Sunday, 24 June 2012

Marooned at Todmorden

Regular readers of this blog, and there are a few, will remember how we became stuck at Wallingford on the Thames by fast and high water.  Well it’s happened again, this time on a canal at Todmorden in Yorkshire which has featured on the national news today and yesterday for the floods which have occurred here.

It all began on Thursday when we spent a very wet morning in pouring rain coming down the 13 locks to Todmorden.  We moored just below the bridge in the centre of town and retired inside to escape the wet.  Friday dawned just as wet so we decided not to press on to Hebden Bridge and it was too miserable to contemplate going for a walk in the hills either.  Helen and I spent a long lunch in the bar near the boats watching the populace fighting the wind and rain as they hurried by under their umbrellas.

There was no let up by the evening and we were sitting down to roast chicken when we heard a siren which went on and on.  We had no idea what this meant until a brown river appeared crossing the patio of the pub opposite and discharging into the canal.  The river had burst its banks and was pouring into the canal straight towards our boats.  The level of water in the canal went up quickly until the towpath was awash.  We decided we would be better not moored to mooring pins hammered into the grass by the canal.  These can easily be torn out in strong currents.  So we moved the boats back onto the lock moorings as it got dark so that we could use the sturdy mooring bollards there and also tie the boats back with a long line to the bridge behind us, so that there was no danger of us being swept downstream.
Floodwaters entering the canal
The manic flow of water continued until late but eventually the water started to go down and the river returned to its normal channel.  The problem with the water going down, as we experienced at Wallingford, is making sure the boat is then in the water rather than stranded on the land.  So we were out at midnight in the lighter rain in water deeper than our wellingtons, holding the boats off the bank.  We retired to bed, but I set the alarm for 3 am to check that all was still well.  Thankfully it was.

Now that things here have returned to normal we have been out on bikes exploring the canal we need to travel.  Many many homes here are much worse off than we are.  At least our house floats.  So many residents here have been clearing up after basements and ground floors were flooded with mud and water.  There are streets piled with soggy furniture and carpets, pumps running to clear water and fire engines and dustcarts doing what they can to help.

As regards the canal the towpath has been washed away at many of the locks downstream.
Gouged out towpath
Walls demolished by floods

Further down stone walls had been demolished by the water 

and one fibreglass boat was full of water and barely afloat.

Our main problem in moving on to Hebden Bridge is a narrowboat which completely blocks the canal:

I cycled down to look at the boat today and spoke to the owner.  The boat was moored further up the canal when it was swept from its moorings by the flood water, travelled a few hundred yards downstream and was partially swept over a weir as the photo shows.  
Four or five feet at the bow now rest on the weir across the towpath while the stern is aground on the other side of the canal.  So there is no prospect of us moving very far before the boat is rescued.  The owner told me that British Waterways are coming tomorrow to assess how the boat may best be removed so that the canal can be reopened.

We are making the best of our enforced stay at Todmorden.  This afternoon we walked in a rare hour of sunshine to the local park which curiously is also used as a place to dump excess water in times of flood.  We found and patted the lucky dog:
Lucky Dog, Todmorden
This iron statue featured in a Derren Brown TV programme recently where the locals were encouraged to believe the dog really did bring good luck.  Well we patted the dog anyway so here’s hoping that we’ll suffer no more floods and rain on our journey.

As we returned we got another glimpse of Stoodley Pike a memorial on the hills to the South East which we both remember from our walks up the Pennine Way.
Canal with Stoodley Pike in the distance
 The monument was originally erected to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.  If the weather is OK tomorrow we plan to climb up to the monument.  More local walks may follow as it is unlikely we will be moving the boats until mid week at the earliest.

1 comment:

  1. Ian - my heart bleeds for you all - you have had a tough time.

    We are currently at the bottom of Hatton discussing if we will go up today or tomorrow - at least we have choices - thanks for the pictures on your blog - very interesting.



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