Boaters' Update 22 Apr 2022

In this latest edition you can read about complex repair work on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, watch a great video about why, how and when we dredge, then back to the printed word for news of the permanent restoration of Toddbrook Reservoir, boating etiquette, covid boosters and, finally, useful information in the bits & bobs section along with the latest news and stoppages.

Cruising over the Pontcysyllte Aquedect Cruising over the Pontcysyllte Aquedect

Welcome to the latest edition of Boaters’ Update. Hopefully you were able to enjoy time afloat over the unseasonably warm Easter weekend. In this edition we go behind the scenes to see how colleagues are progressing with substantial works on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to protect and preserve the network. We’ve also included an explanation of how we plan, prioritise and carry out dredging (and even more importantly how you can help).

We have an update on the major engineering project, now given the green light to proceed, at Toddbrook Reservoir which, once complete, will again feed water to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals.  And, in response to lots of your feedback, a short guide to the boating behaviours that you most value when out and about on the cut.

We’re sharing the most up to date and important information on Covid boosters and you’ll be able to find our roundup of latest news and useful information in the regular “bits and bobs section”.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 29 Mar – A £500,000 towpath improvement project on the Grand Union Canal, starting next month and completing by September 2022 will give boaters and others an improved waterway through Leighton Buzzard.
  • 30 Mar – The UK’s biggest ever participation initiative to encourage people to enjoy the benefits of angling got underway this month as we offered nearly 15,000 places on our established and ever popular “Let’s Fish” events for people to discover angling.
  • 7 Apr – We published our latest Gender Pay Gap Statement which shows that on average women are paid 2.79% more than men at the Trust.
  • 15 to 18 Apr – The Easter Boat Gathering festival at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port, returned after a three-year gap due to Covid. More than 40 boats, including many rare historic vessels, travelled from all over the country to congregate for the return of the special celebration event. The four-day festival offered visitors the chance to get up close to fascinating old commercial boats, such as Clematis, used in the BBC filming of Peaky Blinders and Saturn, the last surviving wooden Shropshire Union fly boat, built in Chester in 1906. They were also able to enjoy short boat trips along the Shropshire Union Canal, thanks to the volunteers from the Wirral Community Narrow Boat Trust. A range of special attractions were on offer as well, from craft workshops, produce stalls and lock demonstrations to children’s activities and machines working in the Power Hall. There was also a chance to see fascinating rare canal treasures at the National Waterways Archive, giving visitors the potential to track down their own long-lost family history. Lock demonstrations were run throughout the weekend and the children’s play was particularly popular with family visitors.

Coming up

  • 30 Apr to 2 May – If you’re kicking yourself for missing the Easter Boat Gathering at Ellesmere Port last weekend don’t forget that you could always head to Little Venice for the Inland Waterway Association’s (IWA) ) Canalway Cavalcade festival which is returning for the first time since 2019. Aside from a range of family-friendly activities we’ll also have our first ever face-to-face Boaters’ Surgery across the full three days, where boaters can ask questions and get advice from Trust rangers.


Repairs to Eshton Road Lock, at Gargrave on the Leeds & Liverpool, back on track after storm setbacks

While last month’s Storm Eunice’s may mostly be remembered, at least among the waterway community, for bringing down over 450 trees around the network, other damaging effects also delayed some of our precisely planned winter repair work.

Eshton Road Lock - Archeologist Inspection - low resOne such location was at the Grade II Listed Eshton Road Lock on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Gargrave. Last November the towpath and navigation were closed following the sighting of a significant bulge in the lock wall. We then set about preparing and completing a comprehensive plan of repair works to repair it but the deluge of rain accompanying the storm washed through the work site and caused further damage.

Graham Ramsden, senior project manager has been overseeing the repair programme.  He explained: “Eshton Road Lock is situated in one of the most picturesque spots along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, with stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales.

“We were working to reopen the lock in time for Easter but were unfortunately delayed by three weeks after Storm Eunice washed through the site causing further damage. We are now back on track and will get the lock back open to boats by early May.”

Eshton Road Lock - individually marked stones - low resAn important stage of the repair programme has just begun; the painstaking process of taking down the original lock wall stone by stone.  With concrete piles in place to support the ground, each original stone is removed and carefully marked to ensure that it is replaced in the correct order as part of the new lock wall.  Around three-quarters of the original stones are in good enough condition to be reused in the build, with the remainder sourced from a nearby quarry, and cut to the exact measurements of the originals. 

Ruth Garratt, heritage advisor, has been advising Graham and the team throughout the project: “It's vitally important to find the balance between minimum intervention, which retains as much of the authentic 'as built' fabric of our historic structures whilst also adopting a constructive conservation approach, which acknowledges that the waterways are a living, working heritage.”

Stay up to date with the progress of the work we’re doing on your canal by signing up for our stoppage notices via your MyTrust account.


The lowdown on dredging

Ever wondered how we decide where to dredge? How about what we do with the stuff we dredge up? In the video below Peter Birch, who manages our £7 million dredging programme, explains both of these (and a lot more). Also hear from other members of the team about this past winter’s dredging works at Marple on the Peak Forest Canal:


Work starts on permanent restoration of Toddbrook Reservoir

As you’ll have heard in the video above, underlining the importance of the dredging at Marple, Toddbrook Reservoir is currently in a drained-down state to enable permanent repair works. ‘Repair works’, actually, doesn’t really do justice to the scale and scope of this £15 million project which is designed to not only ensure the long-term sustainability of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals but also provide stronger resilience to increasingly common extreme weather events.

Toddbrook Reservoir: Helicopter over the slipwayFirst, some history. After a period of intense rainfall, in August 2019, the dam auxiliary spillway of the 190-year-old reservoir was critically damaged. Immediate, and round-the-clock, action was taken to drain water from the reservoir and stabilise the spillway – part of this involved an RAF Chinook dropping 150 or so one-tonne bags of aggregate. Once the water was down to a safe level, after more than a billion litres were pumped out, we started the process of rehoming around 30,000 fish.

Worker cutting off concreteAs part of the first phase of restoration, an important repair project to the dam’s damaged auxiliary spillway was completed in late summer 2020, greatly increasing its resilience against extreme weather events.

A protective, waterproof nib or short wall has been added to the crest of the dam wall above the damaged spillway. This reaches down to create a seal with the dam’s clay core and ensures no water from inside the reservoir can penetrate beneath the concrete slabs at the top of the spillway.

The spillway crest has also been increased in height by just over one metre with the installation of a sturdy waterproof concrete wall. Engineers completed the job with the installation of new pressure relief holes and joint repairs on the spillway.

More recently, and after two public consultations, we submitted our plans for the permanent restoration of the reservoir to High Peak Borough Council, this was approved last month and we now have the green light to start work on the major two-year project.

What's involved?

A new overflow structure will be constructed to the north of the dam. This involves building a side channel weir, ‘tumble bay’, spillway channel and stilling basin which will link into the existing bypass channel flowing into the River Goyt in the town’s Memorial Park.

To make way for the new spillway works, the sailing club will be relocated behind the new tumble bay. The current clubhouse will be taken down and replaced by a new sailing club slipway, clubhouse, boat storage and car park. Another building close to the works, the former Victorian reservoir-keeper’s house, Toddbrook Lodge, has been acquired by us and will be carefully preserved. It will initially serve as a site office for the construction works.

Over the next few months, alongside our contractor Kier, we will set up a temporary site compound at the northern end of the Memorial Park, by the playground next to the dam. Preparation work will include installing new fencing and hoardings, essential tree felling, creating new access routes to the compound and tumble bay area, diverting drainage and feeder channels, and essential site clearance.

A footpath will be retained across the park, connecting Reservoir Road along the river to the Memorial Park Bridge and will feature a viewing point for the construction work.

Looking ahead

Picture of half empty reservoirDaniel Greenhalgh, our North West director, said: “We are pleased to be progressing with the complex permanent repair project. We are very grateful to everyone for their continued patience and support, as we appreciate that the essential works will inevitably cause some disruption for Whaley Bridge residents, particularly those living nearby.

“Following two public consultations and discussions with local residents, we have adapted our plans and designs to respond to feedback and to cause the least inconvenience. We will do our very best to mitigate noise and disruption as far as we can.

“Restoring Toddbrook is vital to ensure the long term viability of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals which are cherished by many boaters and local communities. We look forward to completing this challenging engineering project so we can again rely on its essential water supply and for the beautiful reservoir to be re-instated for the benefit of the local community. The reservoir will be restored to the most stringent 21st century engineering standards - keeping everyone safe is our top priority.”

How long will this take?

The main construction phase around the dam is likely to start in the autumn and take around two years to complete, with the aim of re-opening the reservoir in 2024. This will be followed by works to the inlet cascade, at the far end of the reservoir, to increase resilience to high flows from Todd Brook stream. High volume pumps will remain in the reservoir to manage water levels until the end of the restoration project.


Best boating behaviour

The mercury climbed to its highest point of the year, so far, on Good Friday and some of you have already written in to confirm that, with the warmth returning, so have many boaters to the cut.

Crew members can help the skipper by keeping watch up frontWith more people active out on the cut it’s perhaps a good time to revisit some of the boating etiquette we’ve discussed in past editions (over Easter a few of you got in touch in exasperation that you were being passed by boats going too fast). In broad terms, you’ve previously suggested that the five principles below should be followed when out on a cruise or moored up:

  1. Cruise past moored boats at your slowest safe speed or, in any case, a speed that does not cause undue disturbance to moored boats. Reduce to this speed before you reach moored boats.
  2. Frequently check that you are not creating a breaking wash – ‘Watch Your Wash’.
  3. Keep an eye out for boats behind you – they may signal, sometimes with their horn, that they want to overtake.
  4. If a skipper has signalled that they wish to overtake you, check it is safe for them to do so before moving over to the side of the channel. If it is not safe, convey this to the skipper and wait for a more suitable opportunity.
  5. When mooring use spring lines – ropes set diagonally from the bow and stern – as well as your usual fore and aft lines.

A great tip was also proposed for those who are new, or returning, to boating after a hiatus (and that may be more than usual given the covid restrictions of the last two years!):

  • If you’re new, or just returning, to boating then it might be an idea to disembark a crew member, when out on your first cruise, so that they can walk along the towpath while you match their speed – this way you’ll get a rough idea of a suitable cruising speed (unless passing moored boats of course when, generally, you’ll be going slower!)

It's not only cruising speed that you’ve been getting in touch about. In the last edition we talked about sustainable boating and this inspired some to write in about generator use. As a reminder, the Terms & Conditions of a boat licence state that you should:

  • 9.2. not use any electricity generator, including the Boat's engine, at any mooring along the Waterway between 8pm and 8am, unless You are moored in isolation, out of earshot of other people. We do not intend this Condition to stop You moving the Boat from the mooring;
  • 9.3. not run the Boat’s engine in gear when it is moored. This can damage the Waterway walls and cause a nuisance;

Of course, even if you’re running your generator after 8am and before 8pm you still need to ensure that any exhaust fumes are blowing in a safe direction. On the theme of sustainable boating though, I’m keen to hear from boaters who’ve had solar panels installed. Do please write in with your experiences and let me know if they’ve made a noticeable difference to the amount of generator time you need as well as if their installation has had any effect on your boating activity. In a future edition we’ll look at solar panels in more depth and it’d be great to share your anonymised ‘real life’ experiences.

Boats on the Shropshire CanalAnother issue, pointed out on social media, was of water points being used for something other than their intended use – such as hooking up a hose with a brush and washing a boat. They are for filling potable water tanks and should be used as speedily as possible with an eye out for other craft who might be waiting to use the water point.

And the final, definitely least palatable, topic you’ve been in touch about is dog poo. It’s a perennial subject that, seemingly, some (not necessarily boaters!) need reminding about. To be unequivocal about it, there is only one answer to the question ‘what are the acceptable ways to clear up after my dog next to a waterway?’. The same as you would anywhere else – bag it and bin it.


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 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.


Covid-19 spring booster vaccination

To date, the NHS has given more than 120 million doses of the vaccine in England and this is set to continue to rise as it embarks on its spring booster campaign.

 In February, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised a spring dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for:

  • adults aged 75 years and over
  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • people aged 12 years and over who have a weakened immune system

2005 Skipton and BingleyThe NHS will contact those who are eligible to make a spring booster appointment, so people should wait until they hear from the NHS. The NHS will prioritise those whose clinical need is greatest, as it has throughout, starting with those who have had a bigger gap since their last dose, then working through the cohort to invite others who have waited less time.  Everyone who is eligible will be offered a top up over the Spring and early Summer.

At the same time, the NHS continues to encourage those who have yet to come forward for their first, second or booster dose, to do so at a time and place that is convenient for them (nearly one in five eligible adults has yet to receive their initial booster dose).

There are still plenty of walk-in options in every part of the country for people to get their initial booster. You can find your nearest centre or book an appointment online or by calling 119 free of charge (translators are available on request) and more information can be found on the NHS website.

Those who have recently recovered from Covid should still come forward for their vaccination, as having had the virus does not give the same levels of protection. Anyone over 18 who has had Covid will need to wait four weeks before having any dose of the vaccine, or 12 weeks for those aged 12 to 17.


Bits & bobs

  • Earlier this month the team in the East Midlands welcomed boaters to its annual boaters’ conference at Northampton University’s riverside campus. There were presentations on the future of our waterways, operational issues and challenges, engineering priorities and how we make decisions about what work we carry out. We also managed to fit in discussions on our new water resources strategy and had a guest speaker from Trentlink – which is promoting boating on the tidal Trent. There were round table discussions on sustainable boating, customer service and licensing and a lively Q&A covering a wide range of issues. It is fair to say everyone went home stimulated and satisfied! Keep an eye out early next year for details, which we’ll include here, of the next one!
  • More recently, earlier this week, our National Users Forum met. It provides a communication and discussion link between us and national user groups. In the next edition or two we’ll include Dean Davies’, head of our direct services team, presentation on winter works – something to look forward to!


Stay safe, happy boating,


Last date edited: 22 April 2022

About this blog

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.

Sign up to receive the Boaters' update by email

See more blogs from this author