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Pennine Waterways
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Pennine Waterways
Canals of the South Pennines
Bridgewater Canal News - Sluice Failure Drains Canal
      
Updated 11th July 2005.
The Bridgewater Canal has been re-opened after the closure in the Manchester area. The canal is now open between Castlefield, Sale, Preston Brook and Runcorn. Water levels are down by as much as 14 inches and boaters are being asked to proceed with care to avoid grounding. Boaters will now be able to navigate the Cheshire Ring again.
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However, due to differing water levels on the Leigh Branch, the branch will remain closed at Barton Aqueduct for at least another week (until around 18th July). Contact the Bridgewater Canal office on 0161 629 8266 for up-to-date information or check their website www.bridgewatercanal.co.uk
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The Bridgewater Canal had been closed in the Manchester area following a sluice gate failure at Castlefield in Manchester. The canal was closed between Sale, Barton and Manchester.
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The closure of this section of the Bridgewater Canal affected boaters cruising the Cheshire Ring, as well as those heading to or from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Wigan. It took around a week for the levels to come back up to a navigable level once the sluice culvert had been sealed.
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Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield - Photo: Pennine Waterways
Stranded narrowboats sit high and dry in Castlefield Basin.
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Boaters moored on the canal noticed the level droppingn the night of Sunday 3rd July and contacted the Manchester Ship Canal Company, which owns the Bridgewater Canal. Ground staff quickly put in stop planks at Sale and closed the swing aqueduct at Barton. Eight miles of canal in Manchester became almost completely drained, however, while the rest of the Bridgewater Canal was noticeably down.
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Nine visiting boats were left high and dry by the escape of water in addition to the boats moored long-term in the Potato Wharf area of Castlefield.
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Boaters remained cheerful about their situation and were full of praise for the Manchester Ship Canal Company staff, who had been doing their best to offset the inconvenience by bringing water, collecting rubbish, lending generators and offering to fetch shopping. Arrangements were made for the stranded boaters to use showers at a nearby hotel. The crew of a hire boat were transferred to another boat elsewhere so that they could continue their holiday.
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Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield - Photo: Pennine Waterways
The restaurant boat LS Lowry and narrowboats are left high and dry.
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The problem was caused by the failure of a wooden sluice gate which is used to regulate the flow of water through Castlefield when the River Medlock is in flood. Water from the Medlock normally bypasses the canal at Castlefield by means of a culvert but, when the river is in flood, the culvert cannot cope and water comes into Castlefield Basin, which was the original course of the river. The sluice which has failed allows excess water to flow directly back into the River Medlock downstream of Castlefield.
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MSC staff believe that the wooden sluice gate just gave way even though it only had the normal weight of water against it. There is no provision for stop planks to be put across the entrance to the sluice culvert so staff had to improvise a dam in an attempt to stem the flow. Stop planks were placed across the entrance and huge bags of sand were lowered into the canal against them to hold them in place and seal the entrance, using a crane on the opposite bank.
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Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield - Photo: Pennine Waterways
An attempt to block the entrance to the failed sluice. The sluice gate's position is under the hut. The water level has risen two feet by the time this picture was taken.
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The first attempt seemed to be working and the water level started rising, but then the pressure of water caused the large builders' sand bags to disintegrate and 20 tonnes of sand from the bags were sucked through sluice culvert and into the River Medlock, draining the canal again. In a second attempt, sealed sandbags were placed inside the larger bags, which were then lowered into place across the stop planks..
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The Environment Agency has sent in teams to assist the MSC staff because of concerns for wildlife along the eight miles of canal affected.
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Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield - Photo: Pennine Waterways
On the opposite bank, a large crane has been brought in to lower bags of sand into position.
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Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield - Photo: Pennine Waterways
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