Reservoir work and dry spring cause water-saving canal closure

We have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close locks, restricting navigation on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals from 24 June as a combination of essential reservoir repairs and a dry spring have caused water supplies in the North West to drop to historically low levels.

Marple Locks

The Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals are usually supplied with water by four reservoirs – Toddbrook, Combs, Bosley and Sutton. However, essential winter maintenance works at Bosley Reservoir, over the winter requiring the reservoir to be drawn down, coupled with the ongoing repair works at Toddbrook Reservoir, resulted in the main boating season starting with much less stored water than normal.

Managing boat traffic

To enable navigation on the canals for as long as possible, we've introduced restricted use of the lock flights at the start of April, and volunteer lock keepers have been helping to manage boat traffic at lock flights to ensure water supplies are used as efficiently as possible.

A dry spring, with March through to May only receiving 67% of the long-term average rainfall, means that the reservoirs which are still operational have not had a chance to refill. Unfortunately, this means that through the navigation on the canals won’t be possible until water levels have recovered. The towpath will remain open and boaters will still be able to cruise the stretches between the closed locks.

Water saving repair works

We're continuing the ongoing water saving repair works to increase all available water flows into the canal network. While essential safety works were carried out at Bosley Reservoir, we took the opportunity to dredge and remove vegetation on all the feeders, increasing water flows and reducing losses. At Marple Lock Flight, the canal has been dredged and water losses reduced, and at Sutton Reservoir repair and improvement work is underway to increase feed control, allowing usto maximise water flows. Dredging and vegetation clearance works have also been completed.

At Sutton Reservoir repair and improvement work is underway to improve control of feeds, allowing us to maximise water flows, and dredging and vegetation clearance works have been completed. Repair works are being carried out at Combs Reservoir along the feeder channel, while at Marple Lock Flight recent works have been completed to dredge and reduce water losses. We are also pumping water from Combs Reservoir via the River Goyt into the canal until the feeder is fully operational.

Work is being carried out to repair the damaged feeder channel from Combs Reservoir into the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge. Temporary traffic lights have been installed at the Canal Basin to enable blockages to be excavated – a process which is likely to be completed by mid to end of July. We will continue to pump water from Combs Reservoir via the River Goyt into the canal until the feeder is fully operational.

Allowing water levels to recover

Daniel Greenhalgh, our regional director for the North West, said: “The Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals have had more than their fair share of troubles over recent years and we’ve put every effort into keeping them open for boaters. Unfortunately, the ongoing repair works at Toddbrook Reservoir as well as emergency works at Bosley Reservoir, coupled with far less rainfall than we needed, have meant that there just isn’t enough water for navigation and we’ve taken the incredibly hard decision to close the locks to boat traffic until water levels recover. We will be carefully watching how the reservoirs refill and will open the locks as soon as possible.

“We’ve been carrying out a significant amount of water savings maintenance work over the past few years and in the longer term, once all our reservoirs are back open. This will improve the resilience of the canals, which is more important than ever as climate change shows us long dry spells are becoming the new normal.

“We appreciate what an impact this has on boaters in the area and we are sorry that this will affect cruising plans this summer. If anyone is experiencing any problems please get in touch.”

Stoppages and notices

To find out more about stoppages and water levels affecting navigation, please visit our stoppages and notices page.