The Louth Canal

18 January, 2018

As we finish our Season of cruises, Kailani is at rest on its winter mooring near Napton, Warwickshire, and we return to our home in Louth, Lincolnshire. Many an afternoon is spent walking along our local canal, the Louth Navigation, to give its official title. Locals simply call it the Louth Canal. We thought we would give you some information about this short and presently disused stretch of the English canal network. Actually, “disused” is not quite correct, as canoes can still use parts of the canal. For boats, however, that’s another matter.

Map of Canal in Louth

Louth Canal map

The Louth Navigation is a canalisation of the River Lud on its course from Louth to the sea.  It runs for 11 miles (18km) from Louth to Tetney Haven near Cleethorpes and the mouth of the River Humber. The Navigation begins at a basin near the centre of Louth and runs in a North-Easterly direction.  It was completed in 1770, supervised by John Grundy Jnr, an engineer, and then by James Hogard. The total cost of construction was £27,500.

Eight locks were needed to overcome the difference in height along the route, six of which were constructed with sides of four elliptical bays (we call them scalloped), originally the first to be used on this canals in Britain. These types can now also be seen on the Kennet and Avon between Reading and Bath.

At the start of its life, grain was shipped in barges from Louth to meet larger barges at the sea. In exchange, loads of coal and timber were brought back to Louth.

Lock at Alvingham

Alvingham Lock

The canal closed in 1924 due to a rapid decline in income but the final blow was the devastation caused by the Louth flood of 1920.   As the canal was also used as a channel for land drainage, it was not infilled.  It is now a designated main river managed by the Environment Agency, with drainage of the surrounding land. It also acts as a feeder for Covenham Reservoir, from where the treated water enters the public water supply.

Much of the canal banks border on open farm land and there is not too much dense woodland close by. Even so, we often see plenty of wildlife. Two days ago, we saw 2 pairs of kingfishers, always keeping us at a safe distance as we walked along the bank between Alvingham and the Riverhead in Louth.

Lock at Ticklepenny, Louth Canal

Ticklepenny Lock

The Louth Navigation Trust was formed in 1986 as a registered charity to promote the canal as an amenity and has established a base in one of the restored warehouses in the town.  A study to restore the canal was commissioned in 2004 and the Trust is hoping that this could be a reality at some time in the relatively near future. The study originally thought it may be reopened in 2020 – alas, now an impossible task. However, several projects using voluntary labour have been carried out, which has included maintenance of Ticklepenny Lock and clearance work on the towpath. The Lock at Alvingham remains the best maintained (or least dilapidated) of all the locks, and in comparison to lock structures on other canals, it’s probably not too impossible a task to reinstate at least some of the locks. Several moveable bridges have been replaced with fixed bridges, which clearly would also require some serious reconstruction.

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