A Letter from Nantwich

"Gateway" aqueduct gets a facelift

   
One of the panels after repair. See the foot of the page for a "before" image   The newly-restored aqueduct is open to traffic again in the second week of November 2015    One of the walls of the aqueduct after repairs. See the foot of the page for a "before" image

NOVEMBER 2015

THE restoration of the Welsh Row aqueduct - carrying the Shropshire Union Canal - took eight weeks to complete between September and November during which time the bridge was closed to traffic. There was, however, pedestrian access through a "tunnel" in the scaffolding which held the protective screening for the restoration team (see right).    

   With the A534 Chester Road at the crossroads of Welsh Row and Taylor Drive closed, diversions took vehicles (including the public bus service) along the A51, Barony Road, Beam Street (A530) and Waterlode (A534.).

   The canal towpath was diverted but traffic on the canal was unaffected.

 

 

 

 

 

A canal boat crosses the aqueduct, but the tow path is closed to pedestrians

 

 

 

 

 

   A Press release from Cheshire East Council said: "Improvements to the towpaths to create attractive walking routes, plus other related projects in and near

Nantwich, are all part of the partnership's vision for celebrating the town's waterways history and the contribution it makes to the boating holiday economy through boat-hire marinas."

   There were "crucial" repairs to the structure, new signage, painting and the

removal of overgrown vegetation, the release added .  

   The work was timed to start after the main summer trade period for businesses at the marina and was completed before the Christmas season. "This has been done in full consultation with local members, the Cheshire East transport team,

 

 

The aqueduct closed to vehicles, but there is a "tunnel" through the scaffolding giving pedestrian access to the Basin End Marina

 

 

local businesses at the marina and Malbank School,” said Cheshire East Cheshire Cabinet member for highways, Cllr David Brown.  The facelift had been due to start at the end of March and would have involved the closure of the A534 for the eight weeks.

   At the time, Canal and River Trust Project manager Marc Evans said: “This work needs to be carried out, but we are mindful of the disruption that the road closure will cause. Restoring the aqueduct in September will be less disruptive and it also gives us the opportunity to seek extra funding for additional work that has been identified as being needed to its masonry."

   An additional £50,000 of funding was sought to cover the cost of the extra work.

lAnyone who would like to support the restoration of the canals and the trust's conservation work can become a Friend. See the link below,

 

SEPTEMBER 2016

The work on the aqueduct was recognised in the 2016 Living Waterways Awards. Conserve Nantwich Aqueduct won the Restoration and Historic Environment award - one of nine categories of awards presented in a ceremony at Birmingham Town Hall in September. An independent panel of 14 experts led by Christopher Rodrigues CBE, chair of VisitBritain and trustee of the National Trust, travelled the country looking for potential winners.

 

 

And here's a seasonal image of the aqueduct . . .

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 2015 Christmas card from the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Andrew Martin and Mrs Linda Martin (yes, I received one . . .!) has a snowy image of the aqueduct (right) by 13-year-old Nantwich schoolgirl, Emily Roberts. She won the competition arranged by Nantwich Town Council

to provide the cover image for the civic card.

The Mayor said: “It's a fantastic Christmas card design, very topical with a lot of thought behind it.  I would like to congratulate Emily and thank all other entrants for their hard work.”

 

       

 

"Gateway into Nantwich" all set for a £200,000 renovation

NOVEMBER 2014

A TOTAL of £200,000 which has been received by the Canal and River Trust will be used to renovate the aqueduct - the "gateway" into Nantwich - which is on the boundary of Welsh Row and Chester Road.

   The money comes from the public (£130,000), Cheshire East Council (£40,000), Nantwich Town Council (£20,000), Acton, Edleston and Henhull Parish Council (£3,000) and the Nantwich Partnership (£2,000).

   An article on the Canal and River Trust website in November 2014 said the work on renovating the bridge would begin in the spring of 2015, but it was put back to September.

   The Principal Engineer for the Canal and River Trust, Lee Bradley, had been quoted as saying: "We have worked together for five years to raise the profile of the aqueduct and it is only with help from members of the public and by working in partnership that we now have the opportunity to carry out this essential maintenance work."

   The work list includes: "preparation, four coats of paint, replacement of a missing cast iron panel and important masonry repairs". The aqueduct is said to be structurally sound.

   The aqueduct, designed by Thomas Telford in 1826, carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A534 in a cast iron trough, supported on six arches.

   The Canal and River Trust described the structure as "one of Cheshire's prized scheduled monuments".   

Nantwich Partnership | Local Area Partnership (Cheshire East Council website)

Canal and River TrustBritish Waterways

 

 

Front row: Cllr Penny Butterill and Cllr Arthur Moran (Cheshire East Council and Nantwich Town Council), the then Mayor of Nantwich (Cllr Christine Farrall) and Cllr Peter Groves (Cheshire East Council). Back row: Lee Bradley (Canal and River Trust), Jeff Stubbs (Nantwich Partnership), Mike Houlston (Chairman

of Acton, Edleston and Henhull Parish Council  and Marc Evans (Project Manager [Midlands], Canal and River Trust), who is leading the renovation initiative.                                             Picture: Canal and River Trust

 

Our town "gateway" is not too welcoming

 

 The original letter written in January 2008

CITIES such as Chester which have walls, have "city gates" across the roads which lead into them. Our equivalent is the Nantwich Aqueduct which carries the Shropshire Union Canal over the A51 Chester Road, leading to Chester, North Wales and - via a turn-off - Wrexham.

   Actually, the view of the town's "gateway" (right) is as seen by motorists leaving Nantwich. The other side of it - the side which greets motorists - is not so attractive, somehow.

   In fact, members of Nantwich Town Council feel that the aqueduct is hitting tourism.

   Back in September, as quoted in the Nantwich Chronicle, they said it was giving "a negative image of the town." They asked British Waterways to clean it up, citing:

  • crumbling brickwork;

  • weeds growing over it;

  • rusted, peeling paintwork, and

  • stains on the structure.

   They missed out that water was trickling through the brickwork. Strangely, after being approached by The Chronicle for a comment, a British Waterways spokesman seemed to concentrate on the paintwork aspect. Pointing out that their grants had been cut in the previous 12 months, they said "The aqueduct is structurally sound and, unfortunately, a painting scheme is not a high priority for us."

   The spokesman said British Waterways had "offered to assist the council in finding grant funds."

A car heads out of town for the village of Acton or places such as Chester and Wrexham

     

    The then town councillor, Steve Hope called that response "cheeky".

   "All we want is a tidy up. Nothing fancy and I'm sure it won't cost the earth to get it done," he said, adding that it was the then British Waterways who owned the bridge, not the town.

   As far as I know, that is where the matter rests. But the Council has not given up. As I discovered when I contacted Cllr Arthur Moran and Nantwich Town Clerk at the time Riddell Graham, about a website I had found which might help them in their quest. The site, Save our Waterways (www.saveourwaterways.org.uk/structures/nantwich.htm) contained some excellent pictures of the aqueduct and its defects and comments from people who know about waterways. Back in 2011 those pictures and details had been removed.

   [The position in November 2014: The link above takes you to a website headed Waterways and which

 

includes the Save Our Waterways address, but mainly features cruise ship travel.]

   But, according to an article on that website in 2008, British Waterways said, on December 18, 2007, "Our asset management team recently took another look at Nantwich Aqueduct and confirmed its C-rating on our principal asset list. This does not mean that the structure is in "good" condition or that no works are needed on it, but it does mean that it has been assessed by qualified engineers as structurally sound.

   "We have a long list of works needed across the network but have to prioritise those structures (Ds and Es) in urgent need of repair due to likelihood of failure. As ever there are no easy decisions about how we allocate finite funds, which is why we have to prioritise urgent works." 

   Ds and Es?  They are British Waterways' grades of structures, apparently: A = very good, B = good, C = fair, D = poor, and E = bad. And it seems that 20% of their "principal assets" are graded as in either D or E condition. So our "gateway" isn't in those categories. Yet. . .

    It clearly has to become worse before anything

can be done.

   Cllr Moran said: "The Town Council has been pressing British Waterways to do something about

the aqueduct. Also, as a County Councillor, I have tried to get them involved in the Welsh Row scheme,  with, for instance, a gateway into Nantwich."  

 

   The Town Clerk told me: "We are currently trying to get British Waterways to refurbish the bridge, so any background of this type is useful." 

   Back in September 2007, Cllr Hope said: "Welsh Row is a major street in our tourism efforts and people driving under the aqueduct must be thinking: 'What have we come to?' " 

  Well, yes, they might think that if they have a chance to study the structure. The aqueduct stands at the point where they are looking where to go next. 

 

lApart from the small stone showing the Shropshire Union Canal Company's existence (pictured far left), I spotted a rusting metal post (right) marking the boundary between the former Nantwich Urban District Council's territory (it just says "Nantwich D C" with a smoothed area where the U used to be) and that of Cheshire County Council.

   This is just on the town side of the aqueduct - although within the bridge parapet area) which puts the main aqueduct structure firmly on county council land. A possible source of revenue?

 PREVIOUS UPDATES

Cost of study

MARCH 2008

IT will cost £7,000 to carry out a feasibility study on the state of Nantwich Aqueduct - and £100,000 to clean it up and repair it.

   That's the bad news Nantwich Town Council have had from British Waterways - who are citing lack of funds for the work. They are still offering to help the council to find extra money, but the councillors are not happy - according to the Nantwich Chronicle (March 5)

   British Waterways say the costs are based on work carried out on other bridges in their care.   

 

British Waterways set the price

SEPTEMBER 2010

THE estimated cost of repairing the aqueduct was set at £426,000 by British Waterways, according to The Nantwich Chronicle of September 15. The newspaper added that members of Nantwich Town Council, Cheshire East Council and Nantwich Civic Society were to meet British Waterways to discuss ways of attracting funding for the work.

 

FOOTNOTE: British Waterways ceased to exist in 2012 and split into two new bodies. See the link above.

 

Hopes of restoring aqueduct

DECEMBER 2011

IN the Winter 2011 edition of "Talk of the Town" (the newsletter of Nantwich Town Council) an article reports that British Waterways say they have money to repair leaks and the ironwork but they have none to repaint the aqueduct.

   However, they are hoping to get funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and sources such as WREN (the waste recycling charity).

   A meeting is to be held early in 2012 to discuss ways of raising money, with hopes that the work " will be completed

 

before the Nantwich and South Cheshire Show and International Cheese Show in July 2013.

   Apart from rusting to the ironwork and some leakage of water, there is "nothing dangerous" say British Waterways. 

   The Leader of the Town Council, Cllr John Lewis, is quoted as saying: "This is a project the town council feels worthwhile. We may be in a position to contribute towards the painting costs of this historic gateway to the town. Since British Waterways are intending to carry out some engineering work it may be possible to put a limited amount towards restoring this Nantwich landmark. We will consider it further."

Letters index page | Another Letter from Nantwich featuring the aqueduct | Cheshire East Council succeeds Cheshire County Council |See also the Contents pages

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