Here is an update on the landslip at Dogmerfield, and this is followed by a recent statement from Hampshire County Council on the situation.
Many of you will be aware of how significantly bad the timing of the Dogmersfield landslip was. A flotilla of boats on the Easter Cruise was about to celebrate the reopening of the Deepcut flight after nearly 5 years closure by navigating the full length of the Canal and back. But literally just a few days earlier, in late March, the Canal had to be closed near the Barley Mow for safety reasons because a very large quantity of soil and trees had parted company with an adjacent bank, pushing the towpath into the Canal – such was the effect of the torrential rain we had during the Spring. To cap it all, the last time a landslip had occurred here was 30 years ago, as a result of which the Canal was closed for many months while repairs were undertaken (and during which the “Great Wall of Dogmersfield” was built).
The Easter boaters were undaunted by such events and cruised up to Blacksmiths bridge anyway, and deemed that the trip was a success. However the closure of the Canal from the perspective of Galleon Marine commercial operation and Accessible Boating (both based in Odiham) was a much more serious issue, and resulted in trips being cancelled, losing them vital income.
The landslip has since occupied the mind and time of Phil Allen, Hampshire Countryside manager, and of HCC engineers. Firstly, an agreement had to be struck with the landowner on whose land the slip took place. Then a technical investigation was quickly undertaken. Tree surgeons and the BCA rangers cut down all the trees on the slope, and the logs were moved aside. Boreholes were drilled to determine where the slip surface was, and regular measurements were taken to see if the slope was still moving. Eventually it was decided that the slope was stable (at least for the time being), and soon there was the prospect of reopening the Canal. Once a series of protective fence posts had been installed along the outside of the remants of the towpath, the navigation was reopened in late June to single-file traffic, much to the relief of Galleon Marine and Accessible Boating. Phil is to be commended for his efforts in gaining the various agreements required to make this happen.
The Canal has remained open so far (touch wood), but closure could ensue if the slope begins to move again, which is possible with further heavy rain. Stability measurements continue.
However the towpath remains closed (and securely fenced off), and this could be the case for many months – it is severely broken up and too unsafe to use. Also, a permanent repair to secure the slope and reconstruction of the towpath could also take several months to complete, during which time the Canal would have to be closed to navigation.
It is unlikely that work could start before the late Autumn 2013, because a contractor has to be selected and a repair solution decided upon. However Phil is all too aware of the critical effects on the commercial operations, and on other boaters, of an extended closure of the Canal that runs into the cruising season, and will have to weigh this against the need to get the work completed during relatively favourable weather. Commencement of the repairs immediately after the 2014 season is one possibility. We will report again when there is more news.
Councillor Keith Chapman, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside said:
“Work continues to address the effects of a landslip which has affected an area along the banks of the Basingstoke Canal at Dogmersfield (between Fleet and Odiham). The towpath remains closed between Blacksmiths Bridge to Chatter Alley. Fencing has been erected at both ends and the area continues to be inspected on a regular basis by Basingstoke Canal Authority Rangers.
“Following work by Canal Rangers to remove large volumes of trees from the slip area, we have now cleared the navigation enough to allow pleasure craft through with care. Further clearing of timber will take place by the volunteers of the Basingstoke Canal Society. We have been monitoring the situation daily and we now believe there is no significant further movement of the slip. The landslip has considerably narrowed the navigation width, however, and there are still some restrictions through this area. Signs are in place on the site and people should adhere to that signage for their own safety. Further details can be found on the Basingstoke Canal webpages http://www3.hants.gov.uk/basingstoke-canal/canal-boating/canal-update.htm.
“The towpath is badly fractured. The decision to keep it closed was taken on safety grounds because there are large gaps in it and this is to stop walkers from entering a potentially dangerous stretch of the canal. We are continuing to investigate the cause of the slip and the extent of the problem so we can identify the work that must be undertaken to make the path safe for the public to use again.
“Hampshire County Council thanks members of the public and canal users for their ongoing patience and co-operation in this matter. Towpath closure information continues to be posted on site . For updates visit the Basingstoke Canal webpages http://www3.hants.gov.uk/basingstoke-canal/canal-walks.htm or follow @TheBCATeam on Twitter.”