IWA Timeline: 1977 - 1979


The British Waterways maintenance backlog was made worse by several major structural failures, including closure of Blisworth Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line, which was opened again later in the year.

In the autumn, a report by Peter Fraenkel and Partners dealing with The Costs of Operating and Maintaining the Waterways of the British Waterways Board was published.  It was a detailed survey of all the waterways and identified that at least £60 million needed to be spent to bring BW navigations up to standard.

IWA's East Midlands Region organised an IWA Waterways week culminating in CC77, a rally marking 200 years of the Chesterfield Canal.  4,000 people attended the Huddersfield Canal Festival on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.  IWA's National Festival at Reading on the Thames had over 370 boat entries.


An Association sponsored walk (IWALK) was held all over the country and raised around £33,000 for IWA funds.  Sir Geoffrey de Freitas became the second IWA President, a post left vacant since the death of Sir Alan P Herbert in 1971.  IWA membership topped 15,000.

1978_titfordIWA's National Rally was intended to be held at Windmill End on the Dudley Canal, but at short notice was switched to Titford Pools on another part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations because the Netherton Tunnel needed urgent repair works.  Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line suffered similar problems, just two more indications that the maintenance backlog was having a major effect on the system.

Restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal continued to progress, with the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust claiming it was possible that it could be open by 1981 or 1982.  On the River Great Ouse, the Restoration Society reported the completion of Castle Mills lock on 28th April, thus fully restoring navigation to the river.  After years of fighting, the improvement scheme for the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation was finally approved. The much delayed restoration of the Montgomery Canal also started.


Stoppages of several months duration occurred during the year including Foulridge Tunnel on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Tyrley Cutting on the Shropshire Union Canal, Retford Aqueduct on the Chesterfield Canal, Tardebigge and Kings Norton tunnels on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal, Braunston Tunnel on the Grand Union Main Line, Crick Tunnel on the Grand Union - Leicester Section, the section from Hawkesbury to Coventry on the Coventry Canal and Netherton Tunnel on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, which was still closed from the previous year.

1979_restorationRestoration work continued on numerous waterways including the Wilts & Berks Canal, the Wey & Arun Canal, Cotswold Canals, Neath & Tennant Canals and the Montgomery Canal.

IWA's National Rally was held on the River Weaver at Northwich, attracting a record 622 boats and over 30,000 visitors.  IWA membership at the end of the year was 17,728.