Pennine Waterways News

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Safety Fence on Marple Aqueduct?

The Canal and River Trust is inviting people to express their views about their proposal to erect a fence along the offside of historic Marple Aqueduct on the Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Aqueduct showing the unfenced off-side

Following the work carried out recently by the Canal and River Trust to improve the experience for visitors to Marple Aqueduct, including cutting back trees to enable a clear view of the structure from the side, a increase in the number of visitors is now expected.

A safety review of the Aqueduct has concluded that additional measures are required to reduce risk to visitors, including a parapet fence on the off-side of the structure (opposite the towpath side). Boaters are at present able to get off onto the unprotected ‘off-side’, while some people are understood to have jumped across the canal channel as a dare.

The Trust is looking for feedback on the safety fencing proposals. Comments can be made by email to

The consultation period will be open until January 31st 2015.

An artist's drawing of what the fence is expected to look like can be seen here:

Artist's impression of proposed safety fence

A similar fence exists at the smaller Paddock Aqueduct in Huddersfield:

Paddock Aqueduct, Huddersfield Narrow Canal

The Trust say that the safety fence will be to be part of a wider programme of improvements including vegetation clearance to reveal the sweep of the Aqueduct, gateway markers, suitable safety signage and improved green space at the entry points to the Aqueduct, creating a sense of arrival at the Grade 1 Listed structure and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

It is not known how many people have fallen from the aqueduct since its opening 215 years ago. Perhaps a local historian can help with that one. The proposal also raises the question of whether such safety measures can be expected to appear on other structures such as the aqueducts at Chirk and Pontcysyllte.

Read about this consultation here: and, if you have views, please make them known using the email link above.


  1. Deckchairdave@hotmail.com2 January 2015 at 21:27

    You may want to have a look at the comments made in the thread on the Canals & Rivers UK Face Book site ... it depressed the hell out of me!! All the negative comments were coming from a few older "we were sensible in my day" "never did me any harm" type people. Reading and responding to their comments depressed the hell out of me!!

    1. It did me too! I was trying to present a case but my points were completely ignored.

    2. You wilfully misinterpreted the comments Dave.

      My understanding is there has been at least one fatality from this aqueduct and the one that I am aware of was a suicide (not sure which side of the canal), the addition of a fence on the off side will not prevent some one from jumping.

      In 2010 a 19 year old woman jumped from the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, the Pontcysyllte is considerably more dangerous than the Marple one for boat users, as there is not a 8 foot wide parapet protecting the crew from the drop.

      I fear that the money that will be spent on this consultation, and the implementation of a poorly thought out "safety" barrier will come out of the maintenance budget.

  2. Thanks. I posted the topic on Canals and Rivers UK, so I have been following the discussion.
    ( for anyone not familiar with it. )

  3. I think it would be much safer so I would support this fence being erected

    1. Safer how? the off side is eight foot wide, and is protected by a canal.

      Please invest in the maintenance of the bridge first, there is no safety case to answer.

  4. Where do you stop? Safety fences round every lock? What height is safe? Health & Safety gone mad. People need to be responsible for their own actions. Spend this money on something needed. It's on the non towpath side, where nobody needs to be!

  5. Health and Safety gone mad - indeed! I've never seen anyone on that part of the aqueduct and anyone with a brain cell would keep off. As for people jumping the canal - really? Putting a fence there would give moronic individuals encouragement to jump and somewhere to tie ropes or whatever and could even lead to accidents. If I said I'd seen people walking along the top of the wall on the towpath side what would be done about that? A line needs to be drawn between preventing accidents (incidents happening to responsible, thinking individuals which may happen due to inattention or inability to perceive the danger) and protecting brainless individuals from their own stupid actions.

  6. I have had a look at the "Artists" impression, and am not sure that the person who drew that (I assume inside CaRT) has limited knowledge of the canal system, and infrastructure. Given the Boat as draw, the water, and the fence line as presented will not be as shown.

    > Boaters are at present able to get off onto the unprotected ‘off-side’

    I have walked along the unprotected (and it is nearly called the off-side) off-side the 8 foot width of this parapet protected me from the drop.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Adrian (the wrgie)3 January 2015 at 17:27

    As a listed structure with little chance of an accident, I do not see the need to change something that has existed for 200+ years. Anyone with a boat should be aware of the danger. Anyone without would have had to do something dangerous to get to that side.

  9. You would have to be trying quite hard, and or already doing something somewhat risky, to fall off at it is at present.
    - If you fell off a boat, onto the non-towpath side, you would then have to roll quite some way to get to the edge.
    - If you jumped the canal, you would have to significantly overshot or roll, having already done something with known risk.


  10. A fence is an unnecessary expense. As someone has already said, there is no safety case. So many other pressing cases for investment on our waterways!

  11. Safety fences should be used to prevent accidents. If someone crosses an 8 foot wide parapet and goes over the edge that is never going to be an "accident"; it is either reckless or deliberate. Either way there is no case at all for this to be fitted. As others have said the line has to be drawn somewhere or we will eventually end up with inappropriate fencing of every structure on the cut.

  12. Safety features are often ridiculous. This proposal is not quite as silly as the precautions taken at the first (staircase) lock above the Falkirk Wheel. If you look at you will note some (sensible) railings as the lock side changes levels. But look a little further away. Although there are no railings alongside the main part of the lock, there is a gate at the top of the escape ladder. Quite what accident it serves to prevent is a mystery. But if someone were to fall into the lock and then managed to ascend the ladder opening the gate looks more than a little challenging to a shocked, wet and slippery person precariously balancing at the top of a ladder don’t you think?

    Looked at in this light, the railing proposal for the Marple Aqueduct, looks comparatively rational.


Please feel free to comment on this item.

If you do not have a Blogger/Google etc account, then please click on "Name/URL" and type in your name or nickname.

If you have no URL you can leave that part blank.

Please do not post as "Anonymous".