Thursday 10 July 2014

GaugeMap displays latest River Kennet levels

I've some catching up to do on the Kennet after a few months absence, but for a quick restart this evening there's a new offering from Shoothill which utilises the EA's river level gauges and Google's map to create GaugeMap.  Fairly self explanatory...

Zoom map into desired gauge location.

Click on icon for a graphical display of recent and current river level.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Current Kennet levels would present a considerable additional challenge to DW 2014

Although this blog isn't primarily focused on either the canalised cuts of the Kennet Navigation (although they are an inevitable part of most trips on the river) or competitive racing, I thought I'd use the rare sunny morning to take a look at a few sections after yesterday's post on the cancelled Waterside and Thameside races on the Kennet.

The Waterside Series website provides a number of race training advice guides.  One of these makes reference to the point downstream from Hamstead Lock where the riverine Kennet flows out of The Craven Fishery from the left, crosses the canal, and exits down Benham Weir. I've never experienced any particular difficulty when paddling here, and had to actively pull myself over the lip of the weir by holding on to the footbridge above in order to descend the weir face. That might not have been the case this morning.

The first problem was getting down to Marsh Benham from the A4 with the road closed from just below The Red House junction on Milkhouse Road to the railway line.

Once down at Benham Weir the cross-canal flow of the river was clearly visible.

The central weir was shortened in its fall height by the raised river level below, and whilst peering back under the footbridge it looks reasonably calm up on the canal, with the side sluices both opened there's a fair amount of water being transferred.

Some miles downstream to the east of Newbury, the water around Bull's Lock (only applicable to Waterside B if it runs, and the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race (DW), 18-21.04.14, or anyone training in the area) is still pretty high.  The section below Bull's Lock combines the water of the canal and riverine Hambridge loop (the latter of which is swelled by the inflow of the River Lambourn) in a single channel to just before Widmead Lock.  Talking to a couple of DW trainees from Sussex at Woolhampton today (see below), who were about to return to Newbury, they mentioned having had a couple of 'issues' at Bull's Lock, and I suspect this section would have been something of a slog heading back upstream.

Looking back upstream towards Bull's Lock, which is overlapping the banks immediately below the lock.

Before reaching Widmead Lock the Kennet Navigation is bank full and has even breached the towpath (river left)...

...whilst river right the fisherman's footpath is substantively underwater, although a heavy cut back of the trees on this side of the river has removed a number of potentially hazardous obstacles.

Still further downstream, the Rowbarge pub sits alongside both the Navigation and a riverine Kennet channel which feeds in just below Woolhampton Lock.  Once again, the combined water flow can be considerable, especially in such as the current levels.

The riverine channel has recently flooded the lawn to the west of the Rowbarge...

...although the water is now beginning to feed back to the river.

Although this riverine section is not part of any race course, the resulting flow undercuts banks...

...and presents considerable left bank tree ensnarement risk.

For those portaging the lock (or support crews), the downstream concrete embankment (over the footbridge which crosses the riverine section's confluence with the Navigation) is currently inundated.

By the time contestants reach the edge of Reading at Fobney, conditions have not noticeably improved.

Despite the saw tooth weir to the west of Fobney Wetland Reserve diverting a substantial amount of the flow and water volume...

...the canal cut before Fobney lock is still sufficiently high to have caused several small breaches which are barely contained by sandbagging efforts. 

Whilst the lock itself has been overwhelmed... is still possible to egress the waterway (river right), or to put-in in the case of these intrepid DW trainees today.

However, returning to the water downstream of the lock is problematic at the current water levels.  The official DW portage diagram describes re-entering the Navigation by passing under the footbridge to the left side of the riverine loop to put in.

This image shows the space and bank side route under the bridge in January 2009. 

2014 may require SCUBA for re-entry at current water levels.

Finally, this is well worth reading from among the many amazing DW performances.

Friday 28 February 2014

Kennet conditions cause cancellation of Waterside A and Thameside 1

The annual Waterside series of races is under threat as record breaking high water levels and flow rates continue to dominate conditions on the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal.

The first race, Newbury Canoe Club's (NCC) Waterside A, which was scheduled to have run last Sunday (23.02.14) was cancelled following advice from the Canal and River Trust, with Reading Canoe Club's Thameside 1, due to have been held this coming weekend (02.03.14), now also cancelled.

NCC's Waterside B is due to be held on Sunday 9 March 2014, but it "will be cancelled unless conditions improve", according to the race series website.  The NCC website is also advising that "only experienced crews to train on most of the K&A Canal at this time and especially avoid Kintbury through to Reading."

Saturday 8 February 2014

New record high water and warnings for the Lower River Kennet

Almost a month on from the last post which recorded what was then record-breaking high water levels, and the River Kennet has continued to experience substantial flow rates and over-topped banks making canoeing and kayaking an unusually risky venture on this normally benign waterway.

As of today the Canal & River Trust continue to advise that "We would not recommend navigation until further notice" with regard to the Kennet between Newbury and Reading.  

In additional advice updated last Tuesday (04 February 2014) it is noted that "Due to high flows and flooding along the canal from Kintbury to Reading, the Canal and River Trust advised on 24th December that the canal is unsuitable for navigation until further notice. 

From Kintbury down to the end of the canal in Reading the water can be particularly hazardous for boats, including canoes and kayaks, during current conditions. Sluices and weirs, like the one at Dreweatt’s Lock where we have already recorded canoe incidents during the last week, are running at full capacity and will draw boats (including large narrow boats) onto them. Sluices and weirs have the potential to disguise underwater obstructions, and can create irregular underwater turbulence that is not present in normal conditions. Feeder streams, like the Pear Tree Brook and the River Kennet, create significant turbulence where they enter the canal. 

Additionally, much of the canal infrastructure is currently submerged and therefore impossible to use; for example County Lock (Reading), Widmead Lock (Newbury), and Fobney Lock (Reading). Many landing stages and extensive lengths of towpath are currently being overtopped. Finally, extremely high flow rates are hazardous; the flow rate in Newbury is currently exceptional and canoes have had difficulty negotiating Ham Bridge, Newbury, where portage is not presently an option."

At 04:30 this morning the EA gauge at Barbel Bar was at 1.59m, beating the 1.57m record level previously recorded at this location, but by then it was already falling off slightly from a late night plateau. 

The approach along Arrowhead Road to Barbel Bar at just after 09:00 this morning...

...and the weir washed out.

By 10:30 this morning the gauge was down to 1.54m, but there's more rain on the way...

Sunday 12 January 2014

New Year high water on the River Kennet

It's a year to the day since this blog reported on high New Year water levels on the Kennet Navigation, and it would appear that history is repeating itself with bells on in 2014.  Local media reported on some record levels in Newbury earlier this week, but whilst the Environment Agency's gauges show a falling off over the last 48 hours, conditions on the lower reach have given cause for the Canal & River Trust to recommend against navigation between Copse Lock in Newbury and County Lock in Reading until further notice.  Riverine sections of the Kennet should be given similar consideration.

Victoria Sluices, Newbury, with the normally exposed left bank concrete side bars covered.
Footpath closure at Bulls Lock swing bridge.

Submerged work flat barge upstream of Bulls Lock swing bridge.

Below Bulls Lock, the footbridge over the confluence with the riverine Hambridge detour has limited headroom at this level of water.

Upstream of Padworth Road Bridge...

 ...and downstream, with water in the fields showing where the river has breached.

The River Kennet adjacent to Padworth Lane.

The canal cut and river below Tyle Mill.

Debris caught on Sulhamstead Weir footbridge.  Note that whilst sometimes negotiable, there is currently insufficient headroom under the bridge.

The canal cut below Sulhamstead Weir has a couple of breaches which are filling the fields to the right.
Barbel Bar is just about all washed out, but was providing the venue for a Flood First Responder training course for Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue today.

Full flow under Burghfield Bridge.

Floodwater in the fields beyond the Navigation past Southcote Weir.
Haven't been down here for a while: Southcote weir with a new(ish?) barrage.

The wier pool below Southcote Weir #1.
The weir pool below Southcote Weir #2.