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The charity making life better by water

London canal drained as part of a major repair project

This week, thousands of Londoners will get a unique view of one of the capital’s 200-year-old canals as they walk alongside the Hertford Union Canal which has been drained for us to carry out vital restoration work.

Family feeding swans on Hertford Union Canal

What's happening?

The canal, one of the busiest in the country, runs alongside London's Victoria Park, the largest municipal park in the capital. The historic walls, which make up the sides of the canal and are usually below the waterline, are receiving restoration work to preserve the navigation for boats and the thousands who use the towpath each week.

We are using traditional building techniques to repair the walls, removing broken brickwork and masonry and replacing on a like-for-like basis. Open joints are being repointed with lime mortar and the new brickwork and masonry will aim to match the original as closely as possible.

Hundreds of Londoners have signed-up to take a walk along the bottom of the drained canal on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 February, for a rare ‘fish-eye's-view' of the repairs and to meet the experts carrying out the works.

Taking advantage of this rare opportunity

Ros Daniels, our regional director for London & the South East, said: “The works on the Hertford Union Canal are a chance for people to see the effort that goes into preserving and protecting London's precious waterways.

“Draining the canal is fascinating and the free ‘under water' tours are fully booked-up with Londoners looking to take advantage of this rare opportunity. As well as being able to see the centuries-old canal walls that are usually hidden beneath the surface, they'll get an insight into the things that get thrown into the capital's waterways – including motor bikes, guns and historic artefacts – and find out about the work that goes into looking after the canal.

“Research proves people feel happier and healthier by water and London's waterways are a valuable lifeline for so many, providing a free, accessible place for recreation and exercise. That's why it's so important that we keep them open and safe for everyone to use, whether people enjoy a waterside stroll, cycling, boating, paddling or angling.”

Why are we doing this?

This year's work is part of a longer project to safeguard the Hertford Union Canal. Last year the charity carried out a detailed survey of the walls, removed weeds and foliage, reset coping stones, undertook repairs to Grove Road Bridge and a 25m-long collapsed section of wall, and laid 50m of polyurethane grouting along the waterway wall.

The work on the canal costs £769,000 and has been supported by £547,200 via Historic England through the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Government's Culture Recovery Fund.

Kingfisher in flight with small fish in its beak

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Last Edited: 21 February 2022

photo of a location on the canals
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