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Latest Restoration News

Coates Lock & Winding Hole

 

Since 2017, PCAS has restored both Thornton Lock & Walbut Lock and, with the assistance of the Canal & River Trust (CRT) and their Heritage Lottery Fund grant, it has seen successful dredging of the canal between Melbourne Arm and Bielby Arm. This means that the current navigable length of the canal is approximately 7½ miles. The stretch of canal from Bielby Arm to Coates Bridge was dredged at the same time, but this further ¾ mile length could not be officially opened because boats were unable to turn around below or above Coates Lock, just beyond the bridge. 

 

We recently turned our attention to the former ‘Winding Hole’ (or turning circle) immediately above Coates Lock. This winding hole was probably last used around a century ago, give or take a decade, after the North Eastern Railway had taken over the ownership of the canal. Like many purchases involving railway companies at this time, the canal was subsequently deliberately run down as a competitive business. We discussed the need for dredging work with CRT and Natural England, who were both in favour of removing the reeds that had filled the canal at this point to improve water quality and to extend navigation.   

 

After receiving the ‘go-ahead’ we had the silt above and below Coates Lock tested for numerous chemicals, heavy metals and anything unpleasant that might stop the project in its tracks. The owner of the field next to the winding hole very kindly gave us permission to spread the 250 cubic metres of silt that we calculated would come out of the canal.

All was well, so we went out to tender for the removal of the silt and, in due course, the work was planned to begin in November or December 2023. When something is complex, detailed planning is obviously vital. Despite this, unforeseen problems can sometimes arise.

 

We had a real scare when a protected species was found to be living rather close to the planned position of the dredging machine but, after consulting with experts, this was overcome as long as the work took place by the end of November and no longer. If we couldn’t complete the work by then, we could not proceed and the project would have to be put back until the following year..

 

The dredging firm and the operator were on site on Monday 27th November and work began. Horrendous driving rain made viewing the work unpleasant but it was not going to stop us watching the first huge ‘buckets’ of silt expertly being manoeuvred in a huge arc via the 25m reach of the digger arm.

By the end of the first day, it soon became obvious that the dredging work would be completed on time and by Thursday of that week, it was.

 

With the very welcome assistance of CRT, the next step to re-open the canal to Coates Lock and above, is to de-water the lock to discover exactly why the lower gates are not working as well as they should. 

 

2024 could be a very exciting year!

Tim Charlson

Photos of the work can be found in the Gallery

PCAS Restoration Plans

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