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The impact of Storm Gerrit and Storm Henk on the canal network

As we ended 2023 and a new year began, Storms Gerrit and Henk swept across the country – and our canal network did not remain untouched.

Water levels flooding the bank at Newark Nether-Lock and covering the towpath

The impact of Storms Gerrit and Henk

The worst-hit areas were in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Reaction came very quickly, with our dedicated teams busy clearing weirs and opening paddles, and with that we’ve largely managed to maintain water levels. That said, there have been instances of flooding and moored boats coming loose. The River Soar reached extreme levels with flooding in Leicester, Cossington, Sileby, Barrow upon Soar, Quorn, Loughborough, and Zouch with over 300 properties flooded and damage to narrowboats.

On the network, this extreme weather has meant that locks have flooded across the Midlands and West Yorkshire. There are trees down on the Oxford, Trent & Mersey, and Coventry canals, two landslides on the North Oxford Canal and one at Dunhampstead Tunnel on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, and flooding at Alrewas (where the water level has now dropped). On the Kennet & Avon, water has flooded the gates at Great Bedwyn and Little Bedwyn. The towpath between Ham Bridge and Bulls Lock is underwater, and we’ve been putting warning signs out.

Towpath landslide into the canal at Dunhampstead Tunnel

Responding to emergencies

The flooding in Newbury meant the local team worked late into the evening on Thursday night to open paddles on locks to direct the water further down the canal. They were out until the early hours, doing all they could to alleviate flooding and protect structures.

Swift actions of our local team meant no fish came to harm when water pressure pushed open the lock gates at Lime Kiln Lock in Leicester, draining the pound and Memory Lane Moorings. We had reports of fish in distress, but the team spent several hours running water to refill the pound.

While water levels remain high, our teams won’t be able to get access to assess the damage. Once they fully recede, we’ll understand the full extent of the storm’s impact and begin clean-up operations. In these times, we rely on our volunteers to help us minimise damage during the height of the storm – and restore our network once the storms recede.

How you can help

Unfortunately, storms like these aren’t uncommon. With eight named storms in three months, our colleagues and volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep everybody safe. But mitigating damage and keeping our towpaths and network safe and accessible is a costly job. As a charity, we urgently need greater donations and volunteers to ensure the nation’s canals survive and prosper.

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Last Edited: 09 January 2024

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