Middlewich Breach Caused by "Over-Topping"30 April 2018
In total, around 70 metres of the embankment carrying the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal over the River Wheelock was lost just before midnight on Thursday 15th March, draining the 1.4km pound between Stanthorne and Wardle locks and dislodging some 4,200 tonnes (2,800 cubic metres) of earth.
A total of 14 boats were trapped, one on the 'wrong' side of the breach. The other 13 were refloated on 22nd March, after Canal & River Trust had installed a portable dam to seal off the breached section and pumped up to 865,000 litres of water back into the canal from the Trent & Mersey Canal. Of the 13 boats, eleven were locked down through Wardle Lock onto the Trent & Mersey Canal, while the owners of two boats with off-side moorings elected to stay.
At a North Wales & Borders Waterway user forum in Nantwich on 17th April CRT attributed the breach to "over-topping", stating that the "freeboard" at the point of the breach had previously been recorded as being a little lower than elsewhere on the embankment, though "not worryingly so". The cause of the over-topping is thought to have been that the paddles at Stanthorne Lock, above the breach, had been raised during the night and left open.
Engineers from CRT and its contractors, Keir, are assessing the means and method of best achieving the repair and currently expect to have a repair schedule available by the end of May. Until then, a date for re-opening the Middlewich Branch is largely speculation, but CRT is talking about it being unlikely before the end of the year and at a cost of £2-3 million.
Most of this will have to come from CRT funds and it will probably have an impact on other CRT remedial projects, though it won't necessarily affect next winter's stoppage works. In the meantime CRT has launched an appeal - the Shropshire Union Canal: Emergency Appeal. IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch made an initial contribution to help get the appeal underway and is pleased to report that donations have now reached more than £20,000.