Update on the breach of the Shropshire Union Canal

Excessive rain and extreme weather caused by Storm Christoph resulted in a breach of the Shropshire Union Canal embankment, near Beeston, during the afternoon of 20 January.

Water breaching a canal Shropshire Union canal breach Beeston credit Sue Briggs-Harris

This was reported by a member of the public and Trust staff immediately went out to investigate. Water drained into local fields and the River Gowy, no houses were flooded, but a few boats were stranded on the bottom of the canal. The canal is currently without water between locks 10 and 11, a distance of about one mile.

Due to the rural nature of the breach site, access is a major challenge and from either side involves a walk of nearly one mile along the towpath to the nearest road. The Trust is grateful to the Lockgate Coffee House for allowing contractors vehicles to use their carpark.

On Friday a temporary horseshoe dam was carried by hand nearly a mile down the canal by around 25 contractors and installed at the breach site to isolate the hole in the embankment. Unfortunately the temporary dam did not hold due to the force of the water and a further collapse of the canal bottom around the breach, meaning the affected boats continue to remain without water.

Drained canal with boats in Shropshire Union Canal breach, credit Sue Briggs-Harris

Land access arrangements are now in place with a couple of farms to allow essential access across farmland to set up water feeds through the breach area and to start repairs. A more robust clay and stone dam will be constructed around the breach site in February, allowing the canal to be re-watered either side of the breach. This will enable hire boat business Chas Hardern Boats to remobilise its fleet of narrow boats again.

A full repair of the embankment breach will take several months. Designs are currently being drawn up and finalised, but the canal is not likely to be open to navigation again until this summer.