Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

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callwild
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Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

It has come to my notice , while updating WWLD, that there was an unexpected water release down Church Beck this summer which could have potentially killed any groups using the beck for scrambling or kayaking.
Apparently United Utilities have an obligation to undertake test releases twice a year (in February & August). They have a list of outdoor centres who are regular users and usually notify them up to two weeks in advance of when releases are planned. In emergencies they can do a release with only 24 hours notice. Also the dam at Levers Water can also initiate a smaller release automatically which can cause the water to rise by 6".
This year a new person was appointed to supervise the release who knew nothing of the public use of this beck and released without notifying anyone. Luckily it was only a 50% release and no one was apparently caught in the beck. The consequences of being caught in a full release are extremely serious.

Its all very well if you are registered as a user but the General Public on may also enter the gorge for scrambling or kayaking with no knowledge of such a release.
When I contacted United Utilities it was first hard to find a suitable contact number to call them on, but eventually I was passed from dept. to dept until someone took me seriously and understood the potential for death to occur. They still did not know who was coordinating the releases or how to get information but promised to find out. So I am waiting further info.

I find it unbelievable that these potentially fatal releases have not taken public safety into account and I think a call line needs to be set up as well as more notices along the beck.
I have heard from another source that United Utilities took the incident seriously and are planning to erect a couple of signs and have personnel walk the length of the beck, used for scrambling, just before each release to check for people in the gorge. So they are on the case but when I called no one at United Utilities main office could enlighten me or tell me who to talk to.

In 2009 there was a post on here
http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... ck#p378476
where Ian W. suggested the releases did not effect the levels significantly. At the moment I do not know if this relates to the the smaller 6" automatic releases that are mentioned as apparently I am told a full release would be catastrophic.
As I find out more I will update to what is happening.
Stuart Miller

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Notters »

Stuart, Thats shocking to find out such a large company hasnt bothered there arse to risk assess the consequencies of thier action. Is their anyway to escalate this?
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by banzer »

Good work Stu. I've been down there several times without being on any 'official group', wouldn't like to be hiding in the cave whilst this happens... gulp.
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Update :-
Have just talked to Katy Singleton from United Utilities who is responsible for the releases on Church Beck. She is also appalled that when she took over these operations she was not notified by her predecessor about the public use of this beck and that there were no safety procedures in place. Her own son has even been in the beck without her knowing, so is well aware of the possibility of serious consequences.
The release last September was a 50% release which sent a foot high wall of water down the beck so a full release would be 2 -3 feet and very serious.
She says there are NO automatic releases from the dam so the only danger is from these pre-planned releases. These will happen 2 times a year and will be publicised by email to registered user groups and by sign posts along the edge of the beck. The signs will be permanent and will be updated with the dates of the releases 2 weeks in advance of the planned release and 24 hours in advance of an emergency drain down if required. as well as the signs she confirms that staff will walk down the sides of the beck just prior to the release.
She has been advised as to where people generally enter the beck for scrambling and I have volunteered to go and show her where kayakers are likely to enter so signs can be placed sensibly.
She is also trying her hardest to get United Utilities to coordinate a phone line which will be shown on the signs, as she is well aware that when someone currently phones United Utilities no-one know what you are talking about.

So she is working on it and I'll check things get in place asap.
Stuart Miller

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Mark R »

Good work, Stuart...
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by RichardG »

Hi Stuart,

I would like to get on Katy's email and telephone list. Would you be able to give me her contact details please?

Regards,

Richard

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Adrian Cooper »

Excellent work Stuart!

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by ruralweb »

Bloody hell - I've been down there many times and never knew!!!!
Well done for sorting a dangerous problem out.
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Dave Manby »

I nearly got on the Durance near Martigney with Ian Beecroft, Deb Pinniger and Traccey Wymes; we were getting changed in the layby when the man from the Rivers Authority came over to tell us that they were about to flush the river by sequentially opening the little dams all the way down the river to produce a near flood level flow and so we should not get on. Luckily we were with 'Croft whose French was fluent; mine would not have understood the information fully and maybe the idea of a high water paddle would have appealed too much. Watching the subsequent flood with trees logs and general brown sludge head down the river was an eye-opener.

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Still trying to get a contact number or email from Katy Singleton that the public can call. As soon as this is agreed I'll post it.
Not sure if any signs are in place yet but they are working on it and I am assured there will be no releases without signs and a walk down the beck before hand.

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Update on Church Beck. About to go to the printers with the new North West England canoe & kayak Guide I wanted to get this sorted so have kept calling them.
So today I called the number of the United Utilities Environment & Community Office for the North Lakes 017687 72334.
I was also checking on the current situation of obtaining permission to paddle on Ennerdale Water as this was the number given for that. After checking the access to Ennerdale I asked if they would be willing to be also the contact number for information on Church Beck. Luckily I caught the manager and he agreed that it seemed sensible to use a single United Utilities number for both these enquires and agreed to set it up so his office would be aware of the Church Beck releases and be able to advise people when they called.
This is hopefully a real result as in the past i have been passed from office to office with no-one knowing even what i was on about.
So
The releases will occur twice a year on set dates (Unless there is an unplanned emergency). These dates will be posted on signs at the common entry points to Church Beck. Before each release United Utilities staff intend to walk down both sides of the beck to check for groups in the gorge. So it should be obvious if it is safe to enter. Eventually these dates should become common knowledge.
If you are planning a trip to Church Beck and want to check on these releases by phone before you arrive then the staff answering the phone on 017687 72334 should now be aware of what you are talking about and advise accordingly.
Lets hope it works.

Stuart Miller

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Mark R »

Great work.
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by climbpaddle »

Can we post the dates on here once they become available?

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

climbpaddle wrote:Can we post the dates on here once they become available?
good Idea, we'll see what they come up with.

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Just had this notification from United Utilities about the next release. 19th March
Hello all,
Sorry for the delay updating you, the release planned for 19th March is still going ahead and I will aim to carry out the operation between 9-11am.
Unfortunately the signage will not be in place but I will install temporary sign’s on this occasion as I have been assured that the permanent signs will be in place soon.
If anyone is intending to watch the release I’d appreciate your support and if you see anyone that may not be aware please advise them. Keep my number handy just in case
The sign will display my number as below and also the new contact number that can be used to confirm pending release (017687)72334 please email/phone me first the new number is aimed at anyone that may not be included on this communication and members of the public. I appreciate everyone’s support and understanding and again if I’m missing a contact please get in touch. This release is going to help make sure that the procedure that we are finalising works so feedback would be appreciated.

Next Release 19th March 9-11am
Mob 07795447939
New contact no 017687 72334

Katy Singleton
Headwork’s Controller South Cumbria
Water Services North
United Utilities

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by banzer »

Great: who's up for a high water knuckle ride?! :-O
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Lancs_lad »

All seriousness, will this make the lower part runnable?

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Poke »

The last few hundred meters down to the hydro station is freaking awesome with lots of water in it*

*disclaimer = I don't know if this release is the aforementioned "lots of water" or more of a "$h!t tonne of water" which might make it less appealing...
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Lancs_lad wrote:All seriousness, will this make the lower part runnable?
I'm told it sends a metre high surge down the upper beck so it could well be interesting to see how this equates to flows in the lower part, and how long they run it for.
Could well be an unexpected bonus. I'll go look if around, but with the present conditions I could well be oop north ice climbing.
Anyone else around Coniston on Tuesday?

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by katysingl »

Hello,
I’ve been directed to here as I my name keeps being mentioned, Katy Singleton Headwork's controller, UU
I'm so pleased to see that the word is getting out and we are all now in communication, as mentioned in a previous post the signage issues is being driven out and should be in place before the next release. The contact numbers are all now in place and agreed and my details are also available. The releases will only ever occur during weekdays unless it is an emergency and following tomorrows release we will try to carry out the release between 8-10 so as not to affect users as much. Rodger Ward (Water Park) took me up the ghyll last Monday so I now know exactly what is what and I have a better understanding and we selected the best locations for the signage, and it was good fun.
A colleague who is also a paddler brought the releases effect to my attention and he raised the issue with our health and safety dept which has certainly helped progress things and highlight the issue. He also furnished me with a number of contact details Water Park and Rodger Ward being one of the best as he has been great collating the contact list and following on from my first group email the list has grown and I’m sure there are still now people missing so please feel free to contact me.
There is no set pattern to the release but 6 monthly is ideal,
A release will be cancelled if weather conditions prevent equipment from getting to the valve site, looking at the snow on the top now I’m keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow, if we cancel the release I will try to give as much notice as possible for re scheduling.
Pleased to meet you Thanks Katy

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Thanks for posting Katy, the information is really useful. Sorry I didn't get across the stream to meet you today.

The planned release went ahead today and quite a few people turned up to see what was going to happen.
Apparently they opened the valve at the dam on Levers water until it was fully open then closed it again as a test. This sent a pulse of water down the gorge. It took around 40 mins from starting to open it before a difference was seen in the gorge.
There was no wall, or wave of water but once the change was noticed it rose fairly quickly and only took a couple of minutes to rise significantly with a fast increase in power over the drops. It rose around 12" where I was at a wide section but in the narrow sections it was probably a couple of feet and the increase in power was significant. Not a place to be canyoning with a novice group or be trapped under one of the cave pitches. But if on a rock one could probably step up to avoid it.
As far as kayaking goes the release is not long enough or large enough to make it worthwhile although if the beck was already flowing then the additional water would top it up a bit. Today it was bone dry so even the full release did not bring it up to a paddle-able level.

If anyone is interested I have posted a very poor video at


Other videos may turn up as it seems quite few outdoor centres had staff along to report & film it. Interesting but a bit of an anticlimax.
Knowing the timing schedule of this for the future will be very useful (mainly for those canyoning however).
cheer Stuart

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by Chris Bolton »

With a 40min travel time, and only a limited pulse, my guess is that it will have flattened out the rise. If the valve was left open for longer the rise might be faster, although it also depends how fast the valve is opened. That again may be influenced by the length of the pipeline above the valve - the water in a pipeline system can have significant momentum and opening or closing valves suddenly can result in substantial damage.

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by katysingl »

Hello again,
Thanks again for everyone who turned out to witness the release. There have been lessons learnt from today.
the valve was travelled 96 turns total travel time open was 10 min open and 10 min to close from the timings I have it took 40min to peak, I’m no hydrologist but I understand that if Levers water is spilling that the effect will be seen sooner and may be greater.
Although the valve was not taken to its full travel I’m told that the scour pipe work was at capacity. I hope that this is of some use. The procedure we had is now been re written taking into account the lessons learnt from today. the next release is proposed for 4 months time as we could not complete the rest of the inspection that we were scheduled to do today due to the snow, further details will be made available as soon as I have them, any further feedback, recommendations will be welcomed many thanks for all who turned out and I’m sorry I couldn't meet you all.
Katy

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Although after seeing the last release it is maybe not as spectacular as it sounds but there is still the potential to be caught out unwittingly.

United Utilities have just issued this warning for the 15th January 2015


Hello all,
it's that time again Valve operation at Levers water effecting flows in Church Beck Coniston
15th January 2015 I aim to have completed valve ops before 10am

Katy Singleton
Headworks - South Cumbria
Water Services North
United Utilities

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Time fora Church Beck Release

United utilities have just informed me of this for Tomorrow

Planned valve operation effecting flow in Church Beck Coniston
Thursday 17th September between 8am-10am
Notice attached
Thanks

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Time for the Church Beck Release warning.
unite Utilities have informed us that it will be between 8am - 10am on Tuesday the 27th of September 2016

any queries call

Emergency contact 08453372500 or 07795447939

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by banzer »

Did it come up any significant amount?

Went up there back in August for canyoning after a night of rain... should have brought a boat!
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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Time for the Spring Church Beck Release.

Warning Increased flow in Church Beck
Scheduled release from Levers water, United Utilities Valve exercising resulting in greatly increased flows in
Church Beck.
Tuesday 14th March 8am-10am
Further information contact;
Katy Singleton 07795447939

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

Next water release in Church Beck is between 8 & 10 am on Tuesday the 20th March 2018

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Re: Church Beck, Coniston. Dangerous Water Releases!

Post by callwild »

We have now been informed that United Utilities are stopping their email alerts as to water releases on Church Beck.
HOWEVER those wishing to view if any releases are planned should refer to this page on the |United Utilities website.

https://www.unitedutilities.com/churchbeck

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