Part of Leeds-Liverpool Canal closes to save water

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Media captionVince Moran from British Waterways explains why water supplies to the Leeds-Liverpool canal are being cut off

Almost half of the Leeds-Liverpool canal is closing to save water because of drought conditions.

A 60-mile stretch of the 127-mile canal will be closed to boats from Wigan, Greater Manchester, to Gargrave in North Yorkshire from Monday.

The rest of the canal will stay open for navigation, but there will be a restricted lock schedule to reduce the effect on neighbouring waterways.

British Waterways said it could be many weeks before the canal reopens.

It warned of the closure last month, saying the UK was experiencing some of the worst drought conditions for 100 years.

Towpaths open

It is hoped the move will prevent the loss of water through the opening of locks on the waterways.

Water supplies from the seven reservoirs that feed into the 127-mile long thoroughfare will be cut off during the closure.

The canal towpaths will remain open as usual but walkers are being warned to take extra care to stay away from the towpath edge as water levels fall.

Raymond Ashworth, who owns the Hapton Boatyard in Lancashire, says his business will suffer because of the closure.

"There's no passing trade so we're going to lose quite a bit," he said.

"There's going to be no diesel sales because there's no boats coming through, and when they come in for diesel they generally go to the shop and buy things, like mooring pins and all sorts, so we are going to lose quite a bit."

Nigel Stevens, who runs Shire Cruisers, has had to move part of his boat hire business from Foulridge in Lancashire to Sowerby Bridge near Halifax.

He said: "We had two boats that are normally based at Foulridge, and that's on the section that's closing and therefore they've got to relocate.

He added: "One has to be able to do this because sometimes waterways close, just like highways do and railways do, and you have to have a work-around, and the whole industry is well used to doing this and nobody's holiday is going to be badly affected at all."

The closure coincides with a hosepipe ban which has been in place in the north-west of England since 9 July.

The ban remains in place in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, some parts of Cheshire and some parts of Cumbria, despite the region experiencing heavy rain and flooding over the past few weeks.

Although the rain has helped to top up the reservoirs and lakes in Cumbria, United Utilities, said the reservoirs which feed water into the region's system are only 44% full instead of their usual 70%.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is Britain's longest man-made waterway. It was used to carry coal, limestone, wool, cotton, grain and other farm produce.

It is now primarily used for leisure boating, walking, angling and cycling.

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