Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
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If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
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Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
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Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
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Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
Find out how the construction of Carpenters Road Lock was a pioneering solution for East London's waterways and why it was all left to rust in the 1960s.
The Bow Back Rivers consist of several waterways running through Stratford and East London. They originate with the River Lea, which starts in Hertfordshire and flows south, joining the Thames at Bow Creek about two miles south of the Olympic Park.
By the 1850s this area of marshy land around the Lea valley was home to a wide variety of industries producing everything from paint to rubber to gin to gunpowder. The factories were smoky, often smelly and generally tipped their unwanted by-products into the rivers, but they provided thousands of jobs to the growing districts of East London.
Find out more about the Bow Back Rivers
The Bow Back Rivers are a series of interconnected waterways; forgotten rivers with evocative names like Pudding Mill, Channelsea and Three Mills Wall
Back then the tidewaters of the Thames made some sections of the Bow Back Rivers look very different. Twice a day the river level would rise, making it hard to get boats under the bridges and even flooding low-lying ground. And twice a day the river level would drop, leaving wide muddy areas on either side, and even the occasional stranded boat.
This ongoing situation was made worse by extreme weather. Heavy rain in Hertfordshire would send a surge of water down the River Lea. If this met rising tide water coming up the Thames, the rivers here could burst their banks and flood out homes and factories.
A particularly bad flood in 1928 caused damage all along the Thames, and put the Stratford railway works under water. The answer was to invest in flood defences to control how much water flowed where. In 1934 Carpenters Road Lock was built between the Waterworks River and City Mill River.
The giant radial gates allowed the lock keeper to regulate the flow of water from Waterworks River into the City Mill channel, thereby keeping the water level on either side below the danger point. By using two gates, boats could pass through the lock without too much water being transferred between the two rivers. This ‘double radial’ lock gate reflects the need at Carpenters Road to allow river traffic while guarding against flood, and is unique in Britain.
The canal and river network turned Stratford into an industrial district. But by the mid 19th Century, Britain’s 4,000-mile-long canal network had increasing competition from that other marvel of the Industrial Revolution, the steam locomotive train.
It was a competition that the canals were doomed to lose, slowly and painfully. Railways kept on getting faster, and canal companies could only compete by cutting prices (and wages) and spending less on maintenance.
The rise of the railways
Discover the fascinating history of the canals, their industrial heyday, their fall and their resurrection in the new canal age
Even nationalisation of the canals and railways after World War II failed to revive canal traffic. By the 1950s the Bow Back Rivers had no commercial use. The lock gates and lifting mechanism at Carpenters Road were allowed to rust, and were last opened in the 1960s.
But London is an irrepressible city and our canals and rivers never stand still. The story of the old 1935 lock, left abandoned and rusting now comes to an end. But, thanks to the efforts of our skilled team and a growing recognition of the value of the waterways, the story of the modern day lock, designed to sit in a public park and allow leisure boaters access to the Bow Back Rivers begins.
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Last date edited: 29 June 2017