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The charity making life better by water

We've invested £10.1M in vital conservation work across Yorkshire's waterways this winter

We've begun a programme of vital repairs and conservation work this winter to protect Yorkshire’s historic canals and ensure they remain open and safe for boats and towpath users to enjoy.

Workers in PPE renovating a wall on an empty canal

Costing £10.1 million, the charity carries out a range of important and complex heritage and conservation tasks during the ‘quieter’ winter months to minimise disruption to canal and towpath visitors, as the nation’s waterways boost more visitors now than at the height of the industrial revolution (1.5 million unique visits per fortnight to our Yorkshire waterways).

The repairs

Repairs include replacing worn-out lock gates, repairing historic bridges, inspecting tunnels and dredging canals, to keep this important part of the country’s infrastructure available for local people.

Still navigated by boats as they have been for hundreds of years, and acting as linear parks benefiting people and wildlife, the canals in Yorkshire are as important now as they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution, when they were the freight ‘motorways’ of their day.

But age and the extreme weather that is becoming more common due to climate change mean the year-round work we do, including the support we are given by thousands of volunteers, is vital in looking after the network.

The winter schedule of works will continue until March 2024, with our expert teams working on 18 sites, across 11 waterways.

Conservation works to the Bingley section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal have recently completed. These works involved restoring a 50-metre stretch of washwall, situated just upstream of Grade I* listed Bingley 3 Rise Locks, which had been leaning into the canal significantly, affecting boater mooring posts and causing potholes to form in the towpath.

Using reclaimed masonry and traditional lime mortar techniques where possible during the repairs at this important heritage site, works also included re-grouting a wall at Grade I listed Bingley Five Rise Locks to minimise leakage along this historic structure which celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2024.

Canal lock flight on a sunny day with an empty canal

Safeguarding our canals

Sean McGinley, our regional director, said: “Our region’s canals are hundreds of years old, but they aren’t locked away in a museum. They are here to be used and enjoyed daily by millions of people and provide important habitats for nature and wildlife. The work of our skilled teams, aided by our volunteers and partners, will make sure Yorkshire’s canals are kept open and shipshape.

“This year, we’ve faced some of the greatest threats to the future of the canals in over 60 years. Battered by storms and floods, the cost of keeping these ageing canals safe has soared. Against this backdrop, the government has announced significant cuts in the vital funding they will be making available for the care of this historic network.

“We are determined to safeguard the canals and all the benefits they bring to our local communities, so we’ll be rolling up our sleeves to deliver the care and maintenance required, and to fundraise the money needed. The work we are carrying out this winter is part of our ongoing effort to keep canals in the Yorkshire alive and accessible for local people.”

Made to measure

The lock gates weigh several tonnes and typically last around 25 years. Each new gate is hand-crafted in our specialist workshops at Stanley Ferry in West Yorkshire or Bradley in the West Midlands and is made to measure from seasoned oak so that it fits perfectly in each historic lock chamber.

This winter we are investing more than £50 million on waterways across England and Wales with £10.1 million being invested across the Yorkshire region.

Last Edited: 29 December 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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