A 1km stretch of canal in the heart of London has been completely drained of water this week ahead of our £45 million winter restoration programme, which starts next month.
The Regent's Canal has been drained between Johnson Lock and Limehouse Basin in east London to allow specialist brick-layers to repair large, 2-3ft-wide voids, which have developed in the canal wall.
Boats will still be able to travel between Limehouse Basin, the River Lee, and the Grand Union during the closure via the Hertford Union Canal and Limehouse Cut.
The water was released by opening Commercial Lock and slowly allowing the 7.5 million gallons of water to drain out. Hundreds of fish, including massive 3ft-long carp weighing 25 pounds, were scooped up and moved to safety.
Works are expected to start next week and the area will remain empty for ten weeks, re-opening ahead of Christmas.
Next month the public will be given the rare chance to go behind-the-scenes and venture into the bottom of the canal, giving them the opportunity to see up close some of the finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world.
Last year specialist divers entered the Regent's Canal to identify areas in need of vital attention. This week engineers returned, climbing down onto the canal-bed to undertake a more thorough inspection that is only possible when the water has been drained.
We braced ourselves to find a wide range of debris on the canal-bed. In the past a moped, stolen treasure, and a hero’s World War One medal have been recovered following clean-up operations. This week as the water drained out a safe, discarded iphone, hoover, trolleys, dozens of tyres, office chair, PC, and tens of thousands of plastic bags were unearthed.
The annual cost of cleaning up litter on our waterways last year was just under £900,000, with London costing the lion share with more than £1/2 million spent.
It is hoped a mass-volunteer rubbish collection will take place once the area is secured and made safe.
In November we will begin a major overhaul of our waterways as part of a five-month, multi-million pound maintenance programme to canals and rivers across England and Wales.
The essential maintenance will include the replacement of worn-out lock gates and repairs to aqueducts, reservoirs and tunnels. The works will also provide thousands of visitors the rare chance to go behind-the-scenes and venture into the bottom of drained lock chambers.
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, says: “The Canal & River Trust cares for a remarkable 2,000 mile network of historic waterways, ensuring they work as they were designed to 200 years ago. The Regent's Canal drainage and repair work is just one of many projects we undertake which also give the public a rare glimpse beneath the surface of our waterways and a chance to appreciate the work we do to care for these national treasures.”
We carry out a year round programme of works to maintain and repair 2,000 miles of canals and rivers so they can be enjoyed by the 33,000 boats that use the network and 12 million towpath visitors each year. Many of the biggest projects are carried out during the winter months to minimise the impact on waterway users.