Bradford Rowing Club repairs Hirst Weir

As was flagged up by this story in yesterday’s Bradford Telegraph and Argusthere was emergency repair work taking place today on Hirst Weir.

rowing club crisis

This is Dr. Celia Hickman, current President of Bradford Amateur Rowing Club (BARC), as photographed for the T&A. The Rowing club owns and maintains the weir (through a limited liability holding company), because without the weir acting as a mini-dam for the stretch of the River Aire upstream up of it — the stretch coming down from Dowley Gap — there would be no viable rowing course. And right now, there is a pretty big hole in the dam…

Jan 20 12

As is clear from this picture, taken today under sunny blue skies, the hole in the weir – over towards the mill on the south side — means that the rest of the structure simply looks like a wall. The entire river is now flowing through the breach, as this picture (also from the T&A) shows…

rowing club 2

The weir and rowing club featured on this blog in this entry from a year ago – here I noted that the club was trying to raise money for major works on the weir that would stabilise it for the long term. Unfortunately, however, this plan has been overtaken, by the need to make emergency repairs following the Boxing Day floods… There’s an emergency bill of £85,000, according to the T&A, and the club is still £20,000 short of this target but needs to get on the with the work before more permanent damage is done. (One wonders whether the £65k they do have is actually from the fundraising efforts for the longer-term solution…?)

When the weir was last damaged, during the high water of summer 2012, an emergency repair of the resulting breach was effected by plugging it with large stones dumped in by an excavator… Today there was no water at all flowing over those stones, because of the breach further along… Instead, there was an excavator actually sitting on those stones!

Jan 20 11As you can see, though, the location of the breach makes it impossible for the heavy machinery to get anywhere near it, without risking further damage to the weir (and possibly risking the equipment and driver!).

Jan 20 9

Instead, then, it looks like the damage will need to be repaired by laboriously moving stones into position by hand… Slow and very hazardous work, given what the force of the current/undertow must be, going through the breach.

Jan 20 10 (2)

The T&A article reports on plans for installing a fish pass as part of the repair process. This is certainly part of the Rowing Club’s longer-term repair plans — as you can see in the scale model featured in my previous blog on this topic…. dec 2014 017

The ladder effect here is the fish pass, and the assembly of stones downstream of the weir is the basic idea for long term stability — creating a more gradual incline for the water, rather than a sudden drop that scours the river bottom (the central bit without stones, in black in the model, is simply to indicate the current drop – it wouldn’t be retained like this).

It seems unlikely, given the laborious patch-up work taking place today, that anything as sophisticated as a fish pass will be going in any time soon — whatever the T&A story says. But of course I’m no engineer and I could be completely wrong. Corrections gratefully welcomed…  Anyway, let’s hope the repairs are effected smoothly and the weir is functioning again soon.

Jan 20 6

I’m grateful, again, to Eddie Lawler, for furnishing me with the (non-T&A) photos above – including this pleasingly arty one here… Thanks Eddie!

And thanks also to Martin Spiers, for providing the images below of the Rowing Club on the Boxing Day itself, the day of the flood… Here it is, completely cut off by water…

DSC_0031This shot is taken from the access road that leads to the club. Turning left through about 90 degrees, Martin also got this shot of the road blurring into the adjacent Loadpit Beck, as they both run downhill to the swollen Aire…


Finally, there’s this shot, taken from Martin’s home on Bowland Avenue, looking across towards the Rowing Club via the path that would normally cross Loadpit Beck where the little railing stands…


The weir, which should lie to the left of shot here beyond the trees, was totally submerged…

2 thoughts on “Bradford Rowing Club repairs Hirst Weir

  1. The AIre Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency are working with BARC to ensure that the rock ramp repair is done in such a way as to enable passage of fish afterwards. Well-placed rocks can create a much more natural-looking fish ass than the heavily engineered structure originally proposed. They are also a lot cheaper!
    We are doing our best to help source the necessary funds to help BARC repair the hole in such a way that it helps fish passage in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.