Narrowboats left stranded after landslide causes canal blockage

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Boats have been left stranded after a landslide caused silt and debris to block a section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The incident happened two weeks ago, near Slaithwaite, leaving some hanging around with nowhere to go, apart from a long journey to retrace their steps to another canal and take a different route from the one they had planned.

A number of barges are moored at different points as a result of the landslide, caused by the recent bad weather, with estimates putting the number at between 10 and 20 barges.

Last night the Canal and River Trust (CRT), which recently took over the running of the nation’s waterways, apologised for the delay and said workmen would be on site shortly and it was expected to re-open the canal by the end of next week, if not sooner.

One stranded boater, Martyn Sharpe, 64, from Rotherham, said: “There’s at least 20 people on boats now trapped at Slaithwaite.

“My wife and I were trapped at the bottom side of the stoppage at the Huddersfield end.

“Some boaters have got so frustrated they’ve been getting into the water themselves with shovels and spades and digging their way through. At least two boats have done that.”

Mr Sharpe, who has been boating since 1987, added: “I don’t blame the CRT who are doing their best to help us.”

A spokeswoman for CRT said last night: “Because it has been raining quite a bit the silt and debris has washed into the canal and it has blocked it. The debris washed in about two weeks ago.

“The delay has been simply being able to procure equipment to move the debris out of the water – we need floating diggers to be able to do that.

“It should be all open by next week at the latest,” the spokeswoman added.

Kevin Grinsted, of Cheshire, who is on a tour of the nation’s canals said yesterday he estimated that about 10 boats were affected and that they were really hanging about for the blockage to be cleared so they could get on their way.

He was one of the last people through the Standedge Tunnel but decided to carry on hoping it would be quickly solved but almost two weeks later he is now faced with either turning around or simply sitting it out.

He said the CRT had publicised the problems well and had made efforts to keep people updated. Its a little bit frustrating but I am a leisurely traveller,” he said.

Mr Grinsted said he could have turned around but was unsure if he would have been able to get back through, given that because of the landslide, it had not been taking bookings from boats to get through.

“I could have got much further down the canal but I am not jumping up in arms although I am not particularly happy it has taken two weeks to clear it.”

The landslide happened on a stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The affected section is between Locks 14e and 15e, between Linthwaite and Slaithwaite. It has happened in a location where a stream flows into the canal from the steep hillside and boaters have for years reported they have been experiencing difficulty getting over the silt that has built up.

The spokeswoman for the Canal and River Trust added yesterday that the incident had affected a stretch of the canal which was about 40 to 50 metres in length.

“We apologise for the delay that it has taken to recover the debris but hopefully now they should be on their way within a couple of days,” the CRT spokeswoman added.