Our picture shows narrowboat Oxford on a fact-finding mission on the Calder & Hebble Navigation to check out whether it was safe to reopen following the major damage to Pennine waterways caused by the Boxing Day floods.

Local boaters from the Calder Navigation Society and the local branch of the Inland Waterways Association got together to provide the Canal & River Trust with a floating vantage point to look at lock gates and gear, and to check for any underwater obstructions brought down by the floodwater. “Their offer has helped us to see things that you wouldn’t be able to from the towpath”, explained waterways manager John Horsfall.

Nigel Stephens of Shire Cruisers, who provided the boat and whose hire base is at the heart of the affected waterways, said that “everybody is pitching in and it was nice to be able to help”.

Their mission from Sowerby Bridge to Elland and back was a success: the first short section from Sowerby Bridge to Salterhebble has now been reopened, while on the rest of the length they found no flood damage and just a couple of lock paddles in need of attention.

Meanwhile on Saturday 23 the third of a series of volunteer work parties will be clearing debris from where the River Calder overflowed and washed away the towpath at Elland. See canalrivertrust if you want to help.

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