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Divers take to lake waters to repair dam

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By Belinda Hargreaves

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A TEAM of divers and engineers have begun a £600,000 repair scheme at a Staffordshire beauty spot that lent its name to one of the nation's best loved authors.

The Canal and River Trust, the charity that cares for the nation's waterways, is carrying out vital works at the 200 -year-old Rudyard Lake, near Leek, which supplies water to the region's canal network.

The project, which began yesterday, Tuesday, mainly involves replacing valves at the reservoir which control the rate that water is released into the canal network.

The lake has two sets of valves but, over time, one has become very difficult to operate meaning that the water is being held back by just one set.

Divers are getting into the water to replace the faulty upstream valve with a modern hydraulically operated system as well as replacing the two leaking downstream valves.

The upgrades will improve water retention in the lake while also giving the Trust greater control of the water released into the region's network of canals.

The lake was built in 1797 by John Rennie to supply the Caldon Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal and fuel the industrial growth of the Midlands. It would ensure a continual flow of water into the canal which helped to support the heavy industries in The Potteries and West Midlands.

The two-and-a-half-mile long lake has also been a popular visitor attraction over the years and in Victorian times thousands arrived by railway to escape the smoky atmosphere of the Potteries and Manchester.

The parents of author Rudyard Kipling were so taken with the lake that it's said they used it as inspiration for the name of their first born son.

Today Rudyard Lake is still enjoyed by families for walking, cycling, fishing and taking boat trips.

While on-site, engineers are repairing the 'coffin weir', an ingenious 200-year-old design feature intended to control the rate that water flows down the canal.

It works like a giant bath tub, holding back the water discharged out of the reservoir, releasing it slowly into the canal as it overflows.

Recent tests by the Trust have shown the weir to be leaking so engineers have drained it, scooped out years of sediment build-up and are now re-pointing the historic brickwork to minimise leakage and improve water control.

Richard Spencer, Senior Project Manager for the Canal and River Trust said: "Rudyard Lake has a rich history and is a stunning place to visit but it also has a vital role to play in supplying the region's canal network and that's why these works are so important.

"Water from the reservoir brings life to the area – without a reliable source of water narrowboats would not be able to explore the canal and wildlife such as water voles and kingfishers would not be able to use it as a source of food and shelter. By carrying out these works we are protecting that water flow and restoring an important part of Staffordshire's industrial heritage."

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