The charity making life better by water

What happened when Storm Babet came to our canal network?

We look to our teams on the ground when flooding strikes, and across the waterways we know quick action can not only minimise impact, but save lives too.

Responding to emergencies

Storm Babet (October 2023) has caused much damage across the UK, and our waterways have suffered considerable damage.

So many of our colleagues and volunteers have worked tirelessly to help control water levels, assist boats and keep everybody safe.

Heroic actions by volunteers

In the East Midlands, one of our volunteers rescued a member of the public who had fallen into the Erewash Canal in Sandiacre. Other volunteers have been salvaging items and cleaning up spaces in our Torksey Lock office, after it flooded during the storm. Works were carried out across the region to free up sluices, check weir levels and keep culverts and by-washes clear.

Helping boaters

In our London & South East region, South Oxford Canal likely felt the most impact, with high water volumes inundating our flood structures, resulting in a number of overtopping incidents. At Somerton Deep Lock 34, the water was so high the lock couldn't be emptied. The local team attended and assisted boats through the lock so they could turn around. They also worked flat out keeping weirs clear, lifting flood paddles and managing locks.

The SCADA reading at Ontario Bridge recorded a high of 1024mm above normal water level. This caused towpath flooding and overtopping at Clitheroes Lock.

Flooding at Clitheroe's Lock - Grand Union Canal
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Debris at Osterley Weir resulted in a boat becoming caught, before being rescued by three Trust operatives.
Ros Daniels, director London & South East

Working in partnership

In Yorkshire, swift action to relieve the flow of the River Ryton, and pump water from the River Idle into the Chesterfield Canal at Retford meant the levels were controlled. Working together with the Environment Agency meant there was no overtopping flood defences, with flood water being released all the way down as far as the River Trent at West Stockwith.

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The Environment Agency estimated that had we not taken on the water, at least 50 more families would have been evacuated and homes flooded.
Sean McGinley, director, Yorkshire & North East

Fish rescue

Weather events, like Storm Babet have unexpected consequences for Trust-owned fisheries too. Harthill Reservoir was drained several months ago for planned repair work. Some of the resident fish that we rescued had been stored in the upper section of the reservoir. The flooding caused a breach of the protective fencing and this, coupled with extraordinary high-water inflows, led to many hundreds of fish being washed into the main reservoir section. Additional fish rescue work will be required once the main reservoir is re-emptied.

Last Edited: 10 November 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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