WA­TER­WAYS WIND­FALL

Four canal restora­tion projects across the coun­try are set to share a £200,000 be­quest left to the In­land Wa­ter­ways As­so­ci­a­tion. We look at how each canal will ben­e­fit from the legacy

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS AND PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

New bridges and re­stored locks are be­ing funded by Tony Har­ri­son’s £ 200,000 legacy

What would you do if you found your­self with a size­able amount of money to do­nate to canal restora­tion? It’s an oc­ca­sional fan­tasy of mine, just in case I ever win the Lot­tery: give it all to one project to give it the big­gest boost, or spread it widely to make a smaller dif­fer­ence to as many projects as pos­si­ble?

The In­land Wa­ter­ways As­so­ci­a­tion found it­self in this po­si­tion, al­beit in rather less happy cir­cum­stances. Tony Har­ri­son, who as hon­orary con­sult­ing en­gi­neer had con­trib­uted a great deal to canal restora­tion in his life­time, died in 2014 leav­ing a legacy of £200,000 to IWA. And the As­so­ci­a­tion needed to de­cide how best to spend the money for the max­i­mum ben­e­fit for the wa­ter­ways.

Ini­tial dis­cus­sions hav­ing failed to come up with a clear front-run­ner, IWA turned to the tried and tested method of invit­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions to bid for any­thing up to the full £200,000 – sim­ply stip­u­lat­ing that the projects should do ‘the max­i­mum good for the in­land wa­ter­ways’.

A to­tal of 28 ap­pli­ca­tions was re­duced to a short­list of six; af­ter more de­tailed eval­u­a­tion the IWA Trustees fi­nally agreed on four grants of widely vary­ing sizes sup­port­ing four projects of vary­ing na­ture across the coun­try: • New gates for Great Cornard Lock on the

River Stour. • Cre­at­ing a water con­trol struc­ture to main­tain lev­els on the top length of the Crom­ford Canal. • Re­open­ing two miles and two locks on

the Pock­ling­ton Canal. • Re­build­ing a bridge which will re­move the last ma­jor block­age to re­open­ing two more miles of the Mont­gomery Canal. The IWA grants won’t fund these projects in their en­tirety; how­ever in com­bi­na­tion (in some cases as ‘match fund­ing’) with other sources and with vol­un­teer labour, they will help to achieve the fol­low­ing: 1 new bridge 2 im­proved trip-boat op­er­a­tions 3 re­stored locks 4 canals sup­ported 6 miles re­opened to boats

POCK­LING­TON CANAL

The Pock­ling­ton Canal is a nine-mile wa­ter­way climb­ing through nine locks from the York­shire Der­went river at East Cot­ting­with to Canal Head, on the out­skirts of Pock­ling­ton.

Al­though it went out of use in the 1930s and fell derelict soon af­ter, the canal was never legally aban­doned and all its locks

and bridges sur­vived. Fol­low­ing a pro­posal to in­fill it with sludge in 1959 (suc­cess­fully fought off by the In­land Wa­ter­ways As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers), the Pock­ling­ton Canal Amenity So­ci­ety was formed in 1969 with the aim of re­open­ing the en­tire canal.

Ini­tial progress was good, with the first lock and three miles re­opened in 1972, fol­lowed three years later by a sec­ond lock and a fur­ther two miles to the Mel­bourne Arm. But there, nav­i­ga­tion has stopped for over 40 years.

It hasn’t been for lack of ef­fort (PCAS has car­ried out work on four more locks since then) but a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors in­clud­ing the of­fi­cial des­ig­na­tion of most of the route as Sites of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est on ac­count of the canal’s rare aquatic plants, in­sects, ot­ters and nest­ing birds.

In the past this has pre­vented dredg­ing work from tak­ing place, cur­tail­ing re­open­ing plans; how­ever more re­cently re­la­tions be­tween na­ture bod­ies and nav­i­ga­tion in­ter­ests have im­proved greatly, and wildlife con­ser­va­tion is no longer seen as a bar­rier to re­open­ing.

In­deed, in re­cent years a suc­cess­ful Her­itage Lot­tery Fund ap­pli­ca­tion has seen a pro­gramme of work worth al­most £700,000 get un­der way in­clud­ing restora­tion of his­toric bridges as well as dredg­ing work aimed at ben­e­fit­ing wildlife but also fa­cil­i­tat­ing fu­ture re­open­ing.

In par­al­lel with this, PCAS has launched a £250,000 Bi­cen­te­nary Ap­peal which will put two par­tially re­stored locks (Thorn­ton and Wal­but) into full work­ing or­der, en­abling two fur­ther miles of canal to be re­opened to the Bielby Arm, leav­ing just a cou­ple of miles to com­plete from there to Canal Head.

Work is al­ready un­der way at Thorn­ton Lock thanks to the Her­itage He­roes scheme (which helps in­jured exser­vice­men to re­build their lives by work­ing on her­itage projects) and lo­cal vol­un­teers. A con­tri­bu­tion of £106,400 from the Tony Har­ri­son Legacy will bring the Ap­peal close to its tar­get, sup­port­ing work both at Thorn­ton and at Wal­but Lock, in­clud­ing new gates, lock lad­ders, land­ing stages and dredg­ing.

All be­ing well, the canal will re­open to Bielby in 2018 to mark canal’s 200th an­niver­sary of its orig­i­nal open­ing.

MONT­GOMERY CANAL

What is now known as the Mont­gomery Canal is a chain of wa­ter­ways with a com­plex his­tory, reach­ing from Frank­ton Junc­tion on the Llan­gollen Canal via 35 miles of splen­did bor­der­land and Welsh coun­try­side to Welsh­pool and on to New­town. Aban­doned by its rail­way com­pany own­ers in 1944 af­ter a breach ten years ear­lier had been left un­re­paired, the canal suf­fered se­ri­ous dam­age with numer­ous road bridges be­ing de­mol­ished over the fol­low­ing decades.

A threat to use its route through Welsh­pool for a by­pass road led to a ‘Big Dig’ protest work­ing party which kick­started restora­tion. Since then, sup­port from a num­ber of groups in­clud­ing the Shrop­shire Union Canal So­ci­ety, IWA, and its vol­un­teer labour sub­sidiary, Wa­ter­way Re­cov­ery Group, has seen a great deal of progress with more than half of the canal now open. This in­cludes seven miles in Eng­land from Frank­ton to Gron­wen Bridge be­low Maes­bury, and a 12-mile iso­lated Welsh length from Ard­dleen via Welsh­pool to Re­fail.

How­ever in re­cent years progress has slowed, partly be­cause head­ing south­wards from the Gron­wen the canal en­ters a sec­tion whose un­der­ly­ing ge­ol­ogy means that it was plagued by leak­age prob­lems dur­ing work­ing days, has long since run dry, and needs ex­pen­sive and labour-in­ten­sive re­lin­ing work. Vol­un­teer work con­tin­ues on this length with the

‘Use of vol­un­teers will bring the cost of the bridge down to around £200,000 and the legacy’s con­tri­bu­tion of £70,000 means that this can go ahead dur­ing 2018’

ini­tial tar­get of get­ting to Crick­heath, where a full-length wind­ing hole will en­able boats to turn, which will al­low the re­stored sec­tions to be re­opened.

A £3m Lot­tery grant has re­cently been con­firmed which will en­able the com­ple­tion of this work within five years – but in the mean­time, the Mont­gomery Canal Part­ner­ship is al­ready rais­ing funds to tackle the next two miles which will bring boats to the Welsh bor­der at Llanymynech (and within four miles of link­ing up to the Welsh­pool sec­tion). This will mean more chan­nel lin­ing work (al­though there is op­ti­mism that the en­tire length won’t need re­lin­ing), but the good news is that there are only two phys­i­cal ob­struc­tions.

The first is a dis­used rail­way em­bank­ment whose re­moval WRG’s vol­un­teers are al­ready tack­ling; the sec­ond is School House Bridge, the last re­main­ing road block­age on the English part of the canal.

The Part­ner­ship aims to use con­trac­tors to con­struct the ba­sic arch, but vol­un­teer labour for ev­ery­thing else – earth­works, para­pets, wing walls, chan­nel walls and so on – fol­low­ing the suc­cess of this ap­proach at Com­pass Bridge on the Wey & Arun Canal.

Use of vol­un­teers will bring the cost down to around £200,000, and the legacy’s con­tri­bu­tion of £70,000 means that this can go ahead dur­ing 2018, with a tar­get of open­ing the canal to the Welsh bor­der in close to the same five-year time­frame as the length to Crick­heath.

CROM­FORD CANAL

The Crom­ford Canal pro­vided a con­nec­tion from the Ere­wash Canal and the for­mer Not­ting­ham Canal at Lan­g­ley Mill to the mills at Crom­ford, and to the Crom­ford & High Peak Tramway. As a through route it lasted un­til But­ter­ley Tun­nel col­lapsed in 1900, af­ter which some lo­cal trade con­tin­ued on both sides of the tun­nel un­til the canal was aban­doned in 1944.

Early work to re­store the canal con­cen­trated on the up­per sec­tion in the Der­went Val­ley which had sur­vived in bet­ter con­di­tion, and by the early 1970s a trip-boat was op­er­at­ing from Crom­ford Wharf.

How­ever with the demise of the orig­i­nal canal so­ci­ety in the late 1980s, this length be­gan to fall back into dis­use – and has since been re­tained as a na­ture re­serve rather than a nav­i­ga­tion.

At the same time the Ere­wash Canal Preser­va­tion & De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion re­opened the first lock and basin at Lan­g­ley Mill to cre­ate a ter­mi­nus for the Ere­wash, and has grad­u­ally ex­tended this basin north­wards, and more re­cently the Friends of the Crom­ford Canal have been formed with the aim of re­open­ing the en­tire canal.

Their restora­tion work has con­cen­trated mainly around Ironville Locks near the cen­tre of the canal, but fol­low­ing dredg­ing of the Crom­ford length they have restarted trips to Lea­wood steam pump­ing sta­tion on his­toric boat Birdswood, as a way of publi­cis­ing the restora­tion and rais­ing funds.

How­ever the boat’s op­er­a­tion has been ham­pered by the vari­able water lev­els in the canal, and the prob­lem has been traced to the lack of a water con­trol sluice

which ap­pears to have orig­i­nally ex­isted at Crom­ford where the sup­ply en­ters from the Der­went.

As this is a highly sen­si­tive area, be­ing part of the Der­went Val­ley Mills World Her­itage Site and part of the Crom­ford Mill Grade 1 listed build­ing site, a con­trol sluice has been de­signed which will be built from oak, and based on an ad­ja­cent his­toric struc­ture.

Pay­ing for it with £15,000 from the legacy is a fit­ting trib­ute to Tony Har­ri­son’s ca­reer and life­long in­ter­est in water en­gi­neer­ing.

RIVER STOUR NAV­I­GA­TION

The Stour, run­ning along the Es­sex and Suf­folk bor­der and made fa­mous by John Con­sta­ble’s paint­ings, was once nav­i­ga­ble for 25 miles from Sud­bury down to Man­ningtree, where it en­tered the tidal estuary. How­ever by the late 19th Cen­tury it was in de­cline, trade on the up­per reaches ended dur­ing the First World War, and the last traf­fic on the lower end fin­ished in the 1930s.

How­ever the bot­tom three locks – Flat­ford, Ded­ham and Strat­ford St Mary – had only very re­cently been re­built in con­crete by the Es­sex & Suf­folk Water Com­pany (as a con­di­tion of be­ing al­lowed to ex­tract water from the river), so when the River Stour Trust was formed in 1968 they were still in good con­di­tion. The Trust there­fore be­gan work at this end of the river, re­open­ing Flat­ford and Ded­ham Locks.

Strat­ford St Mary Lock was more prob­lem­at­i­cal. Partly this was be­cause of its tricky site on an is­land, but also by this time the Anglian Water Author­ity (pre­de­ces­sor of the En­vi­ron­ment Agency in this area and the nav­i­ga­tion author­ity for the river) was be­com­ing more op­posed to re­open­ing the river for boats – to the point where it at­tempted (un­suc­cess­fully) to have it legally aban­doned.

Faced with this op­po­si­tion (and also with con­di­tions pre­clud­ing most pow­ered craft from us­ing the river), the Trust turned its at­ten­tion to the up­per end of the nav­i­ga­tion, build­ing a new lock at Great Cornard thanks to a grant from the Mil­len­nium Fund. More re­cently its vol­un­teers have re­turned to Strat­ford St Mary, where the lock is now largely com­plete but lacks gates.

A Land­fill Tax Credit grant has now paid for most of the cost of the new gates; £ 8,600 from the legacy will pro­vide match­ing fund­ing to this grant, and en­able the new gates to be in­stalled – open­ing up al­most two miles more river for ac­cess by the Trust’s trip-boat.

Pock­ling­ton Canal: boats through Wal­but Lock in 2018

Canoeists en­joy the re­stored length of the Pock­ling­ton

The re­stored Mont­gomery at Maes­bury

Mel­bourne, cur­rent limit of the Pock­ling­ton

Mont­gomery Canal: a new bridge to re­place this block­age

Monty tar­get: Welsh bor­der at Llanymynech

Im­pres­sion of new Crom­ford Canal sluice

Crom­ford Wharf, base for trip-boat Birdswood

The Stour’s Flat­ford Lock, al­ready re­stored

Lea­wood Pump, Birdswood’s des­ti­na­tion

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