The Middlewich Branch, which connects the Trent & Mersey Canal just south of Middlewich town to the Shropshire Union Canal at Barbridge Junction, is nearly 200 years old and is much loved by local residents and boaters.
We are still investigating the precise reason for the breach but at this stage it is believed that it was most likely caused by an increase flow of water along the canal due to paddles at lock gates being left open. The increased flow is likely to have overtopped the canal at the breach site which, together with an already sodden embankment following a wet winter, caused the bank to wash away.
Engineers have estimated that the repairs will cost between £2million to £3million and are likely to take many months.
Ani Sutton, our engagement manager said: "The Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal is hugely popular with the local community and boaters and we've been overwhelmed already by the love and support everyone is offering. So far, I've heard from people potentially planning to wash cars at Tescos, offers of help from Morrisons, support from the council, and others planning local tombola's and a whole lot more.
"Breaches like this are very rare but, as a charity, something of this scale and cost really sets us back, diverting precious resources from other work on the waterways. We've launched an emergency appeal to raise money towards the repairs. We want to thank everyone who has already donated."
Anyone wishing to support this emergency appeal to repair the breach can log on to Middlewich Breach or alternatively text LEAK515 to 70070 to donate £5*. Donations will go directly to repairing the canal.
The canal was initially drained between Stanthorne Lock and Wardle Lock, on the south side of Middlewich town centre, a distance of just over three quarters of a mile. The towpath has also been closed along this stretch.
Ani Sutton continues: "The Canal & River Trust looks after 2,000 miles of canals across the UK which will still be busy with boaters and towpath visitors this Easter. Whilst the section near Middlewich remains closed, we will be doing all we can do get it back open as soon as possible and grateful for everyone's support."