HEREWARD WINTER 2015/6 Latest Old Bedford Attempt More on the Rochdale First Work Party at Horseways
Entering the Old Bedford on the November Attempt Mike Daines
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John Revell steers his boat Olive Emily through the lock into the Old Bedford River at the latest attempt made in November. David Venn is at the bow looking on in anticipation of how successful this attempt will be. A full report is included in this issue.
Photo: Mike Daines
THE OLD BEDFORD RIVER AGAIN Report on the latest attempt—by John Revell
n September 2015 Lois and Roy Parker entered the Old Bedford River in their cruiser Marie II via the tidal doors at Salters Lode. They cruised for about a mile before being stopped by a combination of floating reeds and impenetrable cott weed. On that occasion I was unable to get my narrowboat into the Old Bedford “on the level” so another attempt was made in November with David Venn as the “volunteer” crew. We made good progress from the normal lock at Salters Lode into the narrow, shallow and muddy tidal stretch which leads to the tidal doors of the Old Bedford sluice. The Middle Level lock keeper (who operates the sluice on the Environment Agency’s behalf) was there to open the tidal doors which worked well so that once the guillotine gate was open I could enter the Old Bedford “on the level” quite easily. This was apparently the first narrowboat to get into the Old Bedford in 2015. There was enough depth to collect more crew (Jeff Walters and Mike Daines) and we set off hoping to reach the Lamb and Flag at Welney. The next part of the trip was relatively straightforward with about 4 feet depth in the centre of the river. However, after about a mile the river became shallower, the propeller began to collect cott weed and the boat came to a complete standstill. We were able to move forwards a short way clearing the propeller as best we could but it was obvious we would not get much further. We turned round using poles and slowly made our way back to the Old Bedford sluice. By then the tidal river was too high to leave “on the level” so the crew left by car to look at Welches Dam lock (or more likely the Lamb and Flag) while I removed the cott weed from the prop. This short trip showed that it was still possible to get into the Old Bedford in a narrowboat but that it will remain difficult to reach Welney or Welches Dam lock until the Environment Agency takes action to make this river fully navigable again. It is not rocket science. They could increase the depth of water in the river and they could dredge the river and they could remove the cott weed. The Environment Agency may plead poverty but how is it that the Middle Level Commissioners manage their waterways without any income whatsoever from boat licences and boaters? 1
Left: The misty tranquillity of the Old Bedford on a November day. John takes a check on the depth of water in the channel. Below: The narrow and muddy approach to the gates can be seen in this view from the bow of Olive Emily.
The amount of cott weed in the channel is clearly shown in the debris removed from the prop. 2
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he start of a new year and for the Branch, full of optimism and hope. We wonder about Welches Dam and what the future holds. The EA as ever appear incapable of consultation between the various departments, but hopefully will have reached a decision on our application to inspect the lock before the next edition of Hereward. Compare the response from the Middle Level Commissioners, who have dredged the south bank of Horseways channel and are allowing the Branch to hold work parties on the north bank. Details of our Easter cruise appear below, please do try to come along. This years AGM will take a different format, with a presentation of the work in progress and our future aspirations for Welches Dam Lock and the reinstatement of the navigation channel. There will be plenty of opportunity for audience participation. There are still vacancies on the committee, please give consideration to joining us at the AGM. The formal notification and details are on page 9. EASTER CRUISE 2016
he annual Easter Cruise this year will be to highlight the contribution of the volunteer work parties at the Horseways channel and to hopefully test the new moorings at Ramsey Basin. We will meet up on Good Friday (25th March) at Three Holes around 2pm. From here we will cruise to our overnight mooring at the Golden Lion, Stonea. Saturday we will make our way to Horseways Lock. This will entail pairing up stern to stern before entering the channel. From here we continue to The George at Ramsey Forty Foot, our stopping point for the day. On Sunday we cruise to Ramsey basin where we “wind” and hopefully we will be able to tie up on the new moorings for lunch. Our final mooring is at Benwick where the Middle Level Watermans club are hosting a social event at the 5 Alls to which we are invited.
Monday we disperse to our home moorings. If you are planning to attend please let me know. If you wish to book a meal at the Golden Lion or George contact details are Golden Lion: - 01354 680 732 www.stoneagoldenlion.com George 01487 812 775 David Venn 4
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THE GREAT CLEAN UP IWA volunteers set a precedent Words and pictures by Mike Daines What better way to work off the festive A chain saw would come in handy! season excess than to volunteer for some brisk Making a start clearing the Forty Foot physical work clearing away dense brush and north bank tree growth from a river bank! That’s just what a group of stalwart members of the Peterborough branch set out to do during the first week in January along the banks of the Forty Foot river from the ‘B1098’ bridge near Chatteris leading up to the Horseways Lock. Amply supplied with safety equipment and hand tools from IWA funds the team made an impressive start clearing around 35 metres in a five hour session. “Today is our first ever volunteer work party formed after a unique agreement between the Middle Level Commissioners, (MLC) and our branch of the IWA”, explained David Venn, the Peterborough branch Chairman. He added: “We plan to continue with work parties every two weeks until around mid- April to avoid upsetting the bird nesting season and then start again in the autumn. “The plan is to eventually clear from Horseways Lock back to the road bridge, a distance of about a kilometre. This section of the Forty Foot is currently underused for navigation and therefore somewhat neglected due to the Environment Agency, concerned about flood risk, suddenly closing the channel from Horseways Lock to Welches Dam with a cofferdam in 2006”. Another benefit stemming from the IWA/MLC co-operation is that for the first 180 metres from the road bridge the MLC is unable to gain access with their machinery and so the IWA volunteers will ‘hand drag line’ the river bed to clear any obstructions. Once this first stage of clearance by volunteers is accomplished the IWA hopes and anticipates a favourable response from the Environment Agency to eventually allow the main thrust of the ‘Project Hereward - Welches Dam to Horseways’ campaign to begin in earnest. This would again reinstate a through navigation to the Old Bedford River via the Forty Foot opening a second much needed link through the Middle Levels. Refreshments throughout the day were expertly prepared by Roger Mungham and eagerly consumed by a thirsty work party. 6
Above: The IWA Peterborough Branch, â€˜Project Hereward - Welches Dam to Horseways', first volunteer work party L/R; Roger Mungham, Ray Cross, Andrew Storrar, Roger Green, Roger Ilett, David Venn, John Revell and Stephen Heywood. Below: Hard at work and plenty to do! Making a start! Clearing the Forty Foot north bank leading up to Horseways Lock.
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WORK PARTIES â€” FUTURE DATES
s part of our efforts to reinstate Welches Dam Lock the branch have been granted permission by the Middle Level commissioners to clear the North Bank of Horseways channel. As reported on page 6 of this issue the first very successful work party took place 6th January with 11 members participating. Future work parties will take place on a forthrightly basis. We hope to go through to the end of February to coincide with the arrival of the bird-nesting season. Work parties will re-commence again in October, details of which will appear in the next edition of Hereward. Work party dates for the immediate future are: - January 20th, February 3rd and 17th .
If you are able to attend on any of these dates please let me know. Tea and coffee will be available on the day; you are advised to bring a packed lunch as there are no facilities for obtaining food. It is recommended you wear old clothes and sturdy footwear. A selection of tools will be made available but if you wish to work with your own tools that is not a problem. Please note that our agreement with the MLC stipulates we use hand tools only on this site. David Venn 9
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COMMITTEE MEMBERS CHAIRMAN: David Venn, Bruffs Lodge, High Street, Nordelph, Downham Market PE38 0BL Tel: 01366 324102 e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org SECRETARY: Roger Green, 70 Windmill Close, Ellington, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 0AJ Tel: 01480 890215 Mobile: 07799 066001 e-mail: email@example.com TREASURER: Roger Mungham Boatmans Cottage, Workhouse Lane, Upwell, Wisbech PE14 9ET Tel: 01945 773002 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR: Philip Halstead, 20 Cane Avenue, Peterborough PE2 9QT Tel: 01733 348500 e-mail: email@example.com ENTERTAINMENTS OFFICER: Richard Fairman, The Old Railway House, Cowbit, Spalding, Lincs PE12 0XD Tel: 01406 380575 COMMITTEE MEMBERS Roger Sexton Stephen Heywood
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A PASSAGE OF THE ROCHDALE CANAL Di Jones describes her May 2015 voyage
e set out in our narrow boat Wandering Whimbrel in early May last year and reached Nottingham via Leicester and the River Soar. The big River Trent was tackled in stages. The tidal section from Cromwell Lock was halved by the stop over outside Torksey Lock on the convenient floating pontoons. We then continued onward to Keadby having phoned the lock keeper as instructed so he could have the gates open for us on our arrival. We made a very enjoyable visit to the Yorkshire Ouse and York before heading for the Rochdale Canal. From Castleford we set off up the River Calder and Calder & Hebble Navigation through Wakefield to Cooper Bridge and Brighouse. We climbed the attractive Salterhebble Locks by the old junction with the former branch up to Halifax. Then on to Sowerby Bridge and the junction with the Rochdale Canal. Sowerby Bridge is a very attractive Pennine town and the deep Tuel Lane lock is now the only part of the canal that needs to be booked with the lock keeper. The ex-warehouses have been restored and converted into apartments and retail outlets. Once clear of the deep lock we moved on into the fantastic Pennine country. Hebden Bridge and Todmorden are great little towns with great character and the bus ride up to Heptonstall a very worthwhile adventure from Hebden Bridge. The locks are very close together but can be worked in groups for those with limited energy and plenty of time. Unfortunately the weather was cool and the Calder Valley is like a wind tunnel even though it was mid-summer. There is so little boat traffic that we only shared seven locks with another boat on this stretch. Once up to the summit in the remote countryside you seem miles from anywhere and there is a good mooring just one lock down on the west side at the restored Chelburn Wharf. Down through Littleborough with nine locks in a mile then the less locked section through more urban surroundings into Rochdale. Rochdale was very scruffy but the various ways they overcame the road crossings when this section was restored in 2002 was fascinating. One bridge was only one narrowboat wide as there was a floating towpath. Wide boats have to book and have the path towed out to let them pass. The Slattocks locks followed and on down to the River Irk aqueduct was fine. We moored there to wait for another boat to travel down to Manchester and share the locks. We waited from Friday lunchtime until Monday tea time and no boats came. We had asked CRT for assistance but no help was available. On Monday evening my brother joined us and we boated down to Lock 65 at Failsworth. Going under Grimshaw Lane vertical lift bridge it looked like a flying bedstead . The next day required an early start and a good team for the heavily locked descent into Manchester. With Tony working one side and Reece and Di sharing locking and helming we got down the last twenty locks by 1pm. Quite good for three octogenarians! We avoided the infamous Rochdale Nine but those who came up that way implied it lived up to its reputation. A fascinating canal with much beautiful countryside but WHY???? so few boats? 15
Di found the climb to the summit through Todmorden hard work but the views do compensate. The iconic Gauxholme railway bridge (left) is one of the features on this heavily locked section. The Pennine hills can be seen in the background. After going over the summit the canal drops through more locks into Littleborough. For many years after the Yorkshire side was restored this was the ‘head of navigation’. The road seen in
the view (middle left) had been lowered and required major construction work to provide a navigable passage. This was the location of the opening ceremony performed by Fred Dibnah on a wet day in July 2002.
Di thought Rochdale was ‘scruffy’ but there are sections of green. Here (right) the canal had been obstructed by a factory and a new section of channel had to be constructed. This is just one of the many blockages which had to be removed on the section from Littleborough to Manchester.
Majestic Pennine scenery on the eastern side of the summit level close to the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire
Rochdale Canal Views
Above is a view of the narrow bridge Di refers to in her story. The reason is that this was a farm access road as shown on the right that was included when the M62 was built across the line of the canal in the 1970â€™s. The motorway severed the original line of the canal virtually on the level. This was always one of the major obstacles to through restoration of the canal and the solution eventually found was to divert the canal to pass through the bridge on the line shown in blue on the inset above. Because the existing bridge could not be disturbed in any way due to the volume of traffic on the motorway above the level of the canal had to be raised to create adequate navigable depth. The was done by moving a lock from upstream to downstream of the bridge. The farmer was provided with alternative access but the arrangement was not without some acrimony which resulted in a series of legal actions which at one stage placed the whole restoration project at risk.
The magazine of the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association