Shropshire Union Canal reopens after a £3 million rebuilding project
Narrowboat enthusiasts can now sail the length of the Shropshire Union Canal after the completion of a £3 million rebuilding project.
The waterway, which runs through Whitchurch and Ellesmere, was reopened on December 21 following repairs after a 70 metre stretch washed away when it overflowed – leaving a 12m deep hole earlier this year.
The runs from Wolverhampton to Ellesmere Port.
Problems were caused when the paddle gates on the locks, which allow water into the canal, were left open by a member of the public.
This resulted in the canal overflowing and a section of the 200-year-old embankment being washed away, in Middlewich, Cheshire.
As a result boats arriving from the north were restricted, as the section between Stanthorne Lock and Wardle Lock were cut off, while operators wishing to travel north were forced to take different routes through the county.
Now it has been reopened by the Canal & River Trust which funded the major restoration programme, along with People’s Postcode Lottery and more than £30,000 in donations from the community from an emergency appeal.
Contractors, Kier and CPC Civils rebuilt the 12m high embankment then constructed new concrete canal walls, installing a waterproof lining membrane and concrete protection slab as well as re-instating the towpath in preparation for the reopening ahead of Christmas Day.
More than 4,000 tonnes of stones were used to rebuild the canal embankment so that it can be refilled with water and once again be enjoyed by boaters, walkers, runners and the community.
Senior project manager Andy Johnson said: “We’ve been working hard on site to repair the canal as quickly as we could.
"We faced some complex challenges like removing stranded boats and access along the canal bed to reach the breach but we’re pleased that we can re-open the canal before Christmas.
“We might need to close the towpath at times early in the New Year to complete the work.”
About 15 boats were re-floated and relocated following the incident, but narrowboat caused problems for the team.
It was situated only a few metres away from a 70m hole and contractors had to construct a special temporary accessed road in the canal bed to reach the stranded boat and breach the site.
A crane on a specialist low loader was brought in to lift the vessel from the canal bed.
Despite the disruption Lower Frankton and Grindley Brook locks at Whitchurch saw the number of boats going through increase on days over Easter from between 20 to 40, as boaters made use of different routes to navigate the region.
The area lost all the traffic that would have come from the east down the Middlewich branch, but picked up the tourists who were planning to go around the Cheshire ring or were heading to the north.