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Barges aren’t budging as canal is locked up

People living on canal boats have been “stranded” for up to six weeks after locks were secured to preserve water during the dry summer.

The impact is being felt beyond the towpaths, with one waterside pub lamenting the lack of passing canal traffic.

One of the stretches affected is along the Trent and Mersey Canal on the Red Bull stretch at Church Lawton.

A canalboat owner told the Chronicle he had been stuck there for more than a month and didn’t know when he would be able to move on.

The 62-year-old is attempting to travel along England’s canal network from south to north.
Pointing further up the canal, in the direction of Kidsgrove, he said: “The top lock has been closed off as has the bottom one, so I have been here for six weeks.

“I live on my barge and was planning to do the whole canal system; it was going to take me two and a half years. I think I’m going to be here for a while longer until we get some rain.”

The Canal and Rivers Trust has said that restricted use of lock flights across some sections of the network were introduced to ensure water supplies were used as sparingly as possible.

The man praised the standards of the facilities provided by the trust, just up the towpath towards Congleton Road South.

“The showers and toilet facilities are excellent,” he said.

“If I had been stuck on the canal in middle of nowhere, I would have been in proper trouble!”

The boater, who did not want to be named, has lived on the canals for 23 years.

Called Pegasus, his boat is usually moored at Ware, south of London on the River Lea, from where he started is his long journey along the canals in March.

“I came up the Grand Union Canal, through Coventry, then the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Caldon Canal towards Leek, it was beautiful,” he said.

When the canal is unlocked once again, he plans to head towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before going over towards the Pennines. “It’s living the dream,” he added.


In respect of the reason for canal traffic being at a standstill his thoughts were: “I don’t know whether it’s bad management of the canal infrastructure. Are there enough people to repair the leaks?

“The locks are leaking all over the place but the reservoirs feeding the canals are low as well. But it’s not just happening on this canal.”
With the sun shining down as he spoke from his barge the man, looking tanned, joked:

“I’ve been stuck in worse places!”
And he’s managing to keep busy despite Pegasus being at a standstill for so long.

”I’ve got cleaning to on my boat – polishing the brasses, that sort of thing. There’s plenty to do.

“The only thing is, I planned my canal journey during good weather and now winter is coming along.”

He felt for other canal users as well.

“Some are getting a bit fed up. Not everyone who uses them lives on the canal. I feel for those who want to go on a canal holiday when the system is locked up like this.”

The Red Bull Pub on Congleton Road South overlooks the canal and normally serves plenty of boaters mooring up for a drink or meal, but not at the moment.

Malcolm O’May, who has been the landlord for four years, said: “No one using the canal is coming because there is no canal traffic passing by. Canal users would normally stop for a meal or a drink but that’s not been happening. Boat yards must be suffering as well.

“Since I’ve been here the canal has been shut occasionally but just for lock gate maintenance, not because of the impact of the weather.”

It is clear to see that the locks have not been used for some time because of all the flotsam gathered near the lock gates.

But Mr O’May said: “The canal water itself is clearer than it has been for a long time. It’s usually a rusty colour because of the iron ore in it but the canal traffic isn’t passing and disturbing it.”

He explained that those stranded who live on their boats had not had to use the pub as they were good at looking after themselves.

“We are missing those who holiday on the canals. It would have been nice for it to have been reopened before the children went back to school. The holidays are usually the busiest times for us as far as canal customers are concerned.”


The Canal And Rivers Trust has been asked to comment. Its website said: “We are reviewing water levels on a daily basis and will introduce water saving measures as necessary. Similarly, if it rains and we are able to remove or lessen restrictions we will do straight away.”

The Trent and Mersey Canal, which has 76 locks, is closed from lock 71 to lock 29.
The Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canal is closed from lock one Marple Flight, to lock 12 at Bosley.

The Caldon Canal is closed from lock one to Hazelhurst Locks and Froghall Basin Lock.

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