddle.

Lock 35E bywash hole Huddersfield NarrowThey finished off the week back on the Huddersfield Narrow at Lock 35E to address a problem with a hole in the bywash, right, which, if not remedied, will continue to grow and become a bigger, and more expensive, job. They repaired the hole with a tonne of clay and then repaired the stone flags and pointing to leave it looking as good as new.


On the Leeds & Liverpool Canal the local team have been carrying out alterations to the gate fenders at Higherland Lock in Gargave. This work ensures there are no Higherland Lock Gargrave Leeds & Liverpoolgaps of a size and position that could cause a vessel to hang up in the lock and it also ensures that they can pass any excess water down the canal in a flood situation to supplement the capacity of the bywash and so reduce the need for manual water control actions and allow us to deliver more works. Pictured are Team Leader, Darren, Volunteering Leader Liam and volunteer Nick. Volunteers bring a whole host of skills and their involvement in this type of work means we are able to grow our capacity, over time, and get more of these important works completed. 

Steps at Boroughbridge River UreThe range of activities that volunteers are involved in is also growing by the day. The picture to the right shows volunteers, Janet and Mike, replacing the steps at the moorings in Boroughbridge on the River Ure. The old timbers on the steps and the handrails were rotten and falling apart, so all sections have been replaced and the steps are now better than ever. Also involved in the task but not pictured were volunteers Kevin, Roland, Tom, David and Steve.”

Thanks Sean! You can hear about more of the work the Yorkshire & North East region are doing to maintain the waterways at its Autumn User Forum which will be held on the evening of Wednesday 28 September, please watch out for further details on how to attend the meeting.


Dry spring and essential reservoir works cause temporary closure of locks on two North West canals

Last week, on 24 June, we took the difficult decision to temporarily close locks, restricting navigation on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals as a combination of essential reservoir repairs and a dry spring have caused water supplies in the North West to drop to historically low levels.

Picture of half empty reservoirThe Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals are usually supplied with water by four reservoirs. However, essential maintenance works at Bosley Reservoir over the winter requiring the reservoir to be drawn down, coupled with the on-going repair works at Toddbrook Reservoir, resulted in the main boating period starting with much less stored water than normal.

To enable navigation on the canals for as long as possible, we introduced restricted use of the lock flights at the start of April, and volunteer lock keepers have been helping to manage boat traffic at lock flights to ensure water supplies are used as efficiently as possible.

A dry spring, with March through to May only receiving 67% of the long-term average rainfall, means that the reservoirs which are still operational have not had a chance to refill. Unfortunately, this means that through navigation on the canals won’t be possible until water levels have recovered. The towpath will remain open and boaters will still be able to cruise the stretches between the closed locks.

We are continuing the ongoing water saving repair works to increase all available water flows into the canal network. While essential safety works were carried out at Bosley Reservoir we took the opportunity to dredge and remove vegetation on all the feeders, increasing water flows and reducing losses. At Sutton Reservoir repair and improvement work is underway to improve control of feeds, allowing us to maximise water flows, and dredging and vegetation clearance works have been completed. Repair works are being carried out at Combs Reservoir along the feeder channel, while at Marple Lock Flight recent works have been completed to dredge and reduce water losses. We are also pumping water from Combs Reservoir via the River Goyt into the canal until the feeder is fully operational.

Workers pouring concrete in canalDaniel Greenhalgh, regional director for the North West, said: “The Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals have had more than their fair share of troubles over recent years and we’ve put every effort into keeping them open for boaters. Unfortunately the ongoing repair works at Toddbrook Reservoir as well as emergency works at Bosley Reservoir, coupled with far less rainfall than we needed, have meant that there just isn’t enough water for navigation and we’ve taken the incredibly hard decision to close the locks to boat traffic until water levels recover. We will be carefully watching how the reservoirs refill and will open the locks as soon as possible.

“We’ve been carrying out a significant amount of water savings maintenance work over the past few years and in the longer term, once all our reservoirs are back open. This will improve the resilience of the canals, which is more important than ever as climate change shows us long dry spells are becoming the new normal.

“We appreciate what an impact this has on boaters in the area and we are sorry that this will affect cruising plans this summer. If anyone is experiencing any problems please get in touch.”

As you’d imagine we’re closely monitoring water levels, and the weather, and will update any changes via the stoppage notice section on our website.

In the meantime, if you’d like to hear more about the work being done at our reservoirs then watch the video below featuring Daniel, the regional director, and Adam Comerford, who heads up our water management team, who explains what we’re doing and why.



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 navigations that have ongoing restrictions that may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat this weekend:

When 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 get in touch.


Chief executive Richard Parry talks about volunteers, funding and our future plans

If you were at Crick Boat Show on the Saturday of the Jubilee weekend then there’s a reasonable chance you had a chat with chief executive Richard Parry. For those of you who didn’t, the video below is a chance to find out what Richard may have said you to if you asked him about the importance of demonstrating (to Government) how the waterways we care for benefit the many millions of people who use the waterways, the wonderful contribution, and growth, of volunteering and how we fund the millions of pounds worth of annual maintenance and how we plan to continue to increase it, among others! 


Grant review update

We've been notified that the Government expects to publish the outcome of the current Grant Review, which will determine future grant funding for the Trust beyond 2027, due on 1 July, in the autumn.

Whilst we are disappointed at the delay to the Review, we are continuing to work with Defra to achieve a successful outcome that will ensure the waterways have the funding they need so that they can be cared for, and continue to be safe and available for the millions of people who enjoy and benefit from them, for years to come.

Defra’s statement can be found here.


Please help us by displaying your boat’s index number, licence and name

Most boats correctly display their index number licence and boat name, but recently we have started to see an increase in those that don’t. It’s important to display your boat’s details so that in the event of an accident or problem with the boat, we can identify and contact the boater concerned. It also reduces the time spent by our boat licence rangers, who lose time when trying to identify non-displaying boats. If we can’t identify your boat, we aren’t able to accurately record sightings and this may impact on future licensing decisions, particularly if you don’t have a home mooring.

Licence Support Officer checks boat licences in LondonThe British Waterways Act 1971 requires a boat’s name and index to be displayed ‘conspicuously’ and the boat licence terms and conditions specify the details are displayed on both sides of the boats, easily visible. We are starting a new process to address non-displaying boats on the waterway, which could result in enforcement action, so please make sure you’re displaying your boat details correctly and speak to fellow boaters that might not be.

If you need a replacement index number or plastic Licence Holder, you should visit our online shop or contact our customer services team.


Boat parade celebrates Birmingham canals ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Birmingham Boat Parade June 2022 (1)Seventy narrowboats took part in a spectacular celebratory boat parade at the weekend aimed at showcasing the regions canals ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

We worked in partnership with the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society (BCNS) and the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), to organise the parade which showed off a wide range of boats from original working boats, modern day narrowboats as well as examples of sustainable boats designed for the future. 

Birmingham Boat Parade June 2022 (2)The parade was part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, celebrating the people, history, and stories of our canals and started at the Roundhouse Birmingham adjacent to Sheepcote Street in the centre of Birmingham. From here it travelled along the Birmingham Canal Navigations past Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin finishing at the Mailbox.

Ian Lane, Head of Strategic Projects for the West Midlands, said: “It was great to welcome so many boats to our canals in Birmingham and help join in the celebrations ahead of the start of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

“We’ve got lots of exciting events and activities happening in the lead up to and during the Games to really show off how wonderful our canals are, and we really want local people, boaters, and businesses to get involved. We have activities both on and off the water, from kayaking to history tours to bell boating so there should be something for everyone.”

To find out more about the activities for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games visit our dedicated webpage.


Upcoming events in July

The above list is only a sample of the many things going on around, or on, our waterways this month. Head to our events section to find out many more.


Bits and bobs

  • As you can see by the second article above, one of the key challenges over the next few months is for us all to do what we can to conserve water. If you’re new to boating and want to learn how you can do this, have a read of an article in the last edition which explains the principles of THRIFT and the steps you can take to prolong the scarce water resources around the network.
  • You may remember that, in the last edition, we asked for your feedback on grass cutting and, specifically, where you’ve come across a location that needs attention. Thanks to everyone to has been in touch via our email address with information on their experiences. The address remains available, and we continue to monitor it. It has been helpful in identifying particular problem areas and informing our discussion with our contractors. And, two weeks on from the last article, we’re pleased to report that our contractors have more people on the ground and are making better progress than before. Not every part of the network will see this improvement immediately but the overview we have of an improving picture both in terms of rates of cutting and quality of cuts means we are increasingly confident that July will deliver a strong improvement. In the meantime do please continue to give us your feedback!

Happy boating,


Last date edited: 1 July 2022

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The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers, as well as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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