In Depth

Boater accidentally drains Kennet and Avon Canal

Barges left aground after individual leaves lock door open and water drains away

A canal boater accidentally completely drained a section of the Kennet and Avon Canal, in Wiltshire, by leaving all the lock gates open.

A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust told the BBC the action was not malicious but the boater had been “rushing and left the paddles up”, adding that the paddles “work like a plug on a bath in allowing water in and out”.

He added that the trust had since restored the water levels.

“It’s not uncommon for this to happen from time to time and our teams are well versed in moving water through the system to get water levels back up again,” he added to The Times. “We are a charity and so we’re politely asking boaters to help us out by double checking everything’s closed up properly when they’ve finished.”

The paddles were left open at Lock 18 near the Barge pub at Seend. As only one stretch of canal was affected, the Trust was able to restore water levels.

“We became aware first thing this morning and our team set to work to restore the water levels,” a member of the Trust told the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald.

“The levels returned to normal within a few hours. There wasn’t really any impact to boaters or wildlife that we are aware of”.

“We managed to fill the canal up fairly quickly and the fish either swam further down the canal with the flow of water or remained in the pool of water left behind.’ The lock paddles were also left open in 2011 and “small fish were stranded in the muddy puddles left behind as the water receded”, passer-by Timothy Hiss told the Daily Mail.

Used correctly, “canal lock systems can raise or lower water levels by hundreds of feet and allow boats to travel across uneven stretches of country”, says The Times.

The Kennet and Avon Canal is an 87-mile (140km) waterway linking the River Thames at Reading to the River Avon in Bath.

It was originally opened in 1810, but gradually fell into decline after the Great Western Railway was built. The waterway was restored by volunteers and reopened by the Queen in 1990.

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