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The charity making life better by water

Building for the future

With the help of Friends like you, to help keep canals alive we’re carrying out an £89m programme of works this winter.

With more people than ever using our waterways, it’s vital to keep repairing, maintaining and improving our 250-year-old network, so our canals remain safe, open and accessible to everyone next year.

Winter canal works

We have to make these essential investments in our waterways, despite many pressures on our network. Climate change is causing increasing damage to our ageing and fragile canals. At the same time inflation is increasing our labour, transport and raw materials costs. And this all comes just after the government has announced cuts to our charity’s future funding.

That’s why, now more than ever, we are focusing limited resources on the core infrastructure that keep our waters flowing and our canals alive. The huge programme covers everything from replacing lock gates to bridge repairs, reservoir upgrades, dredging works, embankment reinforcements and culvert repairs.

  • 450 separate engineering projects
  • 123 lock gate installations
  • 1,000+ reactive repairs

The question remains if such large investments in our canal infrastructure can be maintained in the future, but for now Richard Parry, our chief executive, is clear that we must keep going: “With canals serving society in so many ways, vital maintenance to keep canals alive must continue in the short term. Our expert teams of colleagues, contractors and volunteers will be working hard all winter to fight for the future of our waterways.”

One of the first places work will take place is Meadow Lane Lock on the Nottingham & Beeston Canal, where the canal meets the River Trent.

Meadow Lane Lock

Sandwiched between Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and Notts County’s Meadow Lane, the two closest football stadiums in England, the lock is also just a stone’s throw from Trent Bridge cricket ground. The towpath running alongside the lock, forms part of a well-used and much-loved ten miles long walking and cycling route called The Big Track.

The repairs include upgrades to both lock gates which are leaking and rotting away, repointing crumbling brickwork lining the lock chamber and replacing damaged stonework below the waterline at a total cost of £240,000. We will be replacing the Tail Gates opening onto the Trent, and rebuilding the cill that the gates sit against to form a watertight seal. To keep costs down we’re reusing the existing metal balance beams. If you’d like to see the work for yourself, you can join the teams at our face-to-face open day in early December.

Open Days this winter

This is just one of many open days we’re running throughout the winter, where you’ll have a rare and exciting opportunity to look below the waterline of our locks. Explore the amazing engineering prowess of canal pioneers. And discover how today we’re combining traditional and modern construction techniques to give these wonderful 250 year old canal structures, many more years of life.

Look out on our event calendar for open days at Hungerford Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal, Ellesmere Port on the Shropshire Union Canal, and at the Bingley Three-Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. At every event, you’ll have a chance to meet the engineers, construction teams, heritage experts, ecologists and volunteers working to keep your local stretch alive for every canal user to enjoy.

If you prefer to see us hard at work from the comfort of your own home, we’re also planning a series of virtual open days in places as varied as the Tees Barrage, the Rochdale Canal in Central Manchester, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal.

Of course, no canal can flow without a reliable water supply, so £26.5m of the 2023 winter works programme is also earmarked for 37 of our 71 reservoirs, including some of the oldest in the country. By continuing to upgrade reservoirs across the Pennines in particular, we can make sure there’s sustainable water supply to the Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Chesterfield, Leeds & Liverpool and Huddersfield Narrow Canals.

As ever, we’ll continue to dredge to improve navigation, carrying out a £6.5m programme including £1.8m to continue clearing silt from Gloucester & Sharpness Docks.

Head gates leading onto the Nottingham & Beeston Canal

While our winter works are carefully planned out, wild weather is becoming more difficult to predict. So other emergency works will also be needed, wherever floods, canal breaches, or fallen trees follow winter storms. As our climate changes, these events are increasing in frequency and costing our canals more each year. That’s why your support is so vital for the future of our waterways. Thank you for helping to #KeepCanalsAlive.

Last Edited: 23 October 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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