Friday 18 September 2020

sunken boats on the river Avon in Bath

At Twerton, on the north side of Bath, there's a flood defence barrier across the River Avon, between the west bank and Dutch Island; the navigable channel passes down the other side of the island to Weston Lock.

The barrier is there to alleviate flooding. When the river is in spate, it can be raised to let the flood waters escape downstream. In normal river conditions, it remains closed and acts as a weir.

On Wednesday evening, the barrier spontaneously raised itself, in what the Environment Agency subsequently described as a software failure.

The immediate consequence of that was that the river level between Weston Lock and Pulteney Weir in the centre of Bath, dropped almost 2 meters very rapidly.

About 40 boats are moored on that stretch. Some were crewed at the time, and their owners attempted to move their boats out into deeper water; several were already caught on the steeply shelving sides, and rolled over, taking on water. A few sank as a result. 

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The EA, CRT, Bath Council, and all interested parties are liaising to minimise further damage before raising the water level again. To clarify this point, it was that falling water level that coused the boats to roll over and take on water; it is because the boats are in danger of being fully submerged if the level were to rise without remedial action being taken first, that there is a delay in raising the level again.

Julian House outreach workers are also on the case looking out for the welfare of those boaters whose homes are uninhabitable; the Floaty Boat folk are helping, too, and donations to the Floaty Boat Fund right now will go to help those folk affected. Here's a link

Meanwhile, the knock-on effect is being felt up on the summit of the canal, towards Crofton, where the top pound has been closed to navigation because the water resources are just not there.

I took a ride along the river yesterday to observe. Here are some pictures.


  1. I thought we'd moved past blaming computers.

    1. Hear, hear! ... clearly someone got an "IF-THEN" wrong, didn't they?

  2. Computers are fail safe off. Not fail safe active relays, open gates lol

  3. Computers are fail safe off. Not fail safe active relays, open gates lol

    1. I suppose it depends on how 'safe' is defined; as the intention of the barrier is to prevent flooding, then 'safe' may well be 'open'...