Canals mostly open again after three-month closure due to heatwave

The Wigan Flight
The Wigan Flight

The borough’s network of canals is almost entirely back open for business after more than three months of heatwave-enforced closure.

The most famous stretch of the local waterway - the dramatic lock flight between New Springs and Ince - will remain shut for another couple of weeks yet for restoration work.

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But the rest of the canals can once again be used by vessels and boating enthusiasts.

The consistently hot early summer will seem a very dim and distant memory to Wiganers now, having been replaced by far more inclement stuff since mid-July.

But it has taken this long for the hill-top reservoirs which top up the borough’s man-made waterways to be sufficiently replenished by rain.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was one of the worst hit in the country by the hot weather from Easter onwards, drying up the reservoirs and waterways themselves.

And so the Canal and River Trust (CRT) announced in late June that it was going to have to keep all the locks closed, thus restricting the movements of craft, stopping the passage of certain freight and thwarting many a summer cruise.

Some folk took simply to punting up and down their stretch of water (some being considerably longer than others). Many others went in search of other pursuits.

But the other day came the announcement canal-users had been longing for.

CRT spokeswoman Gemma Rathbone said: “We are delighted to announce that the reservoirs which feed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal are now filled sufficiently again with rainwater for us to allow the locks to be opened again.

“It may seem like a long time since those hot days left us but it was particularly hot for a long time before then and so it has taken a good while for the rains to compensate.

“As of now the canal from the top of the Wigan flight towards Leeds is open and the canal from the bottom of the flight to Liverpool is also open.

“The flight itself is still undergoing work but should be open by October 22 in time for the half-term holidays.”