Pennine Waterways News

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Serious Water Shortage at Sowerby Bridge

British Waterways have issued an urgent warning to any boaters planning to use the eastern part of the Rochdale Canal. This involves the need to book Tuel Lane Lock in advance and the risk of delays or even closure.

As a result of the continuing dry weather, the Environment Agency has told BW to stop using the pumps that extract water from the River Calder at Luddenden Foot. These pumps feed the 3-mile long pound above Tuel Lane Lock. As this is Britain's deepest canal lock, each time it is used, a huge amount of water is taken from the pound, which cannot be replaced simply from the normal use use of the locks above. BW state that "loss of this abstraction will have a significant effect on our ability to continue navigation".

With immediate effect BW are requiring advanced booking for Tuel Lane Lock. This will be limited to one use of the lock per day. The time of this locking will flexible and will depend on the availability of water and the needs of the booked boaters.

Bookings will only be taken 48 hours in advance to the Red Bull office - 01782 785703.

BW warn that this will result in delays for boats passing through. If the pounds below Tuel Lane (i.e. above Locks 1 and 2) become starved of water, BW will have to close this section of the canal until water is available.

BW warn that "anyone choosing to pass down the east side of the Rochdale Canal should do so with the knowledge that water supplies are constrained and that Tuel Lane may not be navigable for some time".

Any enquiries about this should be made to British Waterways on 01782 785703.

This restriction affects boaters navigating the South Pennine Ring. It does not affect the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

Update 10th May:
The recent showery weather has eased the situation very slightly. As a result the number of lockings will be increased to two per day in each direction (i.e. four narrowboats per day in each direction). Narrowboats must share the lock. Passages must be booked a minimum of 48 hours in advance as described above. The pattern of two lockings a day in each direction will continue daily until the end of next weekend, at which point the situation will be reviewed.

The tunnel below Tuel Lane Lock, Sowerby Bridge


  1. The water extracted from the river is returned to the river further down the system. This is a ridiculous decision by the Environment Agency.

  2. There's been plenty of water since the lock re-opened after the stoppage. No problem once it rains. Still book though.


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