Flooding doesn’t usually wash out canals, locks and bridges or sink & strand canal boats. Over flow weirs and lock by washes can normally manage to get even heavy downpours away.
But December rainfall in parts of Northern England was two to three times the monthly average and falling on saturated ground over short periods the water rapidly flooded rivers across Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Towns and villages were inundated, and where those rivers were navigable there has been some severe damage to them and their structures. Closures may be for several months where significant engineering repair works are needed.
Also many canal boats havebeen sunk, stranded ashore or damaged. River Canal Rescue River reports (8th January) that it’s been inundated with calls to help raise and refloat sunken craft and remove vessels that have been swept onto land or each other by unprecedented water levels and are now trapped. The breakdown and assistance firm is currently dealing with 20 cases and notifications are coming in on a daily basis from agencies and boat owners across the UK. The widespread damage to the canal and river networks in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester, particularly the Aire, Calder, Hebble and Rochdale canals, has resulted in a concentrated area of devastation spanning 20-30 miles.
RCR managing director Stephanie Horton and her rapid response teams have been on the road since 27 December looking out for stricken craft, where possible making them safe and if they can, notifying owners who may be unaware of their vessel’s fate. With speed the utmost priority, some craft have already been raised, pumped out, refloated using air bags and divers and taken to safety, others have more complex logistical needs, such as cranes and winches and approval for remedial works from the Highways Agency. For craft trapped in the woods, as below at Park Nook, there a requirement to liaise with tree surgeons.
Broken locks bring with them water level issues and damaged bridges and roads present access issues. However, in the face of adversity, Steph and her team remain focused in endeavouring to clear the navigation channels as quickly as possible and help boat owners minimise their claims costs.
The following reports and photos provided by River Canal Rescue.
Two boats on the River Calder (above) had been carried over locks, collided with bridges and sunk. Due to be refloated using divers and air bags Friday 8 Jan. One refloated, second boat had to be left after broken glass lead to an injury.
More stricken craft on the Calder & Hebble above, caught on camera while out assessing the damage. Vessels now on books but weight restriction on bridge hampering recovery.
Capsized boat at the Bingley Arms on the Calder & Hebble near Wakefield. Righted and refloated on 6 Jan.
‘Juno’ was lifted from its winter mooring near Todmorden lock onto the towpath. Cranes are being arranged to lift it back into the water, liaison with Highways Agency. The lift was booked for 9 Jan, but road into town has collapsed so recovery on hold.
Numerous vessels are jammed in at Elland Wharf – these will have to be craned as there are weight restrictions on the bridges in the area (due to their flood damage). RCR is working with the Highways Agency and crane firms to resolve.