News from European canals
The Deûle-Scheldt Canal is not a unique case in Europe, far from it. We look here at a few comparable examples:
The Greveling Canal
The Province of Groningen has just opened a parallel route reserved for recreational navigation between Groningen and Veendam, via the Zuidlaardermeer. As wth Blue Links, the itinerary uses former industrial canals, in this case built to carry peat, but also a new section of canal with a lock, of dimensions similar to those on the Deûle-Escaut. The lock was opened in 2008.
Like Blue Links, the ‘turf route’ project took three years to complete. No less than 38 bridges had to be restored, many of them as moving bridges, a third of all the bridges being reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Two fixed weirs were demolished and replaced by the new lock. Groningen Province has been careful to design and build structures in harmony with the characteristic style of villages in the Veen district, with structures painted green and white. The objectives of the owner, as on the Deûle-Scheldt Link, are to boost the local economy and improve the quality of life. The neighbouring province of Drenthe also took part in the project, along with the communes of Hoogezand-Sappemeer, Aa en Hunze and Veendam, and the Hunze en Aa’s water board.
The Royal Canal from Dublin to the Shannon
Irish boaters eagerly await the reopening in 2009/2010 of the last section of the Royal Canal, one of the two canals built in the 18th/19th century to link Dublin to the Shannon Navigation. The last person to cruise through the canal was Europe’s first recreational inland boater, Tom Rolt (also co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association) in 1947. It will have taken 60 years to restore the canal, before boaters can again make this long circular cruise which was so brilliantly described in his cult book Green & Silver.
The National Development Plan provided funding for restoration of the last section of 24 km, with 7 bridges, one of which is a lift bridge, and 7 locks. Works are starting on the last bridge, at Lyneen.
Outstanding works include the installation of a pumped main to provide an additional water supply system. The canal will need up to 50 000 m3 per day, i.e. a continuous discharge of about 600 litres/sec. This water can no longer be supplied by gravity through the feeder from Lough Owel, north of the summit level, because Westmeath County has reserved part of this stored volume for drinking water supply. Water will now have to be pumped up from the much lower Lough Ennel, to the south, but it remains to conclude the funding agreements.
Nothing is simple, concerning canals, their operation and maintenance !
The new Begnagh lift bridge, 2.5km from the junction with the river Shannon
Between Deûle and Escaut, boats ahead!
The principal message of the Blue Links partners at the press conference on 10 October was that an inaugural event will be organised on the European Heritage week-end on 19 and 20 September 2009. The press conference, held in Estaimpuis, Leers and Wattrelos, attracted about 50 people, including journalists from the local and national Press and TV. The purpose was to show the extent of the works completed since the Blue Links project started in 2005. In reality, many of the works could not begin until 2007 or even 2008, because of the highly complex procedures for the studies, administrative procedures and subsequent tendering. Welcomed at the ‘Maison du Canal’ in Estaimpuis, the partners each presented their components of the project to about 15 journalists, before walking along the towpath to visit two key sites close to the border: the new Grimonpont lift bridge and the filter basins. Slimane Tir, vice-president of Lille Métropole in charge of the metropolitan parks department, took a small boat generously made available by the MET’s depot in Comines, to be interviewed en route by the regional news team from France 3.
Canals close and personal in Ghent
One of the historic canals of Ghent city centre, closed in the 1960s, will be restored to allow trip-boats and small, low air-draught motor boats to proceed through the city. The project, promoted and funded Evergem by the City of Ghent, requires a new lock between the Ketelvaart (dug in the 12th century) and the Portus Ganda marina, opened in 2005. This link to the Lys and the town centre is shown dotted red on this map. This project is symptomatic of the current policy of cities worldwide, concerned to ‘reanimate’ their waterways in the interests of their citizens and economic activity. The works should be completed in 2011.
The inland waterways of the city of Ghent, and the link restored between the Ketelvaart and Portus Gandus marina.
What’s new on the eastern front?
Dombrovskiy Lock on the Belarus portion
of the Augustow Canal, with a brand new lift bridge
The Republic of Belarus has just restored its section of the Augustow Canal, which is located mostly in Poland. This picture shows a trip boat in Dombrovski lock, half way between the river Niemen (Nemunas) and the Polish border. The particular situation of this cross-border canal, between a member State and a country where very different economic conditions prevail, makes it impossible for the time being to allow private boats to transit through the canal from the Bug to the Niemen. This does not etract from the symbolic value of this exemplary project, at the eastern gateway to the EU.
Missing link at Droitwich
The Droitwich Canal Partnership in Worcestershire celebrated reopening of the ‘Barge Lock’ on 26 September 2008.
This restores the navigable link between the Narrow Canal and a short navigable length of the river Salwarpe in the centre of the spa town of Droitwich. A remarkable aspect of this projet was the mobilisation of funds by the Droitwich Canals Trust and the IWA, about €130 000, in just a few months. As well as putting up this sum, for purchasing the lock gates, paddles and other fittings, the volunteers gave their time to complete substantial works, including dredging the lock chamber, repointing brickwork on the lock walls and fitting ladders and bollards. This lock should see boats transiting in 2010 between the Worcestershire & Birmingham Canal and the river Severn. Like the Deûle-Scheldt link, this link will open a particularly attractive ring for recreational boating, 35 km long with 30 locks.
For an overview of European canal restoration projects, see the map published for the partners of EU Interreg projects on http://www.worldcanals.com/english/vne_Europe.html, or the 3rd edition of the European Waterways Map & Directory published by Euromapping (www.euromapping.com), available late November.