Well here’s some unexpected good news for canal boating holidays up north.It looks like the Leeds and Liverpool canal has started reopening much earlier than anticipated. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was in fact partly reopened on Friday,17th September.
It’s been a sad summer story at the Leeds and Liverpool starting with low water warnings and then proceeding with closures along a fair old length of the canal system, stranding some live aboard boaters in the process and forcing some of the canal boating holdauys companies to relocate to another part of the waterways, causing much inconvenience. The problem is that the old canal is poorly maintained and very leaky, and needs a lot of extra water to keep it navigable anyway. In fact getting enough water up to the top pound has always been a problem, even when the Leeds and Liverpool canal first opened !
A number of narrowboat hire companies had to move their businesses when the Leeds & Liverpool canal was shut by British Waterways at the beginning of August after drought conditions left reservoirs at record low levels.
But now after good recent rainfall levels in September, the stretch of the canal between Barrowford and Wigan has reopened already. The 40 miles length is now open to canal boating all the way from from Wigan to Barrowford Locks, and it is cautiously estimated that the reservoir levels will now again sustain boating on the canal. The next stretch between Barrowford and Gargrave, near Skipton will be opened on Wednesday 22nd September. That’s the remainder of the closed section from Barrowford Locks to Gargrave, once more be open for boating. Lee Shepherd is the owner of Hapton Valley Boats, and he was forced to move his business to Apperley Bridge marina, near Bradford.
We will be bringing our three boats over next week. It is a relief to be coming home. Doing a 75-mile journey three times a week wasn’t ideal.
Another canal boating holidays business owner Lesley Yates, who runs Canal Boat Cruises, in Riley Green, said their boats would be brought back from Apperley Bridge by customers next week.
It has been testing travelling over there three times per week. We hope British Waterways makes sure this doesn’t happen again.
The reopening is not without its restrictions though. The Leeds and Liverpool will only be open between 9am and 4pm until reservoirs are further retored to a more reliable level.
A British Waterways spokesman said:
The significant increase in rainfall over the last few weeks has made it possible for us to introduce a phased reopening to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Water is at a premium so we will continue to monitor the reservoirs on a daily basis and work with our customers to conserve as much water as possible in the canal so we aren’t forced to introduce further restrictions. We would like to express our sincere thanks to all of our customers, boating businesses and members of the public for their patience and understanding during this demanding time.
There is still the necessity to conserve water however, so restrictions on passages will remain on all lock flights between 9am to 4pm with single passage on the Wigan Flight in each direction. I’m not sure how single passage helps to conserve water, but I’m sure there is a very clever explanation which somebody might like to add in the comments here.
The closure of the Leeds and Liverpool has been going on since the 2nd August when the worst drought conditions for 100 years forced British Waterways to shut the canal between Wigan and Gargrave.
British Waterways have been putting an optimistic face to the closure, explaining that it had been possible to bring forward a number of projects which would otherwise have been carried out during the Winter, including lock gate replacements and repairs and leak prevention works. By completing the stoppages within the water restriction, it is hoped to have shorter stoppage periods during the annual winter maintenance of the waterway.
The latest figures from British Waterways showing the levels of the four reservoirs dedicated to feeding the Leeds and Liverpool Canal’s summit show that the total amount of water held has increased substantially improved since last week, thanks to heavy rain in the area. This means that British Waterways is now re-opening the canal between Wigan and Gargrave. In fact the reservoirs are now holding 17.7% of their capacity, which is 3.1% more than last week’s figure of 14.6%.British Waterways had said that levels would need to rise to around 20% before they could consider re-opening the 60-mile closed section of canal. However, the figure of 17.7% combined with further rain since the readings were taken has given BW the confidence to re-open part of the canal this week and the rest next week. BW has calculated that there is now a less than 10% risk that the reservoirs will not be able to satisfy demand over the rest of the canal boating holiday season. The levels are still lower than normal so there will be restrictions on lock opening times.
While Lower Foulridge reservoir is still at just 11.1% of capacity, the other reservoirs are well up. In addition, the holding of Winterburn reservoir is now 76.7%, an increase of 17.9% on the previous week. Winterburn is not included in the figures for the summit reservoirs as there is a statutory obligation to provide compensation water from Winterburn into Eshton Beck, but the high levels mean that some water can be fed into the canal as well.
The reservoir holdings as of 13th September were:
||capacity when full
||percentage of capacity
||change since last week
||1,557 million litres
||156 million litres
||442 million litres
||97.6 million litres
||170 million litres
||50.8 million litres
||658 million litres
||108 million litres
|average holdings of these 4 reservoirs
Of course, vistors on canal boating holidays don’t normally need to worry about such things as reservoir volumes and levels but such technicalities can preoccupy live aboarders who need to plan their movements carefully and avoid getting stranded. The people who choose to live aboard their own narrowboats on a continuous cruising licence are part of the general culture and environment that help to make a canal boating holiday such a fulfilling experience.