Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
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
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
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
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
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
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
Paddle gearing is one of the joys of our waterways. It is historic and still in use. It has its own language of racks, jacks, pinions, pawls, worms and nuts. And despite past attempts at standardisation there is still a great variety of it be found across the country.
Early paddle gearing on river and canal locks was wooden, usually of the peg and pull type. Some paddle posts are still wooden today. But as time went on, wood was replaced by iron, typified by the classic BCN rack and pinion gearing that spread across Midland canals during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1970s and 80s hydraulically operated granny paddles were introduced, but these were not a success and most have now been replaced.
Locks commonly had gate paddles at the lower end and ground paddles at the top end, although in working days a combination of both allowed faster locking times. There were many regional variations, ranging from the curious ball and chain counterweighted gearing on the Bridgwater & Taunton, to the beautiful crown wheel and pinion sets on the Oxford Canal (which survived into the late 1980s in places) and handspikes and hand-wheel worked gears on the rivers of the North East. In between was a rich heritage of shapes and styles, like the Ham Baker candlesticks on the great inter-war sections of the Grand Union Canal and the rare and extraordinary reverse inclined ground paddle gear at Hillmorton Locks, which may well date from the 1840s.
Spotting different paddle gearing is enjoyable and some people have invaluable photographic collections that show how this idiosyncratic equipment has evolved and changed over time. It makes its own noise too; the shake, rattle and roll of traditional paddle gearing really is the soundtrack of waterways history.
As national heritage manager, Nigel’s role is to lead the Canal & River Trust’s team of regional heritage advisers in England and Wales. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in the conservation, archaeology and interpretation of historic buildings and places. He is a member of the editorial board of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has written numerous articles concerning heritage conservation and is the author of several longer published works, including the English Heritage Book of Canals.