2018 has been the warmest, driest year on record and some of the waterways have struggled with keeping water levels sufficiently high enough to allow cruising.
A 55 mile stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was closed at the end of July between Wigan in Greater Manchester and Gargrave, North Yorkshire. It was intended that this would be for the month of August but was only reopened at the end of September. Reservoirs in the area had not had sufficient resources to allow the closure to be lifted.
Fortunately, the southern waterways have not seen this severity of the water levels, although levels are definitely lower than normal in many areas.
The River Thames appears to be an exception. The Environment Agency and their lock keepers realised the potential problems early in the summer and closed off all the weirs. This has a simple effect of keeping the levels high. We went up to Lechlade during August and noticed that the water level was significantly higher than normal and gave us no problem at all, specifically on tight bends where we normally experience shallow areas.
The Kennet and Avon Canal has had intermittent problems, mainly in the Crofton and Wooton Rivers area, the highest point on the navigation. Even at this late stage in the cruising season there are still some restrictions, particularly on those boaters wishing to navigate during hours of darkness. But this also begs another question – why should they need to move at night….?
We are now into October and on the Grand Union Canal heading back to our winter base. The Canal is low in places and on some short pounds, boaters have needed to let water down to allow them to get through. So far, we have not seen any restrictions on the GUC. The reservoirs at Marsworth were noticeably lower than normal but appear to have been managed well by the CRT. The level on the Tring Summit was lower than normal, so we just took it slowly. In fact, this helped us to creep up on a kingfisher and allowed a few photos to be taken.
Occasionally we have seen herons standing on mud banks normally covered by water, but we have manged to keep moving. We sometimes hear Gordon steering on the back of the boat singing “ One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, a knock on the head, keep moving”, it seems to have worked!!!!!
Just as a matter of interest, there are “black boxes” near locks and elsewhere, which we have been reliably informed to be monitoring stations which report water levels and give other info to activate the pumps. These are powered by solar energy as many of them may be miles away from a mains power supply. That’s a good idea but why are the panels sloped to face North and in some places under hedges? It’s something alien to us….