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HEREWARD SUMMER 2016 The Chesh ire Ring River Stort Royal Military Canal

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

Images of The Cheshire Ring Marple railway viaduct from the Lower Peak Forest Canal aqueduct

Anderton Boat Lift

Portland Basin, Dukinfield. Junction of the Lower Peak Forest and Ashton Canals

Piccadilly Village in Manchester Photos: Roger Green

A cruise round the Cheshire ring Described in words and pictures by Roger Green


ur narrowboat “Chatsworth” is currently moored at Heritage marina, on the Macclesfield Canal. For our early spring outing we had planned to go north and tackle the South Pennine Ring, however the Boxing Day floods wreaked havoc on the Rochdale canal causing damage that is still being repaired. We decided that the Cheshire ring was the next best option. Heading north up the Macclesfield Canal it traverses and cuts though fresh and green Cheshire countryside and throws in an abundance of architectural features as added value! The stone turnover bridges, numerous aqueducts and imposing mills (Hovis at Macclesfield, Clarence at Bollington and Goyt at Marple) add to the joy of the Macc. Even the 12 Bosley Locks are a pleasure to ascend as they appear so remote and are just another splendid piece of canal engineering, alas the side ponds are now only used to store excess water from some of the by-washes. Joining the Peak Forest Canal at Marple Junction provides two options. We have turned right and been along to Bugsworth Basin and Whaley Bridge a number of times and marvelled at the transhipment routes, loading basins and lime furnaces at the heritage site. So on a bright Sunday morning in early March we headed west to be faced immediately with the descent of the 16 Marple locks. The towpath was thronged with walkers, runners and cyclists out enjoying a first glimpse of spring sunshine. Families with young children loitered to let them watch how the water levels changed as we negotiated the locks and faces beamed when we asked them to help open and shut the gates! Marple aqueduct and railway viaduct appear around the corner – both great sturdy stone built structures designed by Benjamin Outram in 1800. I think the aqueduct is the tallest stone built structure on our canal system as it carries the Peak Forest Canal 100ft over the River Goyt. About 3 hours, Hyde Bank tunnel, Trianon Mill and Glove factory at Woodley, Throstle Bank Mill at Hyde and we arrive at Dukinfield Junction where the Huddersfield Canal heads off east towards the Pennines and the Ashton Canal heads west towards Manchester. We moored for the night near the junction at Portland Basin. The warehouse and basin are now thriving and colourful with a museum, café and a wide selection of boats old and new. Only 40 years ago this area was derelict, decaying and in danger of being bulldozed into oblivion. Marple aqueduct was threatened with a demolition order and Dukinfield Junction was a forlorn sight. Over a period of years and several campaigns IWA members fought hard to ensure that the Peak Forest and Ashton canals would remain part of a key link in the network. In 1968 the restoration focus came to a head with “Ashton Operation” followed shortly by “Ashtack” that managed to clear a navigable channel and receive national media coverage. This put the necessary pressure on British Waterways and the local authorities to invest in the full restoration of the Peak Forest and Ashton canals, eventually reopened fully in 1974. Continuing westward down the 18 Ashton locks was slow! Many of the locks were a haven for floating rubbish, probably from the neighbouring industrial and residential development sites. We got firmly wedged in lock 14 by a large slab of foam insulation board, it looked quite harmless and we assumed that it would break up when crushed against the lock wall. It didn’t, after a thorough beating and prodding with the pole it eventually submitted and we were on our way. Not for long though “Chatsworth” soon ground to halt with something pretty significant around the propeller. After 10 minutes fiddling with the “prop-mate” down the weed hatch I began to extract a 2 man tent complete with sewn in groundsheet and fluorescent guy lines! 1

The Etihad Stadium and the National Cycling centre are beacons of regeneration that follow the rest of the canal towards the city. We eventually arrived at the site of Ducie Wharf, now a high rise housing development and moored nearby at Piccadilly Junction. Next morning, we turned west to head down the infamous Rochdale Nine. We had heard tales of the dangers and risks of this area and remember that it was not many years ago when an escort from BW had to be engaged before tackling the locks. We were not put off but rather enjoyed the experience of travelling into the heart of the city often beneath towering buildings occasionally passing the time of day with some rather unkempt individuals cooking breakfast on a piece of tin foil, they were friendly in their own way and did not cause any problems. The other problem with the Rochdale Nine is that the locks do not have a by-wash. By the time we got to the bottom lock water was cascading over the bottom gates in such a torrent that we had to work hard lowing the excess water level to enable us to open the top gates before we could enter. Castlefield Junction soon appears after the last lock, a site of redevelopment sympathetic to the canal with restored warehouses, good moorings and easy access to the city. We leave the Rochdale canal at this point and continue our journey along the Bridgewater Canal. Reputed to be the first canal built, to service the Duke of Bridgewater’s coal mines, we were surprised to find it so wide and deep. Development over the years meant that the original had to upgraded to cope with commercial traffic in the area. The Bridgewater follows the Manchester Ship Canal for a mile until it parts company while passing the Old Trafford stadium and major railway container terminal.

Castlefield Basin in Manchester City Centre Brisk progress took us to Sale for an overnight stop. As we motored on the next morning open country side began to replace the suburbs of Manchester. Dunham Massey and Bollin Aqueduct provide interest and a distraction form the endless line of moored boats and boat clubs! Lymm is well worth a visit, an attractive market town still retaining some traditional local shops and eating places. We soon reached Preston Brook and the end of our journey on the Bridgewater Canal. 2

Brian W. Smith Marine Surveyor Pre-Purchase Surveys Valuat ions—Insurance Survey s CE Co mplia nce for Home Build s Engine Evaluat ion & Condit ion

Ultra-sound Osmosis Assessment


Contact Brian on: Tel: 01366 388421 Mobile: 07887 781649 E-mail:

Preston Brook Tunnel 1239yds marks the norther extremity of the Trent and Mersey Canal with timed entry for ten minutes on the half hour and a similar procedure further on at Saltersford Tunnel. From here the canal runs parallel to the River Weaver for several miles before forming a link between the two at Anderton and the mighty lift. A splendid sight with a good café, visitor centre and interpretive displays around the site. On our visit moorings were restricted and the site was laced with power cables and a film crew setting up to film part of a crime drama that evening. Middlewich soon approaches, an interesting town with strong links to the canal and junction with Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union. We had “Chatsworth’s” shell built by Middlewich Narrow Boats so the location has many memories of visits to watch progress and logistical conundrums around launching and where our car needed to be and what jobs must be done before we cruise the shell down to the River Nene for us to fit out at Oundle. Middlewich also has the best fish and chip shop just across the road from Kings Lock! We were about to approach the last section of our journey home to Heritage marina. It is only just over 12 miles from Middlewich to Hardings Wood junction but the 30 locks certainly live up to the reputation of this section being called “heartbreak hill” by the old boatmen. It is not that bad as many of the narrow locks are duplicated so waiting times are reduced as long as the locks are used as designed! Our last night was spent at the visitor moorings at the Red Bull CRT maintenance yard with a final meal at the “Red Bull” to celebrate and reflect on what had been a very interesting and, at times, challenging cruise. Next morning, we negotiated the switchback junction at Hardings Wood and orange water before heading north up the Macc, for an hour, back to our mooring.

‘Chatsworth’ in the infamous lock on the Rochdale Nine located below a high rise office block close to Manchester Piccadilly railway station 4



Diesel - Calor



Carbon monoxide Dangers on boats Warnings issued after deaths on Norfolk Broads

Following the recent deaths of two people and a dog on a motor cruiser on Wroxham Broad the Boat Safety Scheme is issuin g a further warning of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning on boats. The gas has been branded as the ‘silent killer’ as it is odourless and colourless and by the time the human senses become aware it can be too late. Drowsiness, dizziness and feelings of nausea are all symptoms of early stages of poisoning. A list of safety tips issued by the BSS is shown on the right and all boaters are recommended to take note.

Diary Date for December


Ivan Cane has kindly offered to present a talk to the Branch on Tuesday 6th December at the Peterborough Indoor Bowls Club, Burton Street, Peterborough at 7.30pm. Basically looking at Staunches/stanches, flash locks and early pound locks. By its nature the talk focuses on our Fenland waters, for the Little Ouse structures were fairly photographic, and the Lark, although with few actual pictures, was extensively rebuilt in the early 20th century, often with more primit ive plank staunches! Ivan has a wealth of knowledge on this subject and it should make for an interesting evening. Reminders will be issued nearer the time but members interested may like to make an early diary entry. 6

BISHOPS STORTFORD & THE RIVER STORT In the last issue of Hereward we looked at the lower R iver Lea at the point where it jo ins the Thames at Leamouth. In the Autumn 2015 issue we looked at the Lee & Stort Navigation including the upper end of the Lea at Hertford. Here to complete the picture we now look at the head of navigation of the Lea’s main tributary the River Stort at Bishops Stortford. The River Stort rises at Langley in the north west corner of Essex. From Langley, the Stort flows in a generally southerly direction through the villages of Clavering and Manuden and the market town of Bishop's Stortford. It then flows past Sawbridgeworth, before it changes direction and flows west past Harlow and Roydon. It finally empties into the Lea at Feildes Weir, Hoddesdon. This 14-mile section was canalised in the 18th century as the Stort Navigation. The head of navigation is the A1250 road bridge in the centre of the town (left). The last winding hole is just before the bridge where a short arm branches from the main channel to provide adequate winding space (below).

An iconic modern footbridge has been constructed on the last section of the navigation to provide access from the railway station to the town centre. The station is on the Cambridge/Stanstead Airport line to London which follows the line of the navigation for most of its way and with lots of intermediate stations served by frequent trains this provides plenty of opportunity for one way walks along the towpath.


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LOCAL NEWS ITEMS RIVER NENE: Work started towards the end of last year on a new pedestrian and cycle brid ge linkin g the town centre with Northampton University’s evolv ing Waterside Campus. The Environment Agency specified the new bridge had to have a minimum 3m clearance on both sections of the river it crosses. The path will be cantilevered off the Lock Island and pass over the water between the island and the marina just below the top lock. The Environment Agency have made a surprise announcement that effective from 3 June it is to stop the practice of reversing locks on the Nene, a practice previously used to regulate flood water discharging along the river. The decision seems to have been made without any consultation with river users and EAWA has joined with the Association of Nene River Clubs in expressin g concerns about this situation which could lead to hazards for navigation. OUSE LOCKS: Ten locks were due to be inspected by the EA in February and March and have work carried out. Most were involved in what was described as high level gate access improvements. Bottisham, Brownshill, Cardington, Godmanchester, Hemingford, Houghton, Isleham, St. Ives and St Neots were programmed but Denver was to have the gate chains replaced and the chamber of Cardington was to be drained down for an inspection to take place. St Neots, in particular, continued to give major problems with an emergency closure required in March. RIVER WELLAN D: At Spalding the Environment Agency has instituted de-silt ing work at Fulney Lock, which has been out of use for several years. To prevent the silt building up again volunteers have been asked to flush the lock on a regular basis. A campaign cruise was due to be held over the weekend of 20-22 May. DE-SILTING THE OLD BEDFORD: In February excavators were seen workin g on the Old Bedford River to remove accumulated silts and sediments upstream of the entrance sluice. They had already covered some 800 metres of this land drainage project and the work was expected to finish by the middle of March, by when it was hoped around two miles of river would have been dealt with. Meanwhile some 20 yards of steel sheet piling has been installed in the crest of the embankment near Lakes Farm Pumping Station to repair a leak in the bank. This de-siltin g is a positive step forward and may help towards enabling boats to reach Welches Dam Lock again. ENVIRONMENT AGENCY TRANSFER: There has been welcome news that a joint working party has been set up between the Canal & River Trust (CRT) and the Environment Agency (EA) to explore the different options for the running of river navigations. This could possib ly be the first step in transferring the navigational responsibilities for the EA’s waterways to CRT. Such a transfer seems to have general support although there seems to resistance from some boaters on the River Thames. In practice the two authorities already work well together in controlling the CRT’s river navigations such as the Severn, the Trent, the Yorkshire Ouse and the Soar with the EA dealing with such crucial issues as flooding and the control of pollution and CRT managing navigation.






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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 COMMITTEE MEMBERS Roger Sexton Stephen Heywood

Andrew Storrar Chris Howes


Work Party Dates

Provisional dates have been proposed for holding Work Parties at Horseways Channel in the later part of this year and the early part of 2017. These still need to be finally agreed with the Middle Level Commissioners but if you wish to be involved please make a note in your diary. Confirmation will be given of the finalised arrangements in the next issue of Hereward and also announced on the Branch website. 2017 2016 January 11th 25th October 5th 19th February 1st 15th November 14th 16th 30th March 1st 15th 29th


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The royal military canal


his canal located in the marshes of Kent is unusual in that it was never intended for navigation or the carrying of goods. Its construction was purely for military purposes as a means of defence of the flat coastal region on the Channel coast. In the aftermath of the French Revolution Napoleon saw England as the key to conquering Europe and England faced the threat of invasion. With Napoleon massing an army of some 130,000 troops and 2,000 boats on the French coast near Boulogne, thoughts turned to how to defend the Romney Marsh - a low-lying stretch of coast which was expected to be the landing point for any French invasion. The canal was the idea of Lt-Col John Brown, Commandant of the Royal Staff Corps. He suggested that a canal be built from Seabrook, near Folkestone around the back of the Romney Marsh to the River Rother near Rye, a distance of 19 miles. The canal system would have sources of water from the sea and the River Rother. It would be 19 metres wide at the surface, 13.5 metres wide at the bottom and 3 metres deep. The excavated soil would be piled on to the northern bank to make a parapet, behind which troops could be positioned and moved out of sight of the enemy. The canal would also have ‘kinks’ to allow enfilading fire along the length of the canal, if the enemy attempted to cross it. The Duke of York and the prime minister, William Pitt, met on September 26 1804 to discuss the project: they were enthusiastic and preliminary plans were quickly made. The renowned engineer John Rennie, whose previous projects included the construction of London and Waterloo Bridges, was appointed as consultant engineer and it was proposed that the canal be extended from the River Rother to Cliff End, East Sussex incorporating the River Brede in the process. The total length of the canal would be 28 miles, of which 22.5 miles had to be dug. It was estimated that it would be completed by June 1805 and cost £200,000.

On October 30 1804 the first sod of the Royal Military Canal was dug at Seabrook. Harsh winter weather and severe flooding, as well as difficulty in attracting labourers meant that the original completion date appeared wildly optimistic. Frustrated by the lack of progress, Rennie blamed the incompetence and greed of the contractors, accusing them of overcharging and poor supervision. By May 1805 the canal project was close to disaster: only six miles had been completed and work had stopped. William Pitt intervened: the contractors and Rennie were dismissed. The project was put in the hands of the Quartermaster-General’s department with Lt-Col. Brown in command. Navvies dug the canal, while the military built the ramparts and turfed the banks. Flooding continued to be a barrier to progress and hand pumps were used day and night to keep the trench from filling with water. Eventually powerful steam-driven pumps were used to clear the water. At its peak there were 1,500 men working on the canal and by August 1806 the canal was open from Seabrook to the River Rother. However, concessions were made. The original dimensions of the canal were greatly reduced due to increasing problems encountered by the builders and pressures of time, so that for most of its length the canal is half its originally projected width. Iden Lock was completed in September 1808, which linked the canal to the River Rother and Rye Harbour, effectively turning the Romney Marsh into an island, but it wasn’t until April 1809 that the canal was actually completed. 15

By the time the Royal Military canal was fully ready for use, the threat of invasion had long since passed. Following the French defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 Napoleon withdrew his troops from the French coast and focused his intentions on central Europe. The fact that the canal was never used for its intended purpose, cost £234,310 (a huge amount in Georgian England) and was funded entirely by the state meant the voices of cynics and doubters could soon be heard from all sections of society. The Government desperately needed to find ways of recovering some of the money spent on the canal and in 1807 opened it to navigation and collected tolls for the transportation of produce and goods. In 1810 the canal was opened for public use and tolls were also collected for the use of the military road between Iden, Rye and Winchelsea. There was also a regular barge service running between Hythe and Rye, which took around four hours to complete. Despite efforts to utilise the canal, traffic was never heavy, and the opening of the Ashford to Hastings railway line in 1851 further decreased its use. The Government was struggling not only to recoup the money invested in the canal but to meet the ever spiralling costs of maintenance. Thus, during the 1860s the Government took steps to unburden itself from the canal. The stretch from Iden Lock to West Hythe was leased to the Lords of the Romney Marsh for 999 years at an annual rent of one shilling, while the town of Hythe purchased the remaining stretch, that ran through the town, for conversion to ornamental waters. The canal west of Rye was sold to four individual owners. By the late nineteenth century the canal trade had all but gone. The last ever toll was collected at Iden Lock on December 15 1909. Despite previous doubts surrounding the canal’s usefulness for defence in the nineteenth century, it was quickly requisitioned by the War Department in 1935 as war in Europe became increasingly likely. The banks were lined with pill-boxes as the nation awaited invasion, this time by Hitler, but once again there was no invasion. Although never being called upon to defend the nation, the canal has fulfilled one of its intended duties: the improvement of conditions on the Romney Marsh. The canal acts as a sink for the network of ditches that criss-cross the Marsh. During the summer, when rainfall is low and water is needed to irrigate the land, water is pumped from the canal into the drainage ditches. In winter, when there is a risk of flood, water can be taken from the ditches into the canal and the excess water let out of the canal at Iden Lock or the sluice at Seabrook. This vital function of the Royal Military Canal is managed by the EA. Today the tree lined banks of the Royal Military Canal are an excellent place for quiet enjoyment, whether walking, fishing or simply watching the world go by. This large stretch of fresh water provides a home for many forms of wildlife, and parts of the canal are designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with the remaining length designated as a Local Wildlife Site. The Royal Military Canal is also protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), ensuring its survival for future generations. Philip Halstead 16

The Royal Military Canal Today

The canal is most accessible today through the town of Hythe where it forms a pleasant green space close to the main street. A well surfaced footpath runs along the line of the canal making for a pleasant stroll. Hythe itself is well worth a visit with some charming shops and eating places. There is also a micro-pub and alongside the canal is the station for the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch miniature railway which offers a 15 mile ride across the marshes to Dungeness with views of the many drainage channels and cuts which cross the area.

Photos: Philip Halstead

Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Hereward summer 2016  

Hereward summer 2016