Toddbrook Reservoir update

We’re now starting the hard work to plan the repair and restoration of Toddbrook Reservoir. Read the latest updates.

Update: 31 July

A message from Daniel Greenhalgh, North West director, on the emergency first anniversary.

“A year on from the Toddbrook Reservoir emergency, the Canal & River Trust wants to pay tribute to the wonderful support and amazing resilience of the Whaley Bridge community. Many individuals have done a fantastic job volunteering and putting themselves forward to help others. We particularly want to thank the town’s football club, who have given up part of their playing field for the construction site cabins, and the sailing club, who have temporarily had to relocate to another venue for a few years. Both groups have been brilliant and so supportive and helpful, despite the significant disruption to their activities.

"Such is the importance of the Toddbrook repair project, our teams have continued to work hard through atrocious winter weather and the coronavirus pandemic to make repairs and improvements to the damaged spillway. The reservoir remains drained and the spillway is totally secure against any extreme weather event.

"We and many reservoir owners have learned valuable lessons from the incident and subsequent investigations into the cause of the emergency. We are currently considering a range of options for the replacement of the damaged spillway and the permanent restoration of the reservoir. We want residents to be involved in the decision-making process and will be inviting people to inspect designs and give their views at a public consultation in September. We are currently exploring options for how the consultation can operate safely within the current coronavirus restrictions.

"Work on the main repair project is expected to start in spring 2021 and the reservoir ready to refill in 2023. Throughout the work, we will continue to send out regular newsletters to residents and post updates on our website.

"In the meantime, we offer our sincere thanks to the community for their patience and understanding as we restore Toddbrook Reservoir as a much-loved leisure amenity and vital water resource for the beautiful Peak Forest Canal.”

Update: Thursday 5 December

Whaley Bridge residents are invited to an informal public briefing on Tuesday 17 December on first steps towards the restoration of Toddbrook Reservoir. Please see our Restoring Toddbrook Reservoir page for details. 

Whaley Bridge Weekly Wednesday Drop-in Sessions extended

We have extended the opening hours of our weekly Wednesday drop-In sessions. We'll also be bringing in a range of Trust specialists for you to consult if you have any specific questions about Toddbrook Reservoir or surrounding canals.

From this week our special community liaison manager for Whaley Bridge, Gillian Renshaw, will be at the Transhipment Warehouse by the canal basin from 10.00am – 3.00pm, every Wednesday.

She will also be supported by specialists from the Trust on the following dates:

  • 27 November: repair project manager
  • 4 December: environment and volunteering
  • 11 December: youth engagement and events
  • 18 December: communications
  • 8 January 2020: volunteering and waterway operations
  • 15 January 2020: local volunteering opportunities
  • 22 January: local environment and ecology
  • 29 January: repair project manager

Transhipment Warehouse at the canal basin

Note. We’d ask that those who attend these drop-in sessions do respect that the Trust employees and volunteers are there to help and should not have to suffer abusive and aggressive language or behaviour. We know how vital it is that we maintain open communications with the local community but we cannot tolerate any threatening or hostile behaviour.

Check out our new Toddbrook information pages, including new films on the fish rescue and rare moss at our Restoring Toddbbrook Reservoir pages.  

Open Day at Toddbrook Reservoir Open Day at Toddbrook Reservoir

Update: Monday 28 October

Despite the torrential rain over the Peak District this weekend (26/27 October), the very low water levels in Toddbrook Reservoir rose by only a small amount. This extra water was swiftly removed by our 11 on-site pumps, all proof that everything is working as it should.

Many thanks to local residents and visitors who braved the atrocious weather to attend two public open days on Friday and Saturday. Over 400 people came to meet our engineers and see the drained reservoir over four public open days in October.

Anyone who missed the open days but wants to find out more, can drop into our regular weekly surgeries held at the Transhipment Warehouse in Whaley Bridge, Wednesdays, 2pm-4pm. These are organised by our dedicated Whaley Bridge community engagement manager Gillian Renshaw.

Update: Thursday 17 October, 11.00am

Many thanks to everyone who attended the public open days at Toddbrook Dam over the weekend. It was great to be able to show more than 200 local residents and visitors around the construction site at the dam. Thanks to everyone who asked questions or passed on useful points of interest or information. We'll forward all relevant suggestions and details to the inquiry and design team. We'll also update our FAQs on our website at the end of the tours (after the 26 October) for questions we were unable to answer during your visit.

The next public days on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October are now booked up – but we look forward to welcoming another 200+ visitors to the site. For those booked on the tour, please arrive at the Sailing Club 10 minutes before the start of your tour and remember to wear suitable footwear.

Wednesday Transhipment Warehouse Drop-in Surgery (Wednesday 23 October) – change of staff

Our communications and engagement manager, Gillian Renshaw, is on leave, so this week our repair programme project manager, Rob Jowitt, will be on hand to answer questions.

  • Place: Transhipment Warehouse, Whaley Bridge.
  • Time: 1.00pm – 3.00pm

Gillian will be back the following week and surgeries will return to their normal time of every Wednesday 2.00pm till 4.00pm.

Due to the volume of emails, we've now set up a new contact email address for any Toddbrook enquiries:

Update: Wednesday 9 October, 5.00pm

Our public open days at Toddbrook this month are proving very popular. Many thanks to everyone who has booked a place.

Three dates are now totally booked up (Friday 11, Saturday 12 and Saturday 26 October), with only a few places currently available on Friday 25 October.

Arrangements (for those who have a pre-booked place):

Meeting point is Toddbrook Sailing Club, 41 Reservoir Rd, Whaley Bridge, High Peak SK23 7BL.

Limited parking is available.

As this is a construction site, please wear walking boots or appropriate footwear. (Sadly no facilities for wheelchairs.)

Please arrive in good time as tours will start on the hour.

Many thanks to Toddbrook Sailing Club for allowing us to use their clubhouse and facilities.

Over 400 people are expected to view the drained Toddbrook reservoir over the four open days.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Update: Tuesday 1 October, 2.00pm

Following the lead of the Environment Agency we have now made available last November’s inspection report into Toddbrook Dam. For national security reasons laid down by the Agency, the regulator in England and Wales, the report has had to be heavily redacted. We understand the frustration but are obliged to follow national guidelines on this which are exactly the same for any other of the nation’s 2,000 plus reservoirs.

However we want to reassure people the report did not identify the need for any immediate repairs to the spillway. We remain committed to being open and have just organised a series of public open days for local residents to visit the dam and find out more.

Both the Government and the Canal & River Trust are currently carrying out independent inquiries into what happened and we expect both reports to be available in the coming months.

To book a place on the Toddbrook public open days, please visit our event page

Update: Thursday 12 September, 9.00am

Drop in surgery at the Transhipment Warehouse

We'll be holding a drop in surgery at the Transhipment Warehouse every Wednesday, starting next week (18 September) between the hours of 2.00pm till 4.00pm. Days or hours may be extended pending on the level of demand, we may also look to provide specific specialist themes during these times, again, pending on the interest, so why not pop by and say hello.

We're aware of a number of events and art exhibitions being planned for Whaley Bridge in relation to the emergency response, we would love to be involved and support these events if you would like to get in touch then please contact

We’re still getting reports from our contractor Kier and concerned residents that people are still trying to access the reservoir and climbing and even removing fencing. Please don't go sight-seeing in the bottom of the drained reservoir. It's also a working site with plant and machinery in operation.

Thank you again to everyone in the community for their ongoing support and we hope to see you at one of our drop in surgeries.

Read our FAQs

Update: Thursday 29 August, 4.30pm

This is the first in a series of regular ongoing updates from our Toddbrook Reservoir project manager, Rob Jowitt.

I want to reassure everyone living in Whaley Bridge and surrounding areas that the dam wall remains safe, with the reservoir near empty.

There was a yellow weather warning during the middle weekend in August when 40cm of rain fell. However the high powered pumps on site kicked in and continue to do their job by keeping water levels very low.

Over the past two weeks we have been doing a number of important tasks. These include raising the weir level at the Inlet structure and moving satellite pumps to the main pumping site.

Independent experts have been appointed to carry out the investigation into what caused the damage to the dam spillway. We’ll keep you up to date and will report back in due course.

Update: Thursday 22 August, 4.30pm

Yesterday media were invited back to Toddbrook Reservoir to see the emergency work being undertaken to make the area safe. Twenty journalists from different media organisations attended including: BBC Breakfast, BBC National News, Sky News, Channel 4, Channel 5 as well as regional TV and radio and papers. 

Local councillors from Whaley Bridge Town Council were also invited on site for a tour in the afternoon with community engagement manager, Gill Renshaw, and Rob Jowitt, project manager. 

Rob Jowitt commented: “Moving on from the emergency response, our job is to find out what went wrong and prepare a detailed plan for repairing the damaged dam wall. It is a huge job which is likely to take some time. Yesterday was important to invite the media along so we could update them on the work what has been going on and to reassure the community of Whaley Bridge that the dam is safe. We’re also looking to organise some open days on site soon.”

Update: Tuesday 20 August, 5pm

Project manager appointed – Rob Jowitt

Canal & River Trust has appointed experienced project manager, Rob Jowitt, to lead a team of experts to work out what went wrong and prepare a detailed design plan for repairing the dam wall. Working alongside Rob, our contractor Kier is now on site to maintain and manage water levels and deliver the repair works to the dam and keep the reservoir secure.

On Wednesday, local councillors from Whaley Bridge Town Council will be visiting the site to chat to our engineers. We’re still working out arrangements to host special site tours for members of the public, which we will share more information on soon.

Our community engagement manager, Gill Renshaw has been contacted by a few members of the public. Apologies if Gill hasn’t got back to you straight away we’re just working through the emails. We’ll continue to update on progress on this page again on Friday.

Thank you again to everyone in the community for their ongoing support.

Update: Friday 16 August, 3pm

We have had a few calls from local people worried about expected rainfall this weekend. We want to assure everyone that the reservoir is near-empty (see photo) after more than a billion litres of water have been pumped out. Water levels are many metres below the dam wall and therefore there is no risk to residents. In fact there is only a small amount of water left in the centre of the reservoir to keep the local fish stock alive.

Also in the photo you’ll see the pipes for 11 high-volume pumps that remain on site – these are there to pump out any rainfall that enters into the reservoir to ensure that it remains at near empty. They have the capacity to extract the equivalent of more than 12 bath tubs per second.

The Police, Fire and Rescue Service, Environment Agency and the Trust would not have allowed people to return home if there was a risk.

Work to ascertain the cause of the problem with the dam spillway continues and we will report back fully in due course. We are also liaising with our engineers to work out the best time in the next few weeks to host tours for residents to see what’s happening on site.

Toddbrook Reservoir drained August 2019

Warning: Please do not go sight-seeing in the bottom of the drained reservoir. It is dangerous – with mud, which is easy to get stuck in. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue have received several reports of people getting stuck in the silt.

Update: 14 August, 5.30pm

The works on site continues. Over the last couple of days we have been setting up the site compound – required for the investigations and repairs ahead.

The first phase of the fish rescue has been completed removing hundreds, if not thousands, of fish. On the advice of the experts the remainder will be removed and rehomed in about eight weeks’ time when the weather is cooler and it is much better for the health of the fish.

Gillian Renshaw from the Canal & River Trust has been appointed as community liaison, whose role will be to keep in touch with local residents and businesses over the coming weeks and months. If you don’t see the answer to your questions on the website drop Gillian a line or call her on 07741 307 349.

Update: Monday 12 August, 4pm

Over the weekend, water levels in the reservoir remained very low and pumps dealt efficiently to remove any new rainwater. The Canal & River Trust and contractor Kier have now taken over responsibility for the site from the emergency services and continue to closely monitor water levels.

We are also carrying out a major fish rescue to re-home thousands of fish which have been affected by the draining of the reservoir. Coarse fish, such as bream, roach, perch and pike, have been captured in large nets by our fish specialists and transported mostly to Upper Bittell Reservoir, near Birmingham. With an estimated 30,000 fish (about 5,000kg) to rehome, this task is due to take another one to two weeks.

Upper Bittell reservoir has low fish stocks after it was drained and refilled following maintenance works two years ago and therefore is able to accommodate the large amount of fish without upsetting the local ecosystem.

Work to investigate the cause of the damage and develop the longer term plans for repairing the dam wall will start shortly.

Update: Friday 9 August, 11.30am

Today our teams are continuing to work onsite. They are managing water levels, with the reservoir near empty now and being kept at below 10% of its usual capacity. The Trust has a management plan in place – with high volume pumps permanently on site and available – to deal with any rainfall, like that forecast this weekend.

In addition to managing water levels, we're continuing to set up the site to enable us to begin investigations into the cause of the damage to the reservoir spillway. This means the reservoir is closed to the public for the foreseeable future. We’d like to politely remind everyone of the importance of this, particularly because the drained reservoir is not safe for people to walk on. In time we hope that our engineers will be able to offer guided tours of the site for any local people who want to know more about the work that has gone on and the next steps.

We’ll continue to work over the weekend and will update on progress on this page again on Monday. If there are any significant developments before then we’ll let you know straight away.

Thank you again to everyone in the community for their ongoing support.

Update: Thursday 8 August, 4pm

We’re delighted the residents of Whaley Bridge have now returned to their homes and businesses. We’ve been continuing to work on the dam today to monitor water levels and set up the site to enable us to inspect the damaged sections in greater detail. We also have fisheries experts onsite who have begun the process of removing the fish that remain in the water. The fish will be safely rehomed in other waterways. We’ll continue to update as work progresses. A big thank you again to everyone who been affected by the events of the last week and for everyone who has supported in any way.

Update: Thursday 8 August, 10.45am

Read our message from Allan Leighton, Canal & River Trust Chair and Richard Parry, Canal & River Trust Chief Executive.

Following yesterday’s welcome news that everyone in Whaley Bridge can return home, we’d like to thank all the local residents for your understanding and patience this past week. Your support for our teams and the fabulous emergency services, who worked together around-the-clock to drain the reservoir and make the situation safe, has been amazing; not least in the generosity you have shown us all, with deliveries of food and all the messages of goodwill. Knowing that your support was so strong, despite your own hardship, gave everyone involved in the work such great encouragement.

Now that the reservoir has been emptied, our plans to keep it safe are in place and we start the work to plan how to repair and restore the dam. Much more information will follow from the Trust in the days ahead – for now, we just want to extend our thanks to all of you for the spirit and resolve you have shown.

Allan Leighton, Chair

Richard Parry, Chief Executive

Update: Wednesday 7 August, 2:30pm

Today, following the meeting of the Gold Command group, it was announced that the residents of Whaley Bridge can return home. The water level in the reservoir has now been lowered by over ten metres and there is no longer a risk to the town.

Julie Sharman, chief operating officer, said: “Our thoughts are very much with the residents of Whaley Bridge in what must have been an awful week for them. Having to live away from home, not knowing when they could return, has been very distressing and we want to thank them for their patience and understanding whilst we worked to make the reservoir safe.

“I would also like to thank our partners, Derbyshire Police and the emergency services for their ongoing help in reinforcing the spillway and helping to remove the water from the reservoir. It has been a fantastic team effort and we have all worked around the clock to ensure the safety of local people.

“Once again I would like thank the residents of Whaley Bridge for their patience and understanding and apologise for the inconvenience this has caused.”

Update: Tuesday 6 August, 7pm

The depth of the water in the reservoir has been reduced by over nine metres and the reservoir is now at 17% of its current holding capacity.

Now the water is at that level, it is safe for the residents of Horwich End to return home.

We hope that residents of Whaley Bridge will be able to return home tomorrow afternoon once we have agreed the ongoing management arrangements needed to ensure public safety.

Once again, we’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing patience, co-operation and support.

Update: Tuesday 6 August, 11am

Pumping continued throughout the night and the reservoir is currently at 25% of its holding capacity with the water level down by 8.4 metres. The water has been pumped out at a controlled rate and good progress is being made.

Throughout the morning a RAF chinook helicopter will continue to drop one tonne bags filled with aggregate to further stabilise the spillway.

Again, our thanks go to anyone affected by the current situation for their co-operation and patience and to the many who are supporting the emergency operation.

Update: Monday 5 August, 5pm

Following work throughout the day the reservoir is now at 38% of its holding capacity, with the water level down by 6.1 metres. The water has been pumped out at a controlled rate and good progress has been made. Efforts to reduce the water level will continue throughout the night.

Again our thanks go to anyone affected by the current situation for their co-operation and patience and to the many who are supporting the emergency operation.

Update: Monday 5 August, 11am

We’ve continued to make progress overnight. The reservoir is now at 46% of its holding capacity, with the water level down by 5.7metres.  

Overnight the Chinook helicopter was used again to further stabilise the spillway, with additional one tonne bags of aggregate dropped onto the spillway to complete this element of the work.

In addition to further lowering the level of the dam, there are sufficient pumps on site to help mitigate against forecast rainfall.

Together with partners, we attended a meeting with local residents yesterday to discuss the latest developments and will continue to update everyone with the latest progress. Thank you again to everyone for their patience and support over the last few days. We’re continuing to do all we can to make the reservoir safe. 

Update: Sunday 4 August, 8pm

We have continued to work throughout the day to reduce the amount of water in the reservoir, and to continue to stabilise the spillway by pouring grout around the large bags of aggregate to increase the force applied to the dam. Water levels have dropped by over four metres and the reservoir is at below 55% of its full capacity.

Together with partners, we also attended a meeting with local residents to discuss the latest developments and reiterate the key safety information. Once again we want to thank everyone for their ongoing patience and co-operation during this time. We’re continuing to work with partners and the emergency services to do all we can to make the situation safe as soon as possible. 

In summary, work today has seen:

  • The reservoir is now at below 55% of its holding capacity
  • Since yesterday evening we’ve pumped a further 300,000 cubic metres of water from the reservoir
  • Approximately 525 one tonne bags have been placed on the spillway to help secure it. We’ve have also been grouting around the bags to ensure the maximum contact between the added weight and the face of the dam
  • To offset additional water coming into the reservoir we have constructed a weir structure at the inlet to divert as much flow as possible around the bypass channel. There has been no flow into the reservoir for the past 24 hours
  • We have planned ahead of time to ensure we have sufficient pumps working through the night to mitigate against the expected rainfall

Our teams will continue to work throughout the night and will provide further updates in the morning.

Update: Sunday 4 August 12pm

Teams have continued to work overnight to reduce water levels in the reservoir in a controlled way. There are currently 24 pumps on site and the reservoir is now at an estimated 64% of its holding capacity.

Work to reinforce the damaged spillway has also continued and will do so throughout today. So far 525 one tonne bags of aggregate have been dropped. We also have a team grouting around the bags to maximise the support they are providing.

We are continuing to monitor the weather and have plans in the place to optimise the use of our pumps to mitigate against increased rainfall.

We’re sorry that it’s not yet safe for residents to go home and thank everyone for their patience and co-operation. Keeping everyone safe is the main priority and we’re continuing to work with partners and the emergency services to do all we can to make the reservoir safe.  

Update: Saturday 3 August 4pm

Our operation at Toddbrook has continued through the night and during Saturday and the water levels in the reservoir are continuing to reduce however, there is still some way to go. Overnight, more pumps were introduced, and the pace at which the water draws down should now speed up. The reservoir is currently at an estimated 83% of its holding capacity.

In the last 12 hours we have pumped 105,000 cubic metres of water from the reservoir. That is 23 million gallons - which is equivalent to 42 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water.

An RAF chinook helicopter is today expected to drop more one tonne bags of aggregate, in addition to the 400 bags already dropped, onto the damaged section of spillway. Grout has been poured around the bags to bind them to further strengthen the structure.

We’re sorry that it’s not yet safe for residents to go home. Keeping everyone safe has to be the main priority and, as we continue to draw down the water levels in the reservoir, we’re asking people to stay away from the area until the risk of flooding from the reservoir has been removed.

Local people are being advised to plan to be away from their homes for up to seven days.

Update: Friday 2 August 12.15pm

Our operation at Toddbrook has continued through the night where a Chinook helicopter has dropped around 150 bags of aggregate onto the damaged section of spillway to reinforce the structure. This is expected to continue throughout the day.

We’re also working to draw down the water within the reservoir in a controlled way to reduce the risk to surrounding communities. Inflows into the reservoir eased overnight and we have been able to make progress in drawing down the water, however there is still some way to go.

We appreciate that the people of Whaley Bridge will want clarity on timescales, and they have our utmost sympathy, however this is a complex operation and timescales are not currently clear. We are doing all we can, with our colleagues at the Environment Agency, Derbyshire Police, Derbyshire County Council and the Fire & Rescue Service, and further updates will follow.

For canal closures and boat navigation advice, please see our notice

Original notice: 1 August 

Our engineers are on site assessing the scale of the damage and over the next few hours we will be doing all we can to draw down water from the reservoir in a controlled way to reduce the risk to surrounding communities 

In the meantime the emergency services are taking every precaution including evacuating local properties and closing local roads to maintain public safety.

Further updates will follow.

About Toddbrook Reservoir

  • Toddbrook Reservoir was built in 1831
  • The Reservoir is looked after by Canal & River Trust
  • It is approximately 0.5km to the south-west of the town of Whaley Bridge in the High Peak area of Derbyshire and 10km north of Buxton just off the A5004
  • The reservoir provides water to the Peak Forest Canal
  • It has a capacity of 1,238 megalitres and a surface area of 0.056 sq miles
  • It has a top water level of 185.69m
  • The reservoir is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It provides habitat for herons, ducks and other animals and fish
  • The reservoir has detailed annual inspections, the most recent one taking place in November 2018

Last date edited: 18 September 2020