Drainage work reveals hidden secrets of inland waterway

It’s been part of Yorkshire’s landscape for nearly a quarter of a millennium but for virtually all of that time its secrets have been submerged by water.

The Dowley Gap Lock at Bingley
The Dowley Gap Lock at Bingley

But now maintenance work on the 240-year-old aqueduct and neighbouring two-rise lock flight on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near Bingley, means the water had to be fully drained.

A 50-metre drained section of the grade II listed Dowley Gap Aqueduct is having leakage reduction works to a section of the embankment which involves installing temporary dams and over-pumping the water. A fish rescue was also carried out at the end of last month where thousands of fish were relocated to a safe part of the canal.

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Two new sets of 3.5 tonne lock gates are also being installed at the locks, having been skilfully crafted at Stanley Ferry Workshop in Wakefield. With the lock drained, the team will also be using their heritage skills to carry out other repointing and grouting to the lock chamber walls, repairing leaks and installing new cills and balance beams.

The public are invited to a special open day tomorrow as part of the Canal & River Trust’s annual waterway maintenance programme which sees £50m spent on conservation and maintenance works across 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, including the replacement or repair to 104 locks.

Iain Weston, acting waterway manager for the Canal & River Trust’s North West region said: “Our winter maintenance period is one of our busiest times of year and is essential work to make sure the canals and rivers can continue to be used by the people who use them each year. We’re keen to show people the scale of the work we do in order to preserve them for another 250 years and beyond. We really hope people come along on Sunday and see these fine examples of industrial heritage for themselves.”

The Dowley Gap Open Day will run between 10-4pm (last entry 3.15pm).