The charity making life better by water

Appeal for public to 'unlock' iconic waterway role

The Canal & River Trust is calling on communities to get involved in a unique opportunity that will see them carry out an iconic role along their local canal – as a volunteer lock keeper.

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As a new charity we were heartened by the amazing support we received for this role last year.
Edd Moss, national volunteering manager

Lock keeping has been a fixture on the canals for hundreds of years and the role of the modern-day volunteer lock keeper is to help the Trust look after the waterways, including helping boaters through the locks, providing a polite and friendly welcome to waterway visitors and helping to maintain many historic, listed locks.

Actor and adventurer Brian Blessed supported the first appeal during 2012 which saw over 250 people come forward and become volunteer lock keepers.

Now, the Canal & River Trust is asking for local support to try and double these numbers in over 50 locations across the country which includes the iconic Bingley Five Rise locks in Yorkshire (Leeds & Liverpool Canal), the deepest lock in the country at Tuel Lane Lock (Rochdale Canal) and the 29 lock flight at Caen Hill, Devizes (Kennet & Avon Canal).

"One of the oldest and most iconic roles"

Edd Moss, national volunteering manager for the Canal & River Trust said: “As a new charity we were heartened by the amazing support we received for this role last year. Volunteers are integral to the future of the nation's waterways and our growing groups of volunteers have been making a huge difference to local canals and rivers up and down the country. This is one of the oldest and most iconic roles on the waterways so we're asking the millions of people who visit the nation's canals and rivers each year to get active and become a volunteer lock keeper.”

In a recent survey with volunteer lock keepers who took part in 2012, 99% said they planned to return this year and over 70% of people said that ‘keeping fit and active' was one of the major motivations for waterways volunteering. In total, they collectively contributed over 4,500 volunteer days.

Throughout the season, it's also estimated the volunteer lock keepers assisted 1,500 boats and engaged with over 1,700 towpath visitors on average per week, helped reduce water loss by encouraging lock sharing and making sure lock paddles were closed and also improved safe passage through locks.

Working outdoors and staying fit

Edd continues: “Working outdoors and staying fit have been a key incentive for people, as has a sense of pride in knowing they're helping protect this 250 year old working heritage. It's extremely important to us that we offer volunteers something appealing where they feel like they're making a difference which this role certainly does.

“The waterways are a national treasure that everyone can participate in and our volunteers have been able to provide so many additional benefits on top of the year round work Canal & River Trust staff carry out. Whether it's helping a boat through the lock, talking to customers or local practical tasks, it can really make a huge difference to a visitor's appreciation of the waterways and make sure they're supported for many more years to come.”

The Canal & River Trust will care for 1,654 locks and there are approximately 5 million ‘lockings' each year (passages through locks). Over 32,000 boats now call the waterways home; a figure higher than at the height of the industrial revolution.

Full details about how to become a volunteer lock keeper and location details are available by:

Volunteers can start quickly and no prior experience is necessary as a full induction, training and a uniform will be provided. The key qualities the Trust is looking for is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

See the full list of volunteer lock keeper locations for 2013

Last Edited: 13 January 2013

photo of a location on the canals
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