The Inland Waterways Protection Society Ltd 

Campaigning    Restoration    Preservation    Development 

Newsletter "174" May 2011

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An appeal for management volunteers - a question of succession An important judgement - BW v Paul Davies
Chairman's Report Waterways Festival 2011
Lapal Canal Walk and the case of the Nettled Knees The Reservoirs of the Peak Forest Canal - a Timeline
Peak Forest Canal - Water Supply Replacement of Toddbrook Reservoir draw-off valves
Historic photographs A portrait of James Brindley
A landslip at Bugsworth Manchester Halfpenny Token - 1793
IWPS Weekend away on the Lower Shannon Portland basin - Ashton under Lyne
Advert - old British Waterways Board Inland Cruising Booklets  


Fenders, ropes, boat cruises, day boat hire - Phone/Fax 01663 747808 
The IWPS is not responsible for the content of external websites


Need some expert advice? Contact: Paul Johnson
Tel: 01524 400677, Mobile: 07767 747868


North Cheshire Cruising Club’s Commodore, Steve Clifford, accompanied by Noel Christopher, Pam Fenton, Margaret Clifford and Brian Bowker, presenting a donation for £300 to IWPS Chairman, Ian Edgar MBE. The donation raised by NCCC, Stoke Boat Club and Tudor Boat Club during their Easter Cruise to Bugsworth will be used to finance the ongoing repair and maintenance of this popular venue enjoyed by many boaters.

Chairman's REPORT May 2011

By Ian Edgar MBE,  Chairman IWPS and Hon. Site Manager


One of my responsibilities as Chairman is to ensure the IWPS remains in such a secure position as to continue looking after Bugsworth Basin in perpetuity. I think it is very clear that if we did not do that then the maintenance of the Basin would fall behind merely because British Waterways would not have the funding to do the job as well as we do. This is a fact. With major works on the rest of the system being postponed due to the dire financial restraints placed on British Waterways it is just not realistic to believe that funding will be made available to replace our volunteer efforts. No BW ‘bashing’ will alter this fact.

All members will have received my separately mailed plea for new people to come forward and help the IWPS in the future and ensure our continued existence. Two responses were received but each acknowledged that their personal circumstances dictated they were not the ideal solution. I am very grateful to those who offered and I am considering how best to use their expertise. I have also had some letters and e-mails from members giving their support to the Society, but could offer no assistance. Nevertheless they were sympathetic to the problem which is by no means limited to the IWPS. Other organisations similar to the IWPS have identical problems which have to be solved if we are to continue well in to the future.

Please re-read my previous communication. Ask yourself could I do that job and would I enjoy it? Also, ask yourself, if it is not your forte, do you know somebody who would like to take on any of the four responsibilities? If you do know somebody then please have them get in touch with me. You will be doing me and the IWPS a great service.

Although the IWPS supports other restoration projects we are essentially Bugsworth Basin. You are a member because you see the IWPS as ‘Bugsworth Basin’. Most of you have been members for many years and some of you longer than I have been a member.

We cannot let ourselves go down the road to oblivion by dwelling on the successes and achievements of the past no matter how great they were. We have got to look to the future and drive that future.

I am NOT resigning or ‘packing it in’ and I have no intention of doing so but we MUST tackle the issue of succession. We cannot prevaricate because we are so successful and well thought of now. We have to address this problem and build on our present strengths.

I would welcome our Members feed-back on this issue. We are not alone in this. Other Societies have the same problems but other Societies will solve them. Let us be one of those societies.

Ian Edgar MBE (Chairman of the IWPS)

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Work has been very much curtailed due to the bad weather and the fact the water has been frozen over to a depth of 4 inches or so. However our hard working volunteers have now finished clearing and resurfacing the North Wharf of the Upper Basin with limestone chippings. This is now much improved ready for our first visitors of the season. We now have to tackle the drainage problems which cause lots of water flooding down on to the wharf after heavy rain. I plan to solve this problem with a drainage channel which will pick up the surface water and direct it down in to the Basin rather than deposit it on the wharf. We tried this before and it did not work (the channel got filled with deposited limestone dust) but I plan now to make a much better and larger job of it having learned from earlier experience!

Following my last report about the Lower Basin Arm another big top leak occurred at the head of the arm which also revealed a huge cavity extending under the wharf. Our volunteers plugged this leak at 11.30 on 13th February. By the time we left site at about 4.30 the water level had come up to normal which rather indicated a good job and no other contributory leak! Another week would tell and our plug held and on 20th February we put another tonne of good red clay followed by a good quantity of MOT crushed limestone to fill the void behind the clay bund. All that needs to be done now is to replace two very large sleeper blocks which had fallen in to the cavity. At the time of writing that repair is holding. However, we are not removing the planks here and opening the arm because we need those planks to control the water levels for a major repair to 125 metres of wharf retaining wall on to the Wide which may start in October (subject to funding) when the Basin will close. Our thanks to British Waterways for providing the clay so quickly so we could finish this job.

Unfortunately due to the poor and dangerous condition of the wharf wash wall and the closing of the Lower Basin Arm we shall lose about 250 metres of moorings for this coming season. That’s a pity but unavoidable if we are to carry out the major works in October. The whole 125m length of disintegrating wall is a risk which we cannot tolerate. This has been fenced off.

Major clean-ups ready for our visitor season are or will be in hand such as weed clearance, road and other surface repairs, cleaning our interpretation boards, upgrading several of our seats which were not done last year and painting the newly installed hand rails on Bridges 58 & 59.

I am also looking for a volunteer (or volunteers as it is nice to work together) who can carry out a re-paint of the Blackbrook House facility block. This entails painting the gutters, downspouts, exterior timber fittings like doors and shutters plus a limited amount of interior wood painting. If you would like to do this at your own convenience (not necessarily at week-ends as our Scheduled Programme) and at your own pace then please contact me (address and telephone number on the cover of this ‘174’). We also need to sand down and touch up a few places on the railings for Bridges 58 & 59 which were so excellently painted by Roger & Jackie Barnes following their complete replacement by British Waterways. This is not a big job now as Roger & Jackie did such a good paint job last time. It is mainly by the joints where the paint has flaked. A few hours work for somebody. We have all the equipment needed – electric sanders, brushes, paint, white spirit etc. The Bridges are so close to a main electric supply a generator will not be needed.

The condition of our buildings and bridges reflects on our professionalism as Managers of Bugsworth Basin so, in painting at least, we must have a good standard of work. Again of you would like to do these jobs please get in touch with me.

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The final version of the sign depicted in the last ‘174’ has been decided and will now be submitted with the Application for Planning Consent. My aim to have this sign in place for Easter is not going to happen but we will get it on the Bridge at the junction as soon as ever possible.

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Our Editor has included in this issue of ‘174’ a very interesting article based on information coming from British Waterways. The actual valves are still hidden away at Bugsworth Basin. Our Bev Clark is now working on the engineering drawings for the mounting arrangements which I will need for applying for Ancient Monument Consent. These valves are very heavy and we must be sure the ground fixings are adequate but not to such an extent that they will damage the integrity of the Ancient Monument. We know what has to be done and this is in hand. In the meantime we have costed the hire of blast cleaning equipment to clean off all the valves as well as the RSJs under the tramway bridge which are showing signs of extreme rusting and flaking. Mark Lomas, who formally ran a blast cleaning service has kindly offered to do the work professionally for the IWPS if we provide the equipment and materials. We are very grateful for that. We also have a free offer of a crane to lift the valves in to position for which we are very grateful.

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Water supplies and resources is important for any canal system. The busy Peak Forest, Macclesfield and Trent & Mersey Canals, depend on a reliable and plentiful water supply which can not always be covered by the capacity of and supply from Toddbrook & Combs reservoirs. To this end British Waterways are considering enlarging the water draw off point from the Blackbrook to the Bugsworth Middle Basin Arm. This is presently covered by an Environment Agency Extraction Agreement negotiated by the IWPS many years ago. We are not taking as much as our licence permits so comparatively minor works of putting in a larger pipe or ‘letterbox’ feed and extending the catchment up stream would greatly help the water problem on the summit level of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. This water would of course finally feed in to the Ashton and Trent & Mersey canals etc. There is much debate presently with British Waterways’ engineers as to whether the Bugsworth Basin option is the most economic (both from construction or maintenance) and most reliable location. It might be best to extract water elsewhere or even pump from a natural water course to the canals on the top level. We have no objection to these works should British Waterways decide Bugsworth is the best option. This work would require Scheduled Monument Consent which we believe would be forthcoming as essential works to keep the canals operating.

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Our volunteers have been felling, lopping and clearing overhanging trees on the Entrance Canal carefully avoiding the bird nesting season. At the time of writing we still have to drop some dead trees which have no foliage and which can be plainly seen to have no bird activity. This is work which has needed to be done for a long time and will greatly improve the vision of the Basin as visitors enter. We much appreciate the assistance given by Mark Hatch of Canal House in this very important task which has to be well organised to prevent stoppage of navigation. As it is boats have been delayed but by no more than an hour. All boaters have been very appreciative of this work as well as being patient whilst we worked to clear the channel.

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Don Baines and I attend many meetings with British Waterways and some interesting figures are quoted which I think demonstrate firstly the size of BW and also the difficulties of running such an organisation (soon to be a Charity) with a constant reduction of funding:

  • There are 35,000 BW licensed boats

  • There are estimated 13 million visitors and 300 million visits per annum

  • Boat licence income has reduced by 42%

  • On licensing there is 4.9% evasion. Nationally 81 craft have been removed from the system and either sold on or scrapped. 16 of these craft have been in the North and 7 in the Manchester & Pennine Region. Most of these 7 have been on the Peak Forest Canal.

  • BW funding will be cut by £9.8m in 2011/12 and by over £12m in the following two years.

  • Consultation is ongoing with the trades unions to reduce the office based pay roll by £3.5m which mans the loss of 65 posts.

  • Spending on major repairs will be reduced, where it is safe to do so, for the next three years. The most pressing repair projects will be prioritised. Funding for day-to-day maintenance will be maintained as a priority.

  • BW’s Customer Services Team handles around 43,000 calls and 13,000 e-mails a year – the vast majority of which are received during the week. To cut costs Customer Services as from 1st April will no longer operate on Saturday mornings.

  • BW have to contribute £5m annually to the Pension Fund.

  • The target for BW is to have within 10 years a £250m profit, £200m on capital return, £20m income from utility providers, £300m income other than from the Government Contract and £60m waterway investment by third parties.

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We reproduce this BW Press Release as of interest to all waterways users whether they be boaters or not.

British Waterways welcomed the Judgement made in Bristol County Court in which His Honour Deputy Judge O’Malley said he favoured BW’s interpretation of Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995 (relating to Continuous Cruising). In doing so, the Learned Judge found that the Defendant, Mr. Davies (who lives on his boat) had not complied with the requirements of the 1995 Act and that British Waterways was justified in bringing the legal proceedings against him.

Mr. Davies had kept his boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal in the Bradford on Avon area and declined to respond to BW’s repeated warnings that his boat movement was not sufficient to meet the licensing requirements. These state that to qualify for a BW boat licence, a boat must have a home mooring – somewhere where it may be lawfully kept when not used for cruising. An exception is made for boats which ‘bona fide’ navigate throughout the period of the licence. Because Mr. Davies did not move sufficiently or agree to comply with the other terms and conditions, BW refused his application to license his boat. And, because the boat is Mr. Davies home, BW followed its usual procedure of asking the Court to decide on this case.

There is little or no dispute as to the extent of Mr. Davies’ movements. Central to the issue considered by the Court was the meaning of the term ‘bona fide navigator’.

The judge noted that Mr. Davies’ purpose in keeping the boat on the short stretch of canal between Bath and Bradford on Avon was so that his home was within convenient distance of his place of work and his social circle, and that his purpose in moving the boat was to attempt to escape the requirement to have a permanent mooring. The Judge said ‘What is clear to me is that the defendant who is clearly living on the boat cannot successfully claim that he is using it ‘bona fide for navigation’ by moving it every so often up and down a short stretch of canal’.

This is the first time the legal requirements for continuous cruising have been tested before the Courts and the Judgement included helpful comments which has enabled BW to refine its Mooring Guidance. The Judge’s decision is that Mr. Davies now has three months (30th June 2011) to remove his boat from British Waterways Canals and Rivers. The Judge concluded by saying ‘BW behaved in an exemplary manner throughout’.

Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways, comments: “Today’s decision is a great help in bringing greater clarity to a subject which has caused much debate and difficulty within the waterways community. We very much welcome continuous cruising on our canals and rivers and are, as a result of the Learned Judge’s findings, refining our Mooring Guidance. The refined Guidance which is based on professional legal advice, including from Leading Counsel, will be published on our website and we will shortly be inviting representatives of national boating user groups to discuss these.”

Ian Edgar MBE (Chairman of the IWPS).  May 2011

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Waterways Festival 2011

Festival Extravaganza Floats into Staffordshire

There will be so much to see and do on the banks of the Trent and Mersey Canal when Burton upon Trent hosts The Waterways Festival, previously known as the National Festival and Boat Show, from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st July 2011.

This new date is a change from the normal practice in recent years of holding it over the August Bank Holiday, and has come after significant consultation with exhibitors, attending public and IWA volunteers who are all vital to the staging of the event.

Nestled to the East of Staffordshire, the historic brewing town has been chosen for the second time to host the annual celebration, with up to 30,000 people expected to attend.

The three day festival is an exciting and colourful extravaganza packed with an array of attractions all aimed at providing an educational and fun day out for all the family.

Around 350 boats, many decorated, will line up along the water’s edge. Heritage crafts will also feature strongly at the festival, with historic working boats on display.

The event is renowned for its high quality entertainment and history lovers will be drawn to the major Viking battle re-enactment and living camp being staged by the world famous Regia Anglorum.

With a reputation for vivid and dramatic entertainment, the Mikron Theatre Company will debut a new waterways show called Hell and High Water. There is much more to see, including live music, water activities and fairground rides.

The festival will also host up to 250 exhibitors so whether you’re interested in boats and chandlery or just wish to browse the many speciality stalls, including clothing, arts and crafts, jewellery and speciality food and drink, the choice is extensive.

The event itself is organised entirely by a small army of volunteers gathered from canal enthusiasts and many from the local community of the host area. If you’d like to get involved and become a volunteer please contact Ann Mayall on 01488 682504.

Make sure you put the date of this national IWA event in your diary!

Advance tickets can be purchased online at  Ticket prices: Single Day Adults £8 (On Gate £10), Single Day Concessions £7 (On Gate £8) and Three Day (day time only) Ticket £15 (On Gate £19). Children under 16 GO FREE when accompanied by an adult.

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The Huntley Bugle

Lapal Canal Walk and the case of the Nettled Knees

The 2011 IWPS Walks season got off to an excellent start on 11 April when in wonderfully warm sunny weather Ian McKim Thompson led the participants in a delightful walk along the Lapal extension of the Dudley No 2 canal.

For shorts enthusiasts the walk was made memorable by the presence of Andy Screen whose performance left no one in any doubt that he sees the 2011 IWPS Walks season as the one where he will be the leading contender for Shorts Personality of the Year. Andy seized the opportunity of the unusually mild weather to make a committed 'legs out' display from start to finish and take the maximum available points. Andy's brave decision to go short for the first walk of the season has certainly totally wrong footed his rivals. 

A surprise no-show by the current title holder, Ron 'Nettled Knees' Toothill, (whose heroic travail on the Cromford during the infamous day of the 'Long Nettles' deservedly led to his inclusion in the 'Shorts Hall of Fame') has left his fans concerned that with this year's season reduced to only 6 walks he will have his work cut out to overhaul Andy. Already some critics are predicting that this year's contest may go all the way to the last walk of the season with some of the wilder speculation being that if this should happen then Ron's only hope might be to wait until November to play his Joker by competing in the 'Scottish Shorts' (the rarely seen tartan mini kilt) worn commando style, which would secure him a triple points score. 

The Shorts Senior Pairs event was unfortunately subject to a stewards enquiry. The only competitors were Ruth and Mark Tiddy who chose to wear the only recently homologated 'zip off pants' 

Explanatory Note: True Shorters rightly consider 'zip off pants' to be the wimps option and it is only this season that they have been permitted but then only when worn by bona fide Crusties. 

The results of the stewards enquiry makes very depressing reading, it emerged that the Tiddys did not deploy their zip offs until lunch time, thehottest part of the day, and they did not continue on the walk until receiving a written assurance from the organiser that 'It is all down hill from here and that  there are no nettles above 50 mm high'. The stewards rightly ruled that their behaviour displayed blatant shortsmanship and that no points should be awarded. 

Our photograph shows Andy entering the last 250 metres of the walk and clearly illustrates his trade mark one foot in front of the other walking style. 

In view of the current police investigations into the news gathering methods employed by other media outlets the proprietors of the Bugle would like to assure their readers that no hacking, steaming open of Her Majesty's mail or tampering with a carrier pigeons was involved in the compilation of this report.

Tooty’s reply: “Let it be known - the challenge is definitely on. Shorts and nettled knees are ready!”

Full walk report in the next edition of 174 - Ed

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The Reservoirs of the Peak Forest Canal - a Timeline

by Peter J Whitehead

11 Nov 1793 A draft map is produced showing that a reservoir is to be constructed at Coombs (Combs) to provide the water that will be needed once the flight of locks at Marple is open.
08 Jul 1795 The Committee of the canal company decides to ‘make the Canal as far towards Chapel Milton as possible.’
[The implication of this was that the proposed Hockham Brook Reservoir at Wash was no longer needed. Its purpose was to provide water for the summit level of the canal at Chapel Milton and to feed the proposed flight of locks at Whitehough beyond Bugsworth. In the event, the canal was terminated at Bugsworth, two miles short of Chapel Milton and the Peak Forest Tramway was extended by two miles.]
31 Aug 1796 The Upper Peak Forest Canal between Bugsworth and Marple opens for trade.
[There is no reservoir to supply water to the upper level.]
01 May 1800 The channel of Marple Aqueduct is filled with water from the previously opened Lower Peak Forest Canal. [There is still no reservoir to supply water to either the upper level or the lower level.]
08 Jun 1803 William Bradbury sells 13 acres of his Newfield Estate to Samuel Oldknow of Marple, Richard Arkwright Junior of Cromford and George Benson Strutt of Belper for £1,302 12s 6d for the construction of Coombs Brook Reservoir.
05 Nov 1805 James Meadows Senior is appointed as Joint Principal Agent of the Ashton and Peak Forest Canals at a salary of £315 per annum to be paid equally by both companies.  [One of his many duties was to inspect the reservoirs. Additionally, he was also required to accompany the Committee on their two-day annual inspection of the canals, tramways, quarries, reservoirs and other works.]
1805 Another 13 acres of land is purchased at Coombs for the construction of reservoir banks and sluices.  [The total area of land purchased for Coombs Brook Reservoir amounted to 31 acres and its capacity was 339 million gallons.]
1806 The construction of Coombs Brook Reservoir is complete. [On the 12 Nov 1805 the Manchester Mercury reported that Marple Locks were open throughout for navigation.]
Nov 1809 The land upon which Coombs Brook Reservoir was constructed is conveyed to the Peak Forest Canal Company. Oldknow and Arkwright Junior retain rights over osier beds, fish and wildfowl.
[Osier is a type of willow, the shoots of which are used in basket work, &c.]
May 1811 The banks of Coombs Brook Reservoir are raised to boost its capacity to cater for increasing trade on the Peak Forest Canal and hence greater use of Marple Locks.
1835 Work commences on Todd Brook Reservoir (Toddbrook Reservoir) to augment the water supply to the canal.
[The south canal feeder is dated 1838 and the north feeder is dated 1839 and the reservoir had an initial capacity of 296 million gallons.  By 1835 joint management with the Ashton Canal Company had extended to engineering matters and the additional water supply benefited both companies. Two Engineers who gave advice about the construction of this reservoir were Nicholas Brown and William Mackenzie.]
1840 Construction of Todd Brook Reservoir is complete.
Nov 1975 A fault in the headbank of Todd Brook Reservoir is discovered and, as a safety precaution, 7 million gallons of water per day are drained off, half into the canal and half to waste.
Jan 1976 Part of the headbank of Combs Brook Reservoir washes away and some slump occurs. The water level is much reduced and by 1978 it has been completely drained.
Oct 1977 A Reservoir Inspector instructs that Todd Brook Reservoir must be completely drained.
[Old mining workings below the headbank had caused it to become unsafe.]
1978 Coombs Brook and Todd Brook Reservoirs are closed and for the time being water passes directly into the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge from the catchment areas of both reservoirs.
1980s The headbanks of Coombs Brook and Todd Brook Reservoirs are repaired and fitted with wave walls.
2010/11 The valves of Todd Brook Reservoir were considered to be time expired, difficult to operate, and a problem to maintain.  They have been replaced with modern sluice gate valves in order to improve the ease and speed of operation in the event of the water level having to be lowered in an emergency.  The eccentric plug valves fitted in parallel with the old box valves a few years ago have been retained as the duty valves controlling the volume flow rate to the canal feeders.
[British Waterways offered the old valves to the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) for display at Bugsworth Basin. This offer was accepted and the valves were put into safe storage. Whaley Bridge Local History Society expressed an interest in having one of them as soon as a suitable site could be found, possibly on the reservoir headbank.
Meanwhile, the IWPS began arranging with the Inspector of Ancient Monuments for permission to display one valve at Bugsworth Basin. Both valves will need blast cleaning and painting, &c, before they can be put on display firmly secured on suitable foundations and provided with interpretation panels.
Each valve actually consists of two valves connected in tandem. One valve was used to turn the flow of water on and off while the other was used to control the volume flow rate of water into the canal.]

Feed water from both Coombs and Todd Brook Reservoirs enters the Upper Peak Forest Canal at the head of the Whaley Bridge Branch just outside the southern elevation of the Transhipment Warehouse where iron railings surround the points of entry. This water then flows through the warehouse and along the Whaley Bridge Branch. The feeder from Coombs Brook Reservoir enters from the south east and the feeder from Todd Brook Reservoir enters from the south west.
The Upper Peak Forest Canal is lock free and the Macclesfield Canal is lock free between Marple Junction and the top of the Bosley flight of locks. In order to be lock free these two connected canal pounds must follow the curvature of the Earth. However, it is understood that to induce a low flow rate of water in the canal a very small hydraulic gradient was provided at the time of construction. Thus the canal level at Whaley Bridge is slightly higher than it is at Marple Junction and at Bosley. This is a lasting testament to the skill of Thomas Brown who was the Surveyor and Resident Engineer.

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Peak Forest Canal Water Supply


The headbank of the reservoir looking towards the hamlet of Tunstead with the road to the hamlet on the right.

View of the reservoir and wave wall on top of the headbank looking towards Buxton Road.

View looking south east showing the reservoir and wave wall.
Randal Carr Brook is flowing towards the viewpoint on the right and the stepped overflow lies between the reservoir and the brook. Whenever a flash flood occurs, excess water in the reservoir discharges into the brook.

The concrete bridge carries Tunstead Road over Randal Carr Brook and the stepped overflow is in the foreground.

Water issuing from the northern feeder valve of the reservoir at the commencement of its journey to the Peak Forest Canal at the head of the Whaley Bridge Branch.

View of the outlet from the southern valve.
Should the water level in the reservoir require lowering quickly then this valve would be opened to discharge water into the original channel of Coombs Brook.

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Above: IWPS Archive photograph of Toddbrook Reservoir seen here in the early 20th century.
Right: Toddbrook, 3 March 2011, photo Don Baines

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Replacement of Toddbrook Reservoir Draw-off Valves

By Don Baines

British Waterways, in response to new legislative requirements to reduce reservoir water levels from full to half level in 5 days in case of an emergency arising, on inspection, concluded that the draw-off valves at Toddbrook Reservoir were in need of replacement. These valves (probably the originals dating back to the 1830s) were considered time expired, difficult to operate, expensive to maintain and had been partly substituted by eccentric plug valves circa 2006. In addition, a CCTV inspection showed that the two 15” diameter draw-off pipes were severely corroded and several of their bolted flange joints had ‘sprung’ and were leaking due to the dam material slumping slightly beneath the pipes in the intervening 180 years.

Here one of the pairs of valves have been removed from the draw-off tunnel. Alongside lies the eccentric plug valve to be refurbished prior to re-instalment .
This pair of valves were later transported to Bugsworth for ultimate display on site.

The following specification for the proposed works was kindly sent to us by John Ackroyd (BW Technical Directorate Principal Engineer) after Ian Edgar and Don Baines had met him at Toddbrook for a guided tour and discussions on the contents of interpretation panels for the old valves to be exhibited at Bugsworth and Toddbrook.

Lower draw-off pipe: The existing pipe is 15” diameter cast iron and approximately 79.6m long. On the outlet end it has 2 box valves and 1 eccentric plug valve (installed circa 2006, Viking Johnson figure number 450mm N1601 GB PN16). All existing valves are to be removed to allow the relining of the cast iron pipe. The box valves are to be taken to tip [these were actually delivered to Bugsworth for display and interpretation - Ed]. The eccentric plug valve is to be reused as the duty valve. A new sluice gate valve is to be installed as a guard valve. Short connection pipes will be required to fit the existing flange and between valves as required. A 2m long extension pipe is to be installed beyond the duty valve to prevent spray from the plug gate. Modifications to steel decking will be required to suit the new valve locations. On the upstream end of the draw-off pipe the lining shall be terminated in to a new flanged pipe so as to allow future extension of the pipe to install a valve if required. A blanking plate and small dia by-pass valve shall also be provided which will facilitate future inspection by CCTV. The blanking plate and by-pass valve will be stored in the outlet tunnel. A new galvanised steel trash/fish screen shall be installed to replace the existing timber grate.

Upper draw-off pipe: The existing pipe is 15” diameter cast iron and approximately 49.7m long. On the outlet end it has 2 box valves and 1 eccentric plug valve (installed circa 2006, Viking Johnson figure number 450mm N1601 GB PN16). All existing valves are to be removed to allow the relining of the cast iron pipe. The eccentric plug valve is to be reused as the duty valve. A new sluice gate valve is to be installed as a guard valve. Short connection pipes will be required to fit the existing flange and between valves as required. A 2m long extension pipe is to be installed beyond the duty valve to prevent spray from the plug gate. Modifications to steel decking will be required to suit the new valve locations. A stainless steel trash/fish screen shall be installed on the end of the pipe bell-mouth, beneath the existing timber grate that shall remain.

The more compact blue gate valve installed in the lower draw-off tunnel. Nearer to the camera is the eccentric plug valve retained as the duty valve and the two-metre long discharge pipe.

The method used for lining the two draw-off pipes is interesting and aptly describes the development of modern technologies. Once the reservoir had been drained, the old valves removed, and the CCTV inspection completed, the two pipes were pressure cleaned to remove the rust and detritus accumulated through their working life. First, a flexible pre-lining was drawn through each pipe to protect a u/v curable resin impregnated GRP liner then to be installed. This continuous seamless liner, just a few millimetres thick, each one custom designed for the pipe to be lined, is supplied folded flat in a transport pack and then carefully drawn through the pipe. End fixings are then attached and the liner inflated with compressed air to form it to the shape of the pipe and to lightly fix it in place. The liner is then cured by sending through a mobile ultra-violet light train at a rate of around 2 metres per minute.
Once the liner was in place, the inlet pipes and screens, the new valves, and steel decking were installed. Once these works were completed, the site was tidied up, the valves closed and the reservoir allowed to refill.

View up the lower draw-off pipe with the GRP liner fixed in place. A pinprick of light identifies the inlet end of the draw-off pipe.


For more information about the lining technique visit:

The lower draw-off with inlet screen as it was in 1902 - unfortunately we do not know the names of the two gentlemen.

The modern-day replacement for the lower draw-off inlet.


The lower draw-off tunnel completed installation with decking and valve wheels in place.
A very neat, well planned and executed solution to the problem.

All photos provided by John Ackroyd
(BW Technical Directorate Principal Engineer

Below the screen the new inlet - to enable the pipe to be inspected without draining the reservoir. With the outlet valve closed, divers can be sent down to fix a blanking plate to the flange and to fit the small gate valve. The outlet valve can then be opened, the pipe drained and the CCTV camera sent on its way. Once inspection and any remedial works have been completed, the outlet valve is closed, and the divers sent down once more to prime the pipe by opening the small valve and then removing the blanking plate.

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The Calder & Hebble Navigation, Yorkshire, early 20th century.
This view of the canal is in the vicinity of Woodside Mills, Elland, about three miles south of Halifax.

Garstang Aqueduct, Lancashire, 1985.
Built by John Rennie, this aqueduct carries the Lancaster Canal over the river Wyre at Garstang. The design of this masonry aqueduct is similar to the larger Lune Aqueduct in that along both sides it has a deep Doric cornice.
Photograph: Jack Brady Archive Collection

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A Portrait of James BrindleyJames Brindley by Francis Parsons

My hand’s in water, iron, stone,
and land’s persuaded without calculation,
yet, to hold creditors suspended in old hope,
and new investors channelled in their grand illusion
that they fund a man they understand,
a draughtsman plans to outline me.
His pencil measures what his eyes survey,
and I must ape the drape of false nobility.
Fixed in this pose, I ache with what must wait,
my mind’s eye spying everything I do not do.
I labour more, to hold myself un-moved,
than labourer in navigation.
Physician, friends and wife insist
there’s health in rest.  So be it.
When I am slowing, close to dock;
when breath narrows and my limbs lock shut;
when my clay cracks and life leaks out;
then may old bones give thanks for their unloading,
in a late span of idleness, un-interrupted
by man’s error or cold nature’s accident.

Linda Goulden - 2011

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A landslip at Bugsworth
Derek Brumhead

A landslip at Bugsworth on Monday 7 March 2011 partially blocking the B 6062 also caused the closure of the Manchester to Sheffield line for two days (Fig 1). Approximately 400 tonnes of stone were brought in to rebuild the embankment on which the line was built. The incident is a reminder that this area has a history of unstable ground as a result of unconsolidated glacial deposits along the sides of the Black Brook valley. This goes back to the very opening of the railway.

Fig 1. Landslip at Bugsworth, 7 February 2011.
Courtesy NetworkRail

Fig 2. Rebuilt Embankment, 3 March 2011.
Photo: Don Baines

In the wet autumn of 1866 the newly-constructed Midland Railway at Bugsworth (carrying the line from Derby to New Mills), together with 16 acres of land, was swept away in a landslip. It was built on glacial boulder clay and sands sitting upon shales and sandstone disturbed by the construction and the heavy rains. Frederick Williams, in his book Midland Railway: Its Rise and Progress (1876), quotes a contemporary description of the event.

“It was a wonderful slip; but we were not altogether surprised. The road had been partly on the move before. The hill is mostly clay and shale and it slipped off something harder I expect. However, it went at last, and no mistake. A goods train ran over the viaduct, if I recollect aright, that morning; but it was the last. That day and the day after, this road was all of a move. The walls were crackling down; the fences were going; the whole hill-side seemed of a move. The regular road was stopped; the walls tumbled down, stone after stone, and piece by piece; the road went, and they had to make a new one. The station windows cracked...”.

Fig 3. Engraving of the two Bugsworth viaducts (Williams 1876)

Fig 4. Bugsworth Station c1920 IWPS Archive

A temporary timber viaduct “containing 50,000 feet of Baltic timber” was erected alongside the old damaged one (it stood for nearly twenty years) and Williams provides a fine engraving of the two viaducts (Fig 3). Figure 1 is taken from near the same location as Williams' print, only facing in the opposite direction. The line was permanently diverted to the rear of Bugsworth Station (closed in the 1950s) which still stands back to front to the line (Figs 4 & 5). Thirty five years later, the line between Chinley and New Mills was doubled and it was reported in the Colliery Guardian in 1901 that - “in consequence of the enormous difficulties met with from time to time owing to the peculiar nature of the strata, it is very likely that two years longer will be needed to complete the work”. Massive retaining walls (in the form of blind arches) supporting the line are evidence today of these problems on New Road as one approaches Bugsworth from the west.

Fig 5. Extract from the 1880 OS 25 inch map (reduced) of Bugsworth showing the old wooden viaduct line still in place.

When the A6 Chapel-en-le-Frith and Whaley Bridge bypass was built in the late 1980s, as it was driven along the other side of the Black Brook valley, it encountered glacial sands and gravels filling deep depressions over 25m deep. Piling had to be driven down to reach the rockhead. After the opening of the road, further remedial work was needed. Silk Hill was diverted, a barn demolished and the hill slopes regraded. These geological difficulties went some way towards the huge overspend on the bypass - £59m against the original contract of £18m.
In 1902, four miles to the west at Newtown, when the Midland Railway was building its line bypassing New Mills, the rotten rock under the glacial till was in danger of giving way and destroying the adjacent Brunswick Mill, a cotton spinning mill built alongside the Peak Forest Canal. A huge retaining wall had to be built. Half a mile further on to the west, the railway company was so concerned about approaching the line of the Peak Forest Canal, that the canal was diverted away from the railway for a hundred metres or so (the old course can still be seen). This was probably very wise; near Disley, in the mid-1970s, the sandy deposits on which the canal was embanked, gave way after heavy rains, the canal was ruptured and a long stretch was emptied into the Goyt valley, taking a boat with it. Massive retaining walls (in the form of blind arches) supporting the line are evidence today of these problems on New Road as one approaches Bugsworth from the west. Map evidence suggests that these walls were originally built for the first line in the 1860s, although they may have been modified for the doubling.

IWPS Chairman, Ian Edgar MBE adds this comment: “When we came to rebuild the Basin Retaining Wall (alongside the diverted Blackbrook) the section supposedly along the fault had to have new foundations to bring up to river non-flood level and also the tramway sleeper blocks on the centre of the Basin had dropped 12 - 18" in a very distinct manner and in a straight line. All this I suggest was due to the geological fault with initial damage being caused at the same time as the railway problems and this damage further exacerbated after the Basin was closed and the dereliction advanced. I remember the wall issue well when the contractor (Connollys of Oldham) rang me for instructions because they could not find a firm base on which to rebuild the metre wide retaining wall.”

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Manchester Halfpenny Token, 1793.

Obverse, left: A workman carrying a bale of cotton on his back with the legend, ‘MANCHESTER HALFPENNY’, Exergue: 1793.
Reverse, right: Arms, crest and motto of Manchester with a Lancashire rose below and the legend, ‘SUCCESS TO NAVIGATION’.
Material: Copper.
Diameter: 1 9/64 inches.
Note: The purpose of making these coins payable (for coins of the realm) in Birmingham, London or Bristol was to make it virtually impossible for employees who received them as wages to exchange them for coins of the realm. Thus they were obliged to spend them in the company shop.

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IWPS Weekend away on the Lower Shannon

2010’s IWPS autumn weekend away took its first foray overseas with a trip to Ireland the lower reaches of the River Shannon. Organised by David Kitching, we were fortunate to be hosted on the ground by knowledgeable and enthusiastic local organisations.

Like most navigable rivers, the Shannon had separate navigable cuts, either to avoid dangerous weirs, or to cut out long loops and improve passage times. Below Killaloe, at the foot of Lough Derg, the river meanders in a south-westerly direction towards Limerick, where it widens as it continues westward past Bunratty and Knock before emptying into the Atlantic to the north of Tralee and the Dingle peninsula. Our itinerary covered the section between Killaloe and Limerick; the Lower Shannon Navigation. The navigation works commenced around 1757 and were all but completed around 1799, including three lateral canals bypassing sections of the river. The first of the lateral canals (heading downstream from Lough Derg) was the short Killaloe Canal which ran on the west side of the river and had three locks. The second, and most significant was the five-mile long Errina Canal which left the west side of the river just below the village of O’Briensbridge, at a spot called World’s End, and rejoined at Plassey, some two miles upstream of Limerick, the site of the new University of Limerick campus and halls of residence. Bypassing the Doonass Falls near Castleconnell, there were six locks on this section.

The third lateral canal section was the mile-long City, or Limerick Canal. It was actually the only part of the navigation works to be completed by the original engineer, William Ockenden, who died in 1761. Now more commonly known as the Park Canal, it cut off a river loop containing the Curragour Falls, and its two locks take the navigation right into the city, where it joins the Abbey River, itself a tributary of the Shannon. It took around four days for boats to make the trip from Dublin via the Grand Canal and Shannon navigations to Limerick, which was deemed an ideal length of time for one of the principal cargoes, Guinness, to mature ! The Guinness run was re-enacted only a few weeks before our trip; the craft involved still sitting on its moorings on the Abbey River.

A slightly hair-raising section of the Abbey River then empties into a protected channel on the east side of the ‘wide, majestic Shannon’ itself a few hundred yards further on, before making the final return to the river through what is effectively a sea lock under the Sarsfield Bridge. Until ten years ago it seems that this final tidal lock was not operational, and the Abbey River just emptied straight out into the Shannon, with very limited windows for safely getting through Baal’s Bridge on the Abbey River. But then a weir was built on top of a new interceptor sewer, which created the protected channel we see today between the lock and the old Custom House site to the south of the Abbey River’s mouth. Although the Abbey is still semi-tidal, the windows of opportunity to safely shoot Baal’s Bridge are greatly enhanced.

In the 1920’s, it was decided to harness the power of the river by building a new hydro-electric power station, and to make this viable, a new lateral cut had to be made with the scope to have a single large drop of around 30 metres, rather than the existing series of locks and weirs none of which on their own would generate sufficient power to justify the expense. The Shannon Scheme as it became known involved a new five-mile cut from just above O’Briensbridge to Parteen, just above Limerick, and the power station was built above Parteen at Ardnacrusha. The amount of water that the new cut took (the old river takes the first 10 cubic metres per second, the headrace the next 400 !) had an obvious impact on the river below O’Briensbridge and effectively made the Errina and Park canal sections unworkable. So the new cut had to be made navigable to compensate, and is generally known as the ‘headrace canal’. Equally, the new weir above O’Briensbridge (rather confusingly to my mind called Parteen Villa Weir) resulted in the section of river above being flooded, wiping out the lower section of the Killaloe Canal along with two of its three locks. 5,200 men worked on the scheme at its peak.

O’Briensbridge was essentially our base for the weekend, though unfortunately very little accommodation is available in the village. It is in County Clare, but across the twelve-arched 18th century bridge (O’Brien’s Bridge, naturally), its sister village of Montpelier is in County Limerick, and the border with Tipperary is not far away. Buses link the village with Limerick and Killaloe so all of our walks would be possible without cars, though probably not entirely straightforward.

Our weekend started on Friday evening when we met up with members of the O’Briensbridge Community Group at the Old Mill bar in O’Briensbridge for three talks. Mick Murtagh and Pat Aherne of the Community Group described the work they had done in the area, and its context in the whole Shannon corridor, and then IWPS’ own Ian Edgar gave a talk about the Society’s work at Bugsworth Basin. The Group’s primary work has been in rejuvenating the footpath alongside the river and part of the Errina Canal, plus some cajoling of various councils to do likewise on sections that would be beyond the Group’s own remit. These have resulted in a series of three circular walks which along with the Lough Derg Way give plenty of walking opportunities in the locale. There were a number of local councillors present, both that evening and on some of the walks, and it was clear that the locals had used the visit of a group from overseas to good ‘PR’ effect. We even made it into the local papers!


We met at Sarsfield Bridge and after tiring of waiting for the mayor (who fancied a photo opportunity with us but clearly didn’t appreciate our tight schedule!), Irish waterways expert Brian Goggins led us up to the mouth of the Abbey River before diverting round the Hunt Museum (on the site of the former Custom House) to reach Mathew Bridge. The main N7 road now runs along the south bank of the Abbey River for a couple of hundred yards, while the quieter Georges Quay runs along the north bank (the Locke Bar and Oyster House does good food and has regular live music) – pontoons have been placed along the quayside in the (to date, rather forlorn) hope of improved boat traffic.

Baal’s Bridge and newer Abbey Bridge follow, then the river immediately bears north past Grove Island while the navigation route passes straight on under a small bridge into City Lock, the start of the Park Canal. The canal corridor has been part-restored as part of the European ‘Water in Historic City Centres’ initiative, very much as a linking of the old city with the new University campus to the east. Shame the old canal manager’s house north of the lock wasn’t touched ! There is a footpath on both sides, though the southern path is the most obvious and carries the Lough Derg Way.

Beyond the lock is Guinness Wharf, where stands a crane inscribed Shannon Commissioners; the bricked-up arch directly opposite was not an arm of the canal, merely the tailrace from a leat that was used by Lock Mills (now flats). A couple of hundred yards further on part of a hoist stands on the bank just before the modern Corbally Link Road bridge. Improvements to the path are obvious on the run up to Park Lock, with a concrete weir replacing the lock tailgates. Park Bridge stands over the headgates then the path disappears and you need to walk along the road for a minute, through to the Limerick-Ennis railway bridge, from where a wide tarmacced path continues through to Guinness footbridge. The ‘1 mile’ milestone stands by the path just before the reasonably new Guinness footbridge, which marks the end of the canal, as we rejoined the Shannon.

The path along the south bank of the river is a delight, with a number of small bridges along the route – the river-side parapet being lower than the land-side one, to facilitate towing. Some cross obvious streams but others are believed to have been built to allow cattle that previously watered at the river’s edge to continue to do so post-construction of the towing path. Rather more strange are a number of flights of steps from the path to the water’s edge, for which there seems no obvious purpose - commercial fishermen and washerwomen have both been suggested ! After a half a mile or so we rounded a bend by the University boathouse with its pontoon jetty – on the opposite, Clare, bank lies an abandoned and semi-submerged barge with its bows sticking up the bank.

The remains of Plassey’s water-mill stand hidden in the trees at the south end of Black Bridge (a horsebridge built by Thomas Rhodes in 1842, to access the Errina Canal) which has been closed since the floods of 2009. There was short arm off the river by the mill, including a twin-chambered ‘lock’. As we could not cross the river here to the Errina Canal section, we continued on towards the new University Bridge, opened in 2004. A replica of a typical sandcot (the craft most typically used on the canal) lies in front of the cottages and ferry house by the ‘2’ milepost; the ferry operated until the bridge was built.

Crossing the new bridge we then backtracked along the north bank by the halls of residence to the ‘other’ end of Black Bridge, noting the prominent rope marks on the stone parapet. The path leading north-east away from the bridge is obvious enough – rather less so at first is the depression to the left which is the Errina Canal; immediately beyond the canal is the River Blackwater which enters the Shannon here too. The remains of the ashlar limestone Annaghbeg (or Plassey) Lock are soon reached, though not as accessible as some of the others with considerable tree growth – we noted the hiker’s boot memorial ! After five minutes or so, the canal swings to a more northerly direction and we shortly arrived at a minor road bridge in the hamlet of Gillogue, where the towing path switches to the west bank – though not obviously a roving bridge, there is a section of path passing underneath suggesting it may have operated as one. We left the canal here, as does the East Clare Walkway Trail, for a pub lunch at the Lame Duck (though you will see no indication of its name on the outside).

Resuming after a pint of Guinness and sandwiches, we soon passed Gillogue Lock beyond which the path is rather more unkempt and quite hard work in places – there are open fields on both sides, once you get past the initial tree-lined bits. There is a long straight section through to Newtown Lock – the only one bearing a date-stone; 1792 - and then beyond as far as Clonlara village; civilisation at last. At the lowered bridge here the Lough Derg Way and Red Loop circular walk join from the road and we followed them through for the remaining 3½ miles or so to O’Briensbridge. It is worth noting the stone set into the wall on the bridge, seemingly featuring a damaged sheela-na-gig carving (for those of a delicate disposition I shall not go into detail but ‘unladylike’ might be a start). The stone is dated 1769 which is almost certainly when it was brought here and set into the bridge – it is reputed to have originated from Newtown Castle. At Clonlara Lock, the owner Tom Bourke explained a little of what he has done to tidy up the canal in the immediate vicinity and showed us the old 6-foot long anchor recovered from near O’Brien’s Bridge in 2008, which he is looking after while it is decided what to do with it. The ‘5’ mile post stands just to the north.

Now my notes are somewhat scant here, but as I recall Monaskeha Lock is on land owned by someone not partial to having the public nosing around, so a diversion is necessary round this property and the next point of interest is Maddens, or Errina, lock. This triple-lock is rather confusing, but is explained by the fact that although it was originally built as a triple, the chambers were 20 feet shorter than the chambers in the other locks, so new engineer William Chapman – consulting engineer for the Grand Canal Company and the man responsible for building the Naas Canal - decided to convert it to a double. It is certainly the most interesting structure on this part of the navigation, not least because there is reasonably free access to it. The rather wee mushroom-shaped mooring pins seemed somewhat out of context.

Errina Bridge follows soon after, with rope marks and stop-plank grooves, and the canal then enters a long straight, heading east towards the Shannon. The ‘6’ milestone is in an attractive wooded cutting before another open section with fields on both sides. A pair of ladder stiles in close succession partition off a shallow ramp for cattle to reach the canal edge – an alternative to the underpasses more common on the main Shannon sections, of which another half a dozen are coming up shortly. It was with some relief that we eventually bore north as the canal re-entered the river and O’Briensbridge could be seen some distance ahead, up the Old Barge Way, as this final stretch of the path is known. It had been a long old walk (by IWPS standards) and we were glad to get back to our cars with time to recover before our evening meal at the Old Mill.


The morning started back in O’Briensbridge for a walk on the three-mile Green Loop of the three loop walks. We met at the riverside park then walked upstream, through the westernmost arch (originally two arches but merged into one) of the O’Brien’s Bridge which carries a towpath. Although this was the navigation arch for the final years of the navigation’s life, the original navigation passed through what was the fourth arch; now the third. A ramp drops down from the road to pass under the towpath and this seems more likely to have been part of a wharf loading system than the cattle-creep arrangement we had seen examples of yesterday. The small slipway at the end of ramp may not be contemporaneous with the ramp. Just beyond is a reproduction of the capstan, which would have been used to guide/pull craft through the bridge span.

Above here the walk is absolutely beautiful and the river magnificent. Beyond the ‘8’ milepost, there is a wonderful restored iron footbridge (I confess I didn’t quite work out what it was crossing !) and Pat pointed out the island of Inishlosky on the far bank, on which stands the remains of a 12th century oratory, not dissimilar to the St Lua Oratory that was moved as part of the Shannon Scheme and restored in Killaloe. (Unfortunately we didn’t know about the Killaloe example till after our visit there later today). Soon the noise of Parteen Villa Weir makes itself present but nothing quite prepares you for the size of it. In many senses it is almost as majestic as the river it diverts, but it is hard to also avoid the ‘blot on the landscape’ argument.

We climbed up the embankment to look down on the calm river section we had just walked, and joined the headrace canal, noting the navigable gate in the headrace weir which ensures boats coming down from Killaloe don’t get pulled towards the main river sluices. The headrace canal looks undeniably new and manmade and is not itself particularly attractive, but the surrounding countryside and Slieve Bearnagh hills certainly are – the extra height certainly gives different views across to Keeper Hill to the east. The walk continues along the top of the southern embankment (the Lough Derg Way follows the northern embankment) before dropping down to join a side-road that leads back into O’Briensbridge, though you can continue walking along the top, certainly through to Clonlara.

We then picked up our cars and drove through to Killaloe. After being left to our own devices for lunch (which for some of us involved a visit to the fudge stall on the farmer’s market by the canal) we met up at a footbridge. This crosses the canal just south of the main river bridge which links Killaloe to Ballina on the east bank. We walked north to the river bridge just beyond which is the upper of the three locks on the Killaloe Canal; this was a double-acting lock, as water levels on the Shannon were a moveable feast. A brief torrential downpour saw us seeking refuge in the handily placed holiday cottage being rented by six of our party, but we then continued up to Pierhead at the top end of the canal section. There is a covered boathouse and dry-dock here, where the 148-ton paddle-steamer Lady Lansdowne was assembled in 1833, from parts originally built in Birkenhead and shipped across the Irish Sea.

On retracing our steps we spotted the ‘12’ milestone hidden in a construction site which currently forces walkers away from the canal path and onto the Scarriff road. Re-passing Killaloe Lock, we noted the old lockhouse site now occupied by a heritage centre and the Eel House. Continuing south on the spit of land between canal and river, we looked across to the former quay used for boat gauging with a mobile crane, and dry-dock/slipway with the remains of cradle rails and capstans. Marble Mill is just about as far as you can walk comfortably, though if you are willing to scramble around in the vegetation, the remains of the second (Moys) lock are just about visible at the point where the flooding scheme has caused river and canal to merge. The third lock, Cussaun, is lost forever under the water. Finally, Brian revealed that he had a key to access the dockyard we had seen earlier so over to the far bank via the footbridge and twenty minutes of clambering over the cradles and capstans as if we were schoolchildren !


Our bonus trip for the weekend was to Ardnacrusha power station – the single ‘drop’ point on the headrace canal which replaced all the locks on the Errina, Park and Killaloe canals. Pat Aherne had worked for the ESB here for many years and was largely responsible for the memorial within the site to those who built it in 1929, and particularly to those who died doing so. Thomas McLoughlin of Siemens-Shuckert was commissioned by the Irish Free State to design the power station in 1922, and the company started construction in 1925. It was, briefly, the largest hydro-electric station in the world. Inside the main building the walls downstairs are covered in fantastic old photos and there is a large window out into the main turbine hall. Up a flight of stairs and into the main ‘ops’ room, looking like something out of an early James Bond film – despite the very yesteryear look of all the dials, this room was in use until only very recently.

We then ventured outside and up to where the headrace canal comes in on its high built embankment. Beyond a section of rails on which rides a contraption that leans out to clear obstructions from the turbine intakes, the upper chamber of the staircase lock appears quite innocuous; set into, and just behind, the main penstock structure but as you pass through to the front of the edifice you realise just how high you are now - looking down into the lower chamber made most of us feel rather queasy ! At 100 feet the Ardnacrusha lock somewhat dwarfs the UK’s deepest, Tuel Lane, at a mere 19 feet ! There is a fish-pass by the lock (a 100-foot high chimney-like structure, built in 1958) which salmon and elvers use to pass upriver. There are four penstocks (the fourth was added in 1934, five years after the power station was opened on 22 July 1929). We returned for a cuppa and a biscuit in the works canteen, where thanks and farewells were issued.

Andy Screen


National Canals and Waterway Strategy (Brady Shipman Martin report to OPW)
O’Briensbridge Loop Walks (O’Brien’s Bridge / Clonlara Community Groups leaflet)
A Celebration of 150 years of Ireland’s Inland Waterways (Delany)
Irish Waterside Walks (Michael Fewer)  (Brian Goggins’ webpages on the Lower Shannon),5771,en.html

Eglinton Canal

The Eglinton Canal is a short navigable cut on the west bank of the River Corrib through the city of Galway and together with an un-navigable (?) leat on the eastern bank, makes for an interesting walk if you are in the area.

Around two thirds of a mile long the canal was built between 1848 and 1852 under engineer John McMahon, and was the only means of accessing the River Corrib from Galway Bay. It was opened by the Earl of Eglinton and named after him, and remained navigable till the 1950s when all five moving bridges were fixed in place. It is now managed by the Corrib Navigation Trustees.

From the western end of the city’s Wolfetone Bridge – the southernmost crossing of the river before it empties out into Galway Bay – you look over the canal basin, some 470 feet by 170 feet, with the sea lock at the far end and a footpath passes down past and across the lock and on along Claddagh Quay to Nimmo’s Pier; Alexander Nimmo drew up the original plans for the basin and a canal in the 1820s, and incidentally also built Sarsfield Bridge across the Shannon in Limerick. Across the river, behind the somewhat underwhelming ‘Spanish Arch’, are the docks for craft not needing to make passage up the river. Crossing to the north side of Wolfetone bridge you can see the canal on your left, the river on your right, and between them a rather hairy looking stretch of water passing over a shallow weir with a very decrepit and unusable footbridge across to a building that is crying out to be put to some good use.

Head to the east bank of the river and walk north up a well-constructed path to pass under O’Brien’s Bridge (Bridge Street). From here the path continues between the river and an attractive leat, and there are fine views across to Galway Cathedral as you pass the river weir. The path crosses the leat on a footbridge and you need to follow the pavement of Newtownsmith up to Salmon Weir bridge (University Road). The path continues on the other side of Salmon Weir, and this is where I began to wonder whether the leat was entirely un-navigable as this side of the river appears to be separated from the western side (and more weirs) by a long boom and eventually you come to moorings, close to the site of the former Galway-Clifden railway crossing over the river. The supporting pillars of the railway bridge remain and the boom passes round them, so upstream of the pillars you have the river; downstream you have, from east to west, protected leat, untamed river and then separated by another section of boom, the entrance to the former Eglinton Canal.

The sensible thing to do from here is to return to University Road, cross over Salmon Weir bridge and then pick up the canal, but if you fancy extending your walk you can access the Dyke Road which takes you through to the next road bridge upstream, the N6 by the remains of Terryland Castle; cross over here and then walk back down the river on a well-made path through university-owned greenspace and ultimately through the university itself before depositing you back on University Road anyway.

I walked even further, through to Menlo, and the splendid river-side remains of Menlo Castle which appeared to have its own dock off the river (see picture from Google Maps). I confess I am not sure exactly how legal access to the castle is, but if you want to visit I would certainly suggest you drive or cycle as it’s quite a hoof and there is no pavement at the top end. If you do, then it is probably also worth going the extra half mile to the former harbour in Menlo (originally Mionloch) village itself – I confess I didn’t as the rain was coming down in stair-rods at this point I just fancies getting back to my hotel !!

From Salmon Weir bridge, the canal is obvious enough in both directions. It is worth walking north up the towpath towards the railway pillars even though this is currently a dead end. Part way up, a branch of the river arm leads off the far side to pass under University Road close to the cathedral, of which you get a nice view from here. The path comes to a halt at a locked gate about a hundred yards further on, University buildings occupying the site of what were probably former Eglinton Canal wharves – there is no obvious sign of a towpath continuing on up, irrespective of whether it could be accessed or not.

Returning to University Road, Upper Canal Road then forms the towpath of the canal as it heads south into the lower parts of the city. Another river arm, Convent River, heads off the far bank into ‘Nun’s Island’, as the land contained between the loops of the river and canal is known, before the first of two similar low bridges at Presentation Road and New Road. Both appear to have formerly been swingbridges, though the current incumbents look quite well fixed. Below New Road is the only other lock on the canal, Parkavera, which appears to be kept in pretty good nick, despite having no lower gates; it had a drop of fourteen feet. The path continues through to the bridge at Dominick Street, and beyond here Raven Terrace forms the towpath through to Father Griffin Road, a.k.a. Wolfetone Bridge and back where we started.

I should point out the Salthouse pub on Raven Terrace which is one of the few pubs in Ireland that sells anything akin to real ale, though it bears more similarity to the ‘craft beers’ of the US. Their Bay Ale is from the Oslo microbrewery down the road at Salthill and if you fancy a bracing stroll along the seafront, I can recommend the 2 mile walk down to the Oslo, as well as the beers and food they serve there.

Cong Canal

I also made a brief visit to part of the remains of the Cong Canal, if a canal that was never actually completed can have ‘remains’. This three-mile canal was envisaged as a link between the northern shores of Lough Corrib (the navigable river Corrib and the Eglinton Canal run south of the Lough) and Lough Mask. Started in 1848 - the same year as the Eglinton - as a famine relief scheme, works were abandoned five years later, though it remains as a drainage relief scheme.

Although railway competition and a shortage of labour (ironic considering this was a scheme designed to give employment to those impoverished by the famine) were also cited as reasons for halting the works, the reason usually given was problems in staunching the flow of water in the channel (it was cut through limestone). Local author Sir William Wilde (father of Oscar) referred to it is the ‘canal which would not hold water’ and that soubriquet stuck rather !

The first section of the canal up from Lough Corrib is in the grounds of 19th century Ashford Castle (now a very high-class hotel) and includes a lock now converted for use as a boathouse. The canal’s course is then crossed by the main road between Cong village and the entrance lodge for the castle. There is a good-sized car park here (possibly utilising part of some original harbour works ?) which is a useful place to start. A rough path leads north from the drive leading down to the car park, and within a couple of hundred yards you meet the splendour of Cong Upper Lock, essentially dry though there are certainly some wet sections if you want to investigate the chamber and the elegant lines of the start of the invert. The main path runs up what would have been the line of the towpath and if you are so inclined (and careful) you can clamber up onto the top of the stonework. It really is quite odd to see such a large structure in the middle of this rough scrub.

Above the lock, the excavation of the canal line through rock is very evident, and more akin to a railway cutting. After a few hundred yards the route passes under a high bridge at Cregaree and you eventually reach river shallows and a massive pile of limestone pebbles. It is not at all obvious where the canal went from here – unfortunately I had not done sufficient research and only had time for a cursory scout round the other side of the river where I did find an abutment that might have been part of some canal-related structure. At first I thought that the river had been re-routed down the canal bed, but what information I have found on the internet suggests that the canal bed is still dry from above Cregaree up to Lough Mask. There were to be one or two locks higher up at Drumsheel and the canal route passed under the Dringeen-Neale road at Carrownagower Bridge before entering Lough Mask. The river’s course is reasonably obvious (sadly Google Earth et al haven’t successfully covered this area with their satellite imagery yet) so I guess with a bit of time you could pick bits of the canal up, since its course will have been close to that of the river.

You can retrace your steps, or alternatively, from below the bridge a footpath runs up the east side of the cutting, climbing gradually towards the Drumsheel Upper road, and you can walk back, cross the bridge and continue through Cregaree into Cong village. At the south-eastern corner of the car park referred to earlier, the route of the canal can be seen passing under the road into the Ashford estate.

If you walk west to the remains of Cong Abbey, the roadway south will lead you to the shores of Lough Corrib and I rather suspect that you will find the converted lower lock if you look hard enough as I believe a footpath goes right past it. Unfortunately gleaning information on all these things, in the UK at least, has proved to be somewhat difficult, and I rather wish I had been able to spend more time discovering it first-hand while I was there.

Reference: A Celebration of 150 years of Irelands Inland waterways (Delany)

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Portland Basin, Ashton-under-Lyne

A rumour was circulating about the general condition of Portland Basin and that it was deteriorating. As a result of this, a visit was made to check this out and, sadly, it proved to be correct.
There was a fair quantity of litter, including broken glass and empty cans, lying about the towpaths and the banks of the adjoining river Tame were badly affected along with quantities of other rubbish as well. The Ashton and Peak Forest Canals contained both floating and sunken rubbish, some of the latter being quite large.
The towpaths of both canals have developed large potholes, which fill with water in inclement weather. In two places on the Ashton Canal the coping stones edging the canal have collapsed causing holes in the towpath approximately five feet broad by five feet wide into the side of the towpath.
There is evidence of stone picking of boundary walls on the Ashton Canal, especially in the vicinity of Walk Mill Bridge and the former Prince’s Dock. A parapet wall of the towpath bridge over the dock entrance is at an advanced stage of demolition. The site of the dock is also strewn with rubbish.
One side of Walk Mill Bridge and the adjoining boundary wall is covered with graffiti and there is a small amount of graffiti on the hump towpath bridge over the entrance to the Peak Forest Canal.
Tree saplings are growing among the coping stones edging the canals and if these are not removed then their roots could eventually cause the coping stones to collapse and cause leaks. Additionally, it is known that a horse-drawn boat uses the canals hereabouts and these saplings are already high enough to snag the towrope of the boat as it passes by.

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The IWPS and the Macclesfield Canal Society have kindly been donated a very small supply of the old British Waterways Board Inland Cruising Booklets for the Macclesfield & Peak Forest Canals (No. 11) and the Trent & Mersey Canal Trent Lock to Great Haywood (No. 12) IN MINT CONDITION. There is no date of publication but enthusiasts may well be able to date it from the state of the canals, the vintage of the cars and the cover price then of 18p!
These are becoming increasingly rare in this condition. Sometimes you are lucky to obtain one on e-bay but not at the cost of a donation of say £2.50 each or the two for £4.00 including postage. Please make payment to the Peak Forest Canal Co. Ltd. and be sure you say which one you want (if you don’t want them both).

£2.50 each or 2 for £4.00 inc. postage.
Available in the Bugsworth Basin Shop
Or from:
Ian Edgar MBE
Top Lock House, 7 Lime Kiln Lane, Marple, Stockport, Cheshire, SK6 6BS

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