How Big Is Your Bridge?

On the way back from seeing progress with repainting our boat in the autumn I took up an invitation to visit Willow Wren Training. They are excavating the arm at their training centre which had been filled in many years ago.  The short arm they had previously excavated had been stopped off, the fish removed, and the water pumped out.

> Stopped off arm at Willow Wren Training
Stopped off arm at Willow Wren Training

Looking the other way, the excavation is progressing.  The original walls have been found and it’s not known exactly how far the arm used to go, although old plans suggest there’s a little further to go. Careful digging will eventually reveal the end.

> Further excavations along the arm at Willow Wren Training.
Further excavations along the arm at Willow Wren Training.

A public footpath crossed the arm on the level before the excavation started and the right of way has been maintained by providing a new footbridge.

151030-1154Here’s Steve & Izzie Vaughan wondering how long the arm will  be when the excavation reaches the end.

Willow Wren Training's Bridge
Willow Wren Training’s Bridge

The style of the bridge looked familiar and Steve reminded me where I had seen it before.

Chesterfield Canal - Constitution Hill Bridge 11
Chesterfield Canal – Constitution Hill Bridge 11

It was on the Chesterfield Canal, near Staveley Basin, as Constitution Hill Bridge 11 on the open section from Chesterfield.

With Willow Wren’s bridge having six pairs of panels and Constitution Hill Bridge having four pairs of panels it looked like Willow Wren had the larger bridge, until I remembered another bridge.

Chesterfield Canal - Renishaw Foundry Footbridge 18B
Chesterfield Canal – Renishaw Foundry Footbridge 18B

On the section of the Chesterfield Canal which is still to be restored, where some work has already been undertaken, stands Renishaw Foundry Footbridge 18B.  This also has six pairs of panels, the same as Willow Wren Training’s bridge, so it looks like a draw.

You can see more about the excavation and progress to see how long the arm is on Willow Wren Training’s website.

Map Updates – February 2016 – Issue 47

The February 2016 monthly updates for my maps are now available on my website.

Map extract showing Barton Lift Bridge
Map extract showing Barton Lift Bridge

You can see a full list of the issued maps and those with significant changes are:

Remember, you can update your map to the latest version – free during the first year and a small charge after that.  You can also upgrade to a larger map.  Just email paul@waterwayroutes.co.uk with details of your existing maps for a no obligation quote.

Runcorn Locks

Runcorn Locks once linked the Bridgewater Canal to the Runcorn & Weston Canal, the Manchester Ship Canal and, previously, the River Mersey.

Bottom of Runcorn Old Locks
Bottom of Runcorn Old Locks leading onto the Manchester Ship Canal and, formerly, the River Mersey

History

Opened in 1776, the Bridgewater Canal was linked to the River Mersey at Runcorn by a flight of ten locks, arranged as five pairs of staircase locks. These became so busy another flight of ten individual locks was constructed to provide a parallel route, becoming known as Runcorn New Locks, while the original flight became know as Runcorn Old Locks. In 1859 the Runcorn & Weston Canal opened, completing a link between the River Weaver Navigation and the two lines of locks at Runcorn, forming junctions with them two locks from the bottom.

Runcorn New Locks
Runcorn New Locks are mostly built over with modern housing

When the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894 the canal was shortened and opened into the ship canal, with a further lock, now derelict, allowing access from the ship canal to the River Mersey. The canal gradually fell into disuse and both old and new flights of locks were filled in around 1965 when the line was blocked by construction of the approach roads for the Runcorn Road Bridge.  The new locks line has been built over with modern houses but the line of Runcorn Old Locks has been preserved and the only obstacle to restoration seems to be the bridge approach roads.

Future

A new road crossing for the River Mersey, the Mersey Gateway, is under construction with opening planned for late 2017.  This will take much of the traffic from the old road bridge and may permit reconstruction or realignment of its approach roads to permit re-opening of the canal. The Runcorn Locks Restoration Society, formed in 2004, developed the Unlock Runcorn Campaign to support the restoration of Runcorn Old Locks. If this is accompanied by restoration of the Runcorn & Weston Canal to restore the route through to the River Weaver Navigation it will create a new cruising ring, including the Anderton Boat Lift.

Free Maps

You can download a map for the Runcorn & Weston Canal, including Runcorn Locks, in a choice of Acrobat (pdf) and Memory-Map (qct) formats.  Like all my maps for restoration projects these are free to download.

Extract from Runcorn & Weston Canal Map
Extract from Runcorn & Weston Canal Map (which includes Runcorn Locks)

Virtual Cruise

You can take a virtual cruise through Runcorn Locks, showing the route as it appears today.  Just select your starting point and keep clicking the next links.

Mersey Gateway

The Mersey Gateway project will provide a new road link to relive pressure on the existing road bridge at Runcorn. It’s being constructed to the east of the existing bridge, and scheduled for completion in late 2017.

Can you identify the four navigable waterways the route will cross – there’s a clue for one of them in the title of this post.

Runcorn Road Bridge
Runcorn Road Bridge

This is the iconic road bridge that carries all the road traffic across the River Mersey at Runcorn today but it’s very congested, especially around the rush hours. You can just see the parallel rail bridge behind.  These bridges also cross the Manchester Ship Canal.

It’s the approach roads to this road bridge that block the line of the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn Locks.  It’s hoped that, when the Mersey Gateway Bridge is opened, that realignment or modification of the existing approach roads will permit re-opening of those locks.

Mersey Gateway Bridge - Under Construction
Mersey Gateway Bridge – Under Construction

Taken from the existing (old) road bridge this shows how wide the River Mersey (Waterway 1) is, and how little water it carries at low tide, with the many sandbanks that make navigation difficult.  Across the centre of the photo is a temporary causeway linking the piers with tower cranes on them which are building the new Mersey Gateway Bridge.  Running along the right hand edge of the river is the Manchester Ship Canal (Waterway 2).

Mersey Gateway Bridge - Under Construction
Mersey Gateway Bridge – Under Construction

A closer view shows the northern pier and the tower crane starting it’s construction.  The temporary causeway linking this to the north bank of the Mersey is visible too.  In the background are the cooling towers of Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station.

Bridgewater Canal crossing for the Mersey Gateway route
Bridgewater Canal crossing for the Mersey Gateway route

To the south of the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal the Mersey Gateway route will cross the Bridgewater Canal (Waterway 3) and construction of this bridge is well in hand.  It’s already shown on my maps and I wonder how long before others show this new bridge.

Mersey Gateway route crosses the Bridgewater Canal
Mersey Gateway route crosses the Bridgewater Canal

The towpath and navigation of the Bridgewater Canal remain open most of the time, with short temporary closures for critical phases of work on the bridge.

That’s three waterways named. Have you identified the fourth?

That’s to the north of the River Mersey

Views along the River Mersey show the Runcorn Road and Rail bridges beyond the Mersey Gateway Bridge being constructed
Views along the River Mersey show the Runcorn Road and Rail bridges beyond the Mersey Gateway Bridge being constructed

There’s no pictures of the bridge work over the fourth waterway yet – this is the nearest I can get to take a photo.  The Mersey Gateway will continue north (to the right in this photo) and cross the St Helens Canal (Waterway 4).

Well done if you identified the four waterways before reading this far down the post.  You will have realised these are (from North to South):

Mersey Gateway Map
Extract from England & Wales map showing the Mersey Gateway

The Mersey Gateway is shown on my England & Wales waterway maps, and the individual maps for the Bridgewater Canal and the St Helens Canal.

Bridgewater Canal Stop Gates

The Bridgewater Canal has been closed since 2nd November 2015, just to the west of Worsley, for the installation of stop gates.

Advance warning of stoppage at Leigh
Advance warning of stoppage at Leigh

Large warning signs at each end, like this one at Leigh, handily positioned on the stop planks for a photo opportunity, tell boaters it will be closed until 29th February 2016.

Cycling along the Leigh Branches of the Bridgewater and Leeds & Liverpool Canals yesterday to check the data for my maps is up to date, I passed the work site as they were nearing completion.

New stop gates in the narrows
New stop gates in the narrows

The stop gates have been added at the Leigh End of the narrows for a former lift bridge which explains the old stonework in the photo.

Two sets of stop gates
Two sets of stop gates

Peering under the arm of the digger we can see one pair of stop gates closed and pointing towards us, with another pair behind them in the open position and pointing in the opposite direction.  With long lengths of lock free canals it’s important to be able to stem the water flow in either direction in the event of a breach.

Stop gates facing each way
Stop gates facing each way

The side on view show the gate beams at different heights so they can be opened and closed independently. These pairs of gates follow the convention of pointing away from each other. The water between them can be pumped out during tests every few years to check the gates successfully hold back the water.

Bunds at each end keep the water out
Bunds at each end keep the water out

They were clearing up the site as I passed and starting to take down the safety fencing.  They said they would breach the dams in the next day or two to check it all worked.  If they do that with the gates closed they can test for leaks into the central section which should remain dry, at least until filled by the inevitable small leaks, but that might cause another problem.

I could see no sign of any paddle gear and, having been separated for months the two ends of the canal are unlikely to be at exactly the same level.  When the leaks have filled the central section then one set of gates can be opened but any difference in water levels will still hold the second pair shut.

There could be a long wait until the levels in the two long pounds can be equalised if they test the gates this way. Removing the dams with the stop gates open, and testing by pumping might be a better solution.

Boaters who have been waiting for passage, like Tom and Jan on Waiouru, should find the canal open next week as planned.

UPDATE: New photos of the opened gates.

Barton Lift Bridge

In my previous post about the Mersey Gateway I described a new bridge being constructed across the Manchester Ship Canal near Runcorn.

There’s another new bridge being constructed across the ship canal nearer Manchester.  It’s next to Barton High Level Bridge which carries the M60 motorway high above the canal.  Despite widening, the motorway bridge is often congested, with local traffic using it between the junctions each side of the canal.

Map extract showing Barton Lift Bridge
Map extract showing Barton Lift Bridge

The solution is to build another bridge to carry local traffic, leaving the motorway to carry the longer distance traffic. The new Barton Lift Bridge is shown near the bottom of the map.  It’s so new that the Ordnance Survey background map still doesn’t show the local roads to the bridge.

Barton Lift Bridge
Barton Lift Bridge

Viewed from the Barton Swing Road Bridge (next to the Barton Swing Aqueduct), on the Manchester side, the photo shows the high level motorway bridge in the background with the four vertical towers for the new lift bridge complete.  The deck will eventually sit between these and rise vertically to achieve the same navigational clearance as the motorway bridge.  Completion is planned for summer 2016.

Runcorn & Weston Canal

The Runcorn & Weston Canal ran parallel to the River Mersey, through the outskirts of Runcorn, for 2.4km (1.5 miles).  At the southern end it joined the Weston Canal of the River Weaver Navigation through one lock.  At the northern end it joined the Runcorn New Locks and Old Locks lines of the Bridgewater Canal.

Runcorn & Weston Canal
Runcorn & Weston Canal

You can see more detail of the route by downloading the Runcorn & Weston Canal Maps in Acrobat (pdf) or Memory-Map (qct) formats.  Like all the maps for restoration projects these are free to download.

Extract from Runcorn & Weston Canal Map
Extract from Runcorn & Weston Canal Map

You can also see a little of those parts of the canal that are still accessible with a virtual cruise.  Just choose your starting point and keep clicking the Next links.

Start of the Runcorn & Weston Canal
Start of the Runcorn & Weston Canal