Colin Edwards wears his gold badge with pride. He was one of five Kennet & Avon Canal volunteers to receive Gold Badge Recognition Awards at a Thank You event in Birmingham in June.
It is thanks to the huge efforts made by volunteers like Colin, and many thousands around the country, that we can keep our canals running smoothly.
Colin has given 2,000 hours – that’s 250 working days - of his own time to working on the Kennet & Avon Canal. The other K&A gold badge volunteers are John Webb, John Inman, Derrick Hunt and Tim Stenner.
You can see Colin manning the famous Caen Hill Lock Flight through the summer season. As lockkeeper, he turns out two days a week to help boaters through the locks with a friendly chat, advice about local attractions, and a cheery wave to send them on their way. He has done this since 2012.
Dog walkers, ramblers, cyclists, wildlife enthusiasts and families are all part of the rich tapestry of life he encounters while on duty. He says he finds being ‘a face of the waterway’ for these people immensely satisfying.
"Volunteering is a funny way to relax and can be hard work at times, but I’d rather do this than anything else.
It doesn’t worry me if I don’t have any boats to attend to in the locks, I am still quite happy just to be near the water - I’m drawn to it."
His wife Thelma volunteers aboard The Admiral Welcome Boat, which is moored at the Caen Hill Locks. Colin helps with the children’s activities in the school holidays.
As the season ends Colin diverts his time to ad hoc tasks. He also goes out once a month with the Towpath Taskforce, working to keep the towpaths in good order.
"The only thing that would prevent me being lockkeeper is ill health. If I found I could no longer operate the locks I would still work on the Welcome Boat, or just visit the canal for walks."
Without people like Colin, our treasured waterways would suffer, and visitors to the canals would lose the friendly camaraderie that is so much a part of the boating experience.
The Kennet & Avon and the Bridgwater & Taunton canals are two of our most loved and scenic waterways. Peaceful, tranquil - and always something more to discover. Here, our waterways team share some of their favourite, fascinating stories from around the region.See more blogs from this author