Concerned residents and business owners have been urged not to worry despite towpath cracks appearing on the 200-year-old Shropshire Union Canal embankment in Nantwich, writes Jonathan White.

The cracks, which have been examined by engineers near the Thomas Telford-designed aqueduct on Chester Road, are “nothing at this stage to be concerned about” says Canal & River Trust.

Engineers have installed monitoring pins into the affected areas of the embankment at Nantwich Viaduct.

These will aid the monthly inspection of the embankment.

A representative from Canal & River Trust said: “Canal & River Trust treats all enquiries seriously and our senior engineer has been out on several occasions to check on these reports.

“The cracking and settlement reported to our senior engineer and inspected was all identified previously and showing no signs of change to cause any alarm.”

A flood risk report published in 2013 highlighted the impact of a potential canal breach in Nantwich.

Cracks in Shropshire Union Canal at Nantwich (1) (1)

In the event of a breach, canal safety gates at Bridge 91 (next to Malbank Waters) and Bridge 92 (next to Nantwich Marina) should automatically close via suction of water to stop further flooding.

A “Strategic Flood Risk Assessment” report produced by Cheshire East Council in 2013 shows land that could potentially be affected by flooding following the breach of a major canal embankment in Nantwich.

The “Canal Hazard Zone” covers an area between Edmund Wright Way and Waterlode, and down Welsh Row to the River Weaver.

The report states “developers should be aware any site that is at or below canal bank level may be subject to canal flooding and this should be taken into account when building resilience into low level properties”.

However, the report accepted a major breach failure was unlikely due to ongoing maintenance by the Canal & River Trust, a charity who look after 2,000 miles of waterways.

An official Canal & River Trust spokesperson told Nantwich News: “Nantwich Aqueduct and embankment is inspected on a monthly basis by our engineers.

“We are aware of crackings in the towpath which is common in a structure which is over 200 years old.

“To aid and quantify our inspections we have installed monitoring pins. These will have a periodic laser survey carried out and the results passed through to our engineers for comparison and analysis.

“There are signs of settlement but nothing at this stage to become concerned about and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

*Report source: Cheshire East Council Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Final Report August 2013, https://geosmartinfo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sfra/Cheshire-East-Council-SFRA-Final-Report-v4.0%20(1).pdf

Shropshire Union Canal embankment at Taylor Drive Nantwich (1)

Shropshire Union Canal - Welcome to Nantwich (1)

Shropshire Union Canal - canal safety gates at Bridge 91 - adjacent to Malbank Waters (1)

Shropshire Union Canal – canal safety gates at Bridge 91 – adjacent to Malbank Waters

Shropshire union canal in Nantwich

(Images courtesy of Jonathan White)


  1. I would love to know if the safety gates which “should “ automatically close have been maintained and tested! I doubt it very much.
    No one has mentioned the moles burrowing along this length of embankment and the potential issues the network of tunnels can create.

  2. Monty McFlurry says:

    I love this story as a I can’t get enough of fissures. I am a crack addict!

  3. Geoffrey Sto says:

    I saw these cracks starting 2 years ago, and if it does burst there is a lot of water between bridge 91. And 92 before it can be stopped

  4. My thoughts as a layman; (a) the towpath surfacing is not 200 years old so no I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see such cracking, assuming it was done properly in the first place. (b) After 200 years I would have thought all the settling in the underlying structure would have been over long ago. (c) I’ve always felt that the grass is about the only thing holding that lot together and that has its limits. The increasing, long-term, unprecedented water loading in the ground is leading to other breaches on such steep slopes stabilised by grass (Middlewhich branch last year?) (d) If and when it does give way, I’ll lay odds that there won’t be any timely warning such as slowly increasing slippage; I suspect it would go from a few cracks to all-out-gone in minutes. I don’t share their confidence in measuring the distance between some pins once a month. Then again, I’m just a layman and someone will perhaps correct my understanding. In the meantime we’ll be giving it a wide berth.

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