Many of you will be aware of the landslip at Dogmersfield that took place last Spring, which temporarily closed the Canal. After a difficult period, the navigation was thankfully reopened for much of the 2013 cruising season (though the towpath has had to remain closed), and it has remained open – that is, until last Friday (7 February). Almost inevitably, as a result of the torrential rain, the ground on both sides of the water has moved again (reactivating an old slip on the offside, right, and distorting the protective fence, below right), with the result that trees now lay across the Canal and the channel has been severely narrowed (left). Naturally, the navigation has had to be closed for safety reasons, not least because several trees still standing on the slopes are at risk of falling. The Society’s work to cut and remove logs from the area has also had to be curtailed until further notice.
When the navigation will be open again is currently unknown. Phil Allen, Hampshire County countryside manager (who only recently returned to work following an illness) issued the following response to a question about the status of the landslip from Jan Peile, of the Galleon Marine operation in Odiham:
“Jon [Green, head ranger], myself, and one of our engineers visited the site on Monday. There are around 6 medium sized trees across the upstream section of the slip, which have fallen as a result of a significant movement and extension of the offside slip. Both slips have moved, and the navigation channel is very much smaller, and with a tighter radius at the curve. I doubt if the JP2 could get through.
The dredger is currently clearing fallen trees upstream, and staff will make their way towards the slip to clear the fallen trees there. When this is done, our engineers will need to take another view on what we do next.”
The renewed closure is very disappointing. The Society has been working on plans to take the John Pinkerton II to Woking to showcase it and the Canal in July. We also want to take the old JP to the dry-dock at Deepcut, so it can be prepared for sale, including obtaining a boat safety certificate (as we now have several people who are seriously interested in buying it). We are now discussing how best we can proceed with the JP1 sale, and how to meet our commitments providing trips during Farnborough Airshow week, and in Woking. The situation will also be bad news for Galleon Marine and also the Accessible Boating operation, who have a boat stranded on the wrong side of the slip.
Phil Allen adds, “We will do what we can to enable boats to pass to avoid stranding. We’ll be in a better position to judge once the trees are removed and we can test the navigation.”
As more information comes to hand, this page will be updated. The Society will of course do all it can to assist with returning the Canal to full navigation.