Breach on Middlewich Branch21 March 2018
An embankment on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal between Wardle Lock and Stanthorne Lock collapsed overnight on Thursday 15th March, and will be closed for the foreseeable future. Canal & River Trust emergency engineers were on site all night dealing with the breach, and engineers and operations teams spent the next few days assessing the breach and prioritising works to be carried out including undertaking a fish rescue and tree assessment.
Less than a week later, CRT has installed a temporary dam on the Middlewich side of the breach site, to enable water to be pumped from the Trent & Mersey Canal into the Middlewich Branch over the following few days, to refloat the 20 or so boats in the affected section and to give them access, via Wardle Lock, to the waterway system again. The boat that was between the breach site and Stanthorne Lock remains marooned.
Volunteers from local volunteer group, SUMBA, supported by IWA, took the opportunity to remove some of the rubbish from the drained section before it was put back in water, with bicycles, mattresses, tyres and traffic cones amongst the rubbish collected.
The breach is bad news for Canal & River Trust as well as any boaters along the stretch and those planning to travel the arm in the near future. The breach at Dutton on the Trent & Mersey in September 2012 cost the charity £2.4 million and took 7 months to repair, while the 2009 breach of the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal cost £500k and was open again after 8 months. As they did for the Dutton breach in 2012, when it raised £22k. CRT will be launching an appeal for donations towards the cost of the repairs.
This incident highlights the importance of having sufficient funding for the waterways to be able to cope with incidents like this.