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HEREWARD AUTUMN 2014 Head Sluice at Denver The IWA charity registered number 212342 The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Inland Waterways Association or of the Peterborough Branch. They are, however, published as being of interest to our members and readers

West Stockwith Lock


The Chesterfield Canal

West Stockwith Basin

Drakeholes Tunnel Worksop

Tradi onal Boatbuilding taking place at Shireoaks

by The Editor on his Bike!


he Chesterfield Canal is very much a canal of two halves. It is divided by the collapsed and blocked 2884 yards Norwood Tunnel on its summit level over which, to compound the problem, passes the M1 motorway. Whilst restoration of the isolated western section is proceeding apace there are some serious obstructions to overcome, including the tunnel itself and several sections where the route is lost and restoration of the full route must be seen as a very long term project. The eastern section from its junction with the River Trent at West Stockwith up to the tunnel is fully navigable; however access from the connected inland waterways system involves a journey along the tidal Trent which is not a trip that all ‘flat water’ boaters will relish. As I include myself in this category, for me the only way to explore the canal was to go by bike. The canal was opened in 1777 and ran 46 miles from the River Trent to Chesterfield. Its purpose was to export coal, limestone and lead from Derbyshire, iron from Chesterfield, and corn, deals, timber, groceries, etc. into Derbyshire. The stone for the Palace of Westminster was quarried in South Anston, Rotherham, and transported on its way to London via the canal. The canal is known locally as the 'Cuckoo Dyke'. From Peterborough the easiest access to the canal by road is just off the A1 at Ranby north of the A57 junction. I first headed for the uphill bit in the direction of Worksop. The towpath in this area is not the best for cycling but the canal crosses pleasant farmland until the outskirts of Worksop are reached. Here the towpath improves dramatically with a good hard surface and the passage through the urban part of Worksop is quite short. There are good facilities to hand for boaters for stocking the boat with a Sainsbury’s and a shopping mall right by the canal plus several pubs and eating places close at hand. The canal appeared in good condition with no evidence of weed but with little boat traffic the clear water revealed that it was quite shallow. Locks begin to appear as

Staircase Locks on the climb to Norwood Tunnel


the climb to the summit begins. Gently at first but it gets tougher! Above Retford the locks are narrow beam so lock operation for narrowboaters is fairly easy. Leave the ropes in the locker. Shireoaks is the next port of call with a marina and CRT facilities block plus more shops and pubs close by. The canal now takes on an ‘up country’ air with wooded hills closing in and the locks coming thick and fast. An unusual feature of this section is the staircase locks at Turnerwood and Thorpe Salvin, some of which are double and some are treble. The work for boaters will be hard going and of course there is that nagging feeling that, for the present anyway, you have to come back down the same way. The canal now enters a deep wooded cutting as the last level section through Kiveton Park is reached leading to the blanked off eastern portal of Norwood Tunnel. There is a winding hole before the tunnel but be sure not to miss it as if you do it will require a tricky reversal of a few hundred yards along the final section of weed filled channel. Returning back on the bike was swift work and two boats were passed on their way up, one flying the Australian flag. Continuing eastwards the canal meanders across the flatter farmland and passes under the A1 and on through Ranby village. There are well maintained gardens and ‘The Chequers Inn’ on the off-side but mooring opportunities did appear limited on this section. There is a CRT Services Block and water point by Forest Middle Top Lock 55 then the canal drops through more locks into the town of Retford. Here again there are plenty of facilities, with shops, pubs and a pleasant café right on the towpath side. The towpath here is well mainWell maintained towpath and canal surroundings tained and well used by locals and mooring facili- with good moorings through Retford ties are available on the towpath side by a park and sports ground. On the way out of town the canal passes ‘The Hop Pole’ a large pub restaurant with off-side moorings and a large canalside garden. It then continues its meandering way across the flatter landscape towards the Trent. From here the locks are wide beam so will take a little longer to negotiate. The villages of Clayworth and Wiseton lie on the route and Drakeholes Tunnel is the only major structure of note but at 154 yards long it won’t cause any navigational problems. Finally the canal reaches its ‘open’ end with the river lock at West Stockwith. Here there is a large mooring basin which provides a haven from the tidal river for larger cruisers and sea-going craft. As I was looking around the lock area, the lock keeper was pacing about and looking upriver. He was waiting for a boat coming downstream against a rapidly moving flood tide which had turned a little early. His fears were allayed as the narrowboat came round the bend in the river making very slow headway against tide and strong wind. With full throttle he just made the lock and I’ll bet he was relieved to see the gates shut behind him. Call me a wimp, but I’ll stick to cycling on the Chesterfield Canal! 2


Local Drainage

by S A Calton


any people seem to be surprised that whilst large areas of the country have been flooded, we in the Fens are not suffering such miseries. The reason why is disarmingly simple: we have a drainage system that works. The most incredible aspect of this is that in form and function, the drainage system is almost exactly as conceived and planned nearly 400 years ago. The Fen Basin as a whole is the sink of thirteen counties, so rain falling on the Fens themselves forms a relatively minor input to the waters flowing to sea in the Wash. The drainage system in our immediate area, the Middle Level, is run by an amazingly small group of engineers and administrative staff from the Middle Level Offices in March. The major watercourses in the area, such as the Sixteen Foot River and Well Creek, are administered by the Middle Level Commissioners (a locally elected board of twenty people who form a statutory corporation created by the Middle Level Acts and operating under various drainage and navigation Acts). The smaller channels of drains and ditches are under the direction of 24 statutory Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), who are concerned with the day to day micromanagement of drainage within their areas (whilst also bound by the relevant Acts of Parliament). IDB meetings are clerked by MLC admin staff and normally have an engineer present, especially if their district has pumping stations or other infrastructure. Together this whole team ensure that the biggest low-lying area in England is as protected from flood as is humanly possible in the prevailing political/financial constrictions. The historical parish of Upwell is served by the Middle Level Commissioners themselves and six IDBs: Churchfield & Plawfield, Needham & Ladus, Upwell, Nordelph, Euximoor and Manea & Welney. IDBs comprise elected unpaid volunteers from the landowning community and representatives from Borough and District Councils. Between them they carry a mass of detailed local knowledge of how the drainage system works; they are also the eyes and ears which report potential problems. They are funded by Drainage Rates on agricultural land and a special levy from Borough and District Councils which is paid in respect of property within the drainage district not used for agriculture, eg dwellings (passed down to householders as a component of Council Tax). Everyone is familiar with the man-made rivers (or drains) of the Fens. Including small drainage ditches (or dykes), the system keeps us free from floods. No one dug ditches or dykes without very good reason in the days of manual labour, so what may look inconsequential probably has a drainage role to play in extreme weather (it would be nice to think householders and fly tippers respected this and kept all dykes clear). Without this system, the whole of the Fens apart from the islands like Ely, Littleport, March, Chatteris, etc would revert to marshland which would suffer annual and in some places permanent inundation. We would be back in the ‘hideous fenne of great bigness’ of medieval times. Access to and from these areas would be impossible or restricted and the operation of many utilities now taken for granted, such as water and electricity supplies, would also be adversely affected. 4

The challenges to draining the Fens around us can be divided into three main categories as detailed on page 7. (See map below to aid interpretation):-



Diesel - Calor



1. Upland water from the river Great Ouse (which would only affect us if the banks burst or were overtopped). The 143 mile long Great Ouse catchment covers a large area from Hunstanton in the north to Attleborough and Bury St Edmunds in the east, Saffron Walden and Letchworth in the south and Brackley and Towcester in the west (and this is just one of the four rivers draining into the Wash, the others being the Nene, Witham and Welland). 2. Upland water from the rivers Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey. (Which would not directly affect the Middle Level but adjacent areas) 3. Rain falling on the Fens themselves Each of these challenges is dealt with by various components of our complex drainage system. Waters from the Great Ouse alone would at times be sufficient to flood the Middle and South Levels (the South Level starts with the South Level Barrier Bank which is the last big bank at Welney and stretches across to the high ground of the Isle of Ely) when tides in the Wash prevent natural discharge or flow would overcome the capacity of the river. To remedy this, the Ouse (or Hundred Foot) Washes were constructed over 350 years ago. When water levels in the Bedford Ouse reach a certain height (or drawmark), sluices at Earith open automatically to divert the water on to the 5000 acres of washland, which is 20 miles long from Earith to Salters Lode and on average half a mile wide. Water is held here until conditions allow discharge by gravity back into the Great Ouse at Welmore Lake Sluice. Thus the deliberate flooding of a confined area prevents wholesale flooding throughout the river basin; it also alleviates undue pressure on river banks which could otherwise burst. The washes are not a feature designed to attract wintering wildfowl: they are a fully functioning catchwater reservoir vital to the flood protection of a very wide area. The fact that they attract wildlife is merely an added bonus. The Great Ouse Cut Off Channel, although part of Cornelius Vermuyden’s plans in 1630, was not completed until 1964 when added pressure following the disastrous 1947 floods finally convinced the Government that funding must be found. The Cut Off Channel diverts the headwaters of the rivers Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey to an outfall at Denver, which feeds into the Relief Channel and eventually back into the tidal Ouse via the Tail Sluice at Saddlebow. The Relief Channel has a secondary function as a catchwater drain: levels can build up until gravity discharge into the tideway is possible. Local rainfall is gathered by a myriad of dykes and drains which all feed into the Middle Level Main Drain. From here, water is discharged into the Great Ouse at Wiggenhall St Germans by the second biggest pumping station in Europe, opened in 2010. Although it can pump greater volumes at low tide, pumping against all states of the tide is possible. These three components have been described separately for simplicity, but in reality they all form part of a highly sophisticated system which is adjacent to and partly controlled by the Denver Complex of sluices and waterways (see plan). This has been but a brief and simplified description of part of the Fen Drainage Scheme. There is much information on the Middle Level website and an extensive collection of books in local libraries. 7

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WELCOME Over the summer the Branch has received a welcome influx of new members and we offer a warm welcome to all of the following:Karen Christmas, Spalding M Douglas & Family, Deeping St James Mr & Mrs R Green, Bourne Alvin C Rowton, Peterborough J Yarworth-Danells, Stamford David R Logan, Chickerell Debbie Blyth, Kings Cliffe Chris & Michelle Cooper, Spalding Caroline Hansford, Earith

Brian & Ann Stephenson, Chatteris Richard Courts & Angela Allen, March Sally Pepper, Bourne Paula Syred, March John Essam, Huntingdon Robert & Teresa Humphrey, Thorney Nicola Rule-Jackson, Ramsey St Marys Valerie Jackson, Ramsey St Marys Mr & Mrs Leonard Lee, Oundle

BRANCH NEWS Welches Dam Update In the last issue of Hereward we reported that a series of aerial photographs had been taken with a view to identifying the locations of the leaks in the Forty Foot River. The interpretation of these photographs has proved inconclusive as the dry weather over the late summer period meant that no distinct crop patterns that may have indicated areas where leakage from the channel is occurring were discernible. The plan now is to repeat the aerial photography in the early spring when the winter rains will hopefully allow areas of leakage to be more clearly discernible. In the meantime the branch committee has recognised that a greater chance of success on the restoration of the Welches Dam - Horseway route to through navigation lies with making the initiative as broad based as possible and that all interests should be included, not just those of boaters. To this end it has been decided that Roger Sexton and Andrew Storrar will head up a Working Group which will report to the Peterborough IWA branch committee but will include members from East Anglian Waterways Association with invitations being offered to any other interested parties to join the Group. The decision has also been made to give the initiative a positive and readily recognisable brand name with the title ‘PROJECT HEREWARD’ being adopted. A meeting took place on 11 November in March to launch the branding, agree Terms of Reference and promote the expansion of the initiative to other interested parties. More details will be reported in the next issue of Hereward. Branch AGM—Advance Notice Advance notice is given of the date of the 2015 Branch AGM. This will be held on Tuesday 3 March at the Peterborough Indoor Bowls Club, Burton Street, Peterborough commencing at 7.30pm. Please make a date for your diary. Formal notice, including details of those committee members seeking re-election, will be included in the next edition of Hereward. 11

Email: 12

Brian W. Smith Marine Surveyor Pre-Purchase Surveys Valuations—Insurance Surveys CE Compliance for Home Builds Contact Brian on: Tel: 01354 680341 Mobile: 07887 781649 E-mail:

Boat Safety Examinations Engine Evaluation & Condition Ultra-sound Osmosis Assessment Gas System Surveys

Member of the Association of Boat Safety Examiners - Gas Safe Reg. YDSA

MIDDLE LEVEL USERS GROUP Outcomes from a recent MLUG meeting were news that major bank works are planned in Whittlesey and that dredging of Well Creek will begin over the coming winter. Extensive works are planned to Marmont Priory Lock and in Ramsey, works associated with the construction of a new bridge giving access to the Tesco supermarket will result in the provision of moorings which will be a welcome facility in the this location. NEW MARINA FOR THE NENE Planning permission has been granted for a new 141 berth marina on the River Nene adjacent to White Mills Lock near Earls Barton. The marina will accommodate a mix of full-length narrowboats and river cruisers and is a privately promoted project. Construction is expected to begin next year. NORTHAMPTON FESTIVAL OF WATER This admission-free event will take place from Saturday 29th August to Monday 31st August 2015, and will be centred around the waterfront at Becket’s Park. It is expected to attract over 200 boats. A wide range of water based activities have been planned as well as high quality entertainment and stalls with plenty to keep everyone amused. The main aim of the event will be to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the opening of the Northampton Arm in 1815, which connects the river Nene and Northampton to the main canal network. More details and updates are available on the main IWA website. 13



he end of another year is fast approaching. Reflecting back through the year what have we achieved? The fight to reopen Welches Dam and keep Horseways navigable is ongoing. We have a resourceful committee with the enthusiasm and technical ability to progress this project. To give the project a wider audience and a greater chance of securing potential funding we have undertaken to go into partnership with the East Anglian Waterways Association (EAWA) who are fully supportive of our aims. At our recent inaugural meeting the leader of the local council attended and offered the support of the Local Authority. A website has been formed and is in the process of being set up. By the time you read this the site should hopefully be live at . Project Hereward has also been offered a place on the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership so already considerable momentum is being gained with the campaign. The Middle Level Commissioners will be undertaking winter maintenance at Marmont Priory and Salters Lode locks. Dredging will commence on Well Creek starting at Marmont Priory and will be spread over a number of years. The state of the cutting in Outwell still brings cause for concern, both the Local Authority and the Middle Level Commissioners are unable to come to agreement over the best cause of action. The worst case scenario is a collapse of the cutting closing both the road and navigation. It is to be hoped some action will be taken before this is allowed to happen. There were two very well attended informative visits arranged by the Branch during the year. To St Germans Pumping Station in April and to the Denver complex in November. Following the success of these visits, the committee plan to arrange more outings next year. If any members have any ideas or suggestions for places to visit please let us know. Looking forward, IWA is starting a register of structures the EA are failing to maintain to satisfactory levels. I hope there is enough disc space on the computer hard drive! Next August Bank Holiday sees the Festival of Water being held at Becketts Park, Northampton. The EA and CRT are offering “two for one” licences to boats booking in for the festival which should bring a considerable increase to boat traffic on the Nene next year. To download a booking form go the IWA web page. To improve the moorings and other facilities on the River Nene “The Friends of the River Nene” group have been formed. A Google search will bring up their details. How this new organisation will co-exist with ourselves and other bodies on the Nene remains to be seen but on the surface of it, more support for the river seems to be a welcome step. Finally on behalf of myself and the committee, we wish all our members a very happy Christmas and hope that 2015 will be a good year for all or us. David Venn 14


COMMITTEE MEMBERS CHAIRMAN: David Venn, Bruffs Lodge, High Street, Nordelph, Downham Market PE38 0BL Tel: 01366 324102

SECRETARY: Roger Green, 70 Windmill Close, Ellington, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 0AJ Tel: 01480 890215 Mobile: 07799 066001 e-mail:

TREASURER: Roger Mungham Boatmans Cottage, Workhouse Lane, Upwell, Wisbech PE14 9ET Tel: 01945 773002 e-mail:

EDITOR: Philip Halstead, 20 Cane Avenue, Peterborough PE2 9QT Tel: 01733 348500 e-mail:

ENTERTAINMENTS OFFICER: Richard Fairman, The Old Railway House, Cowbit, Spalding, Lincs PE12 0XD Tel: 01406 380575 Roger Sexton, 2 Shaw Drive, March, Cambridgeshire PE15 9TB Tel: 01354 652329 Andrew Storrar, 48 Station Road, Morton, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 0NN Tel: 01778 570610 e-mail: Stephen Heywood, Whitehouse Farm, Nordelph, Downham Market PE38 0BG Tel: 01366 324470




n 13th November a group of members from the Peterborough and Great Ouse Branches visited the Denver Complex on the Great Ouse near Downham Market. The visit began with a very informative presentation by Dan, the operator in charge, followed by a guided tour of the various facets of this extensive site. It was apparent from the presentation that the title of ‘complex’ is very appropriate as the flood management and water transfer functions carried out at Denver involve five major sluices to control the transfer and flow rates in the various rivers and channels that drain The Fens. In addition to controlling and managing this flow of drainage water out to The Wash, the system also has to provide for transferring water to Essex to supplement drinking water requirements for the towns of Colchester and Chelmsford. This transfer is done as far as possible by using the rivers and channels with gravity flow in order to save pumping costs. However pumping is required on part of the route where pipes of up to 100” dia are needed to move the large flows required. Dan described to us the constant problem of siltation in the tidal channel below the main Denver Sluice. The extent of this varies over time dependant on climatic conditions over each year and whether rainfall patterns provide enough river flow to scour the silt downstream. Dan’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the complexities of this vital installation were very apparent and all those present were very appreciative of his contribution to a very informative and enjoyable visit. David Venn offered a vote of thanks to Dan which was supported by acclamation. For a more comprehensive description of the intricacies of the drainage of our Fenland area your editor bows to the far greater knowledge of Steven Calton who has kindly provided the article on page 4 of this issue which topically includes a section on Denver.

Members of the two Branches who attended the joint visit to Denver in November


Denver Branch Visit November 2014

Map courtesy of SA Calton

Diversion Sluice

The Eyes & Main Sluice

Relief Channel Lock

Relief Channel & Lock Mooring

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Hereward Autumn 2014  

The Magazine of the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association

Hereward Autumn 2014  

The Magazine of the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association