The charity making life better by water

Britain's deepest lock needs you

Could you help hundreds of people from all over the world navigate through Britain’s deepest lock?

Volunteer lock keeper at Tuel Lane Lock

We are calling for over a dozen volunteers to take on the iconic role of lock keeper at Britain's deepest lock.

Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire is one of the Trust's most remarkable locks, lowering and raising boats almost 20ft (6m) as they make their journeys over the Pennines. For comparison, a typical double-decker bus is 4.4m.

The lock is so deep because it does the work of two. Built in 1996 during restoration of the Rochdale Canal, it replaced a pair of earlier locks to enable the canal to tunnel under a road built on its original level and provide a more efficient route.

Members of the public are not permitted to operate the lock mechanism themselves, due to the depth and proximity to a canal tunnel. Instead, our volunteer lock keeper helps crews to negotiate the gates.

Britain's canals are more popular than ever before, with more boats using them than at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Last year over 1,000 people volunteered to be lock keepers with the Trust, but now the network's deepest lock is on the lookout for people to help out.

Lock keepers have been working on Britain's canals for hundreds of years, although the role has changed over time. Today, they help to look after the nation's beautiful waterways, assist boaters on their journeys, welcome visitors, provide information and advice to visitors on the towpath and maintain historic locks.

Becca Dent, volunteer coordinator at Canal & River Trust is leading the appeal. She explained: “We're looking for over a dozen volunteer lock keepers to help bring Britain's deepest lock to life for everyone who visits. Often referred to as the ‘face of the canals', volunteer lock keepers are a vital and iconic role within our charity – it's a great opportunity for anyone who likes spending time outside and talking to people.”

She added: “We value each of our volunteers and appreciate everything they do to help look after our 2,000 miles of historic waterways. In return we do all we can to ensure they have opportunities to learn new skills and meet new people in a friendly and supportive environment. If this sounds of interest we'd love to hear from you.”

Ian Kelshaw is one of four volunteer lock keepers at Tule Lane Lock. He explained: “I didn't have any connection to canals before I started volunteering at the lock five years ago - but it's a really interesting role, where no two days are the same. I've learned so much and love being outdoors, it's great for my wellbeing. Because it's Britain's deepest lock, it captures your imagination and attracts lots of boats and visitors just coming to have a look and see what it's all about – it's great!”

Peter Burton started as a volunteer lock keeper in July 2015 with the Trust and now helps operate Tule Lane Lock. He said: “Having taken early retirement after nearly 40 years in local government I started volunteering with the Trust as part of my plan to keep active and contribute to the local community. I began helping out at Salterhebble Locks before I joined the team at Tuel Lane lock in April 2017. I really enjoy working outdoors, assisting boaters - be they first time holiday makers or more experienced canal users - and meeting the many locals and visitors who come to see the deepest canal lock in the UK in action.”

Nigel Stevens, of nearby Shire Cruisers added: “The strikingly beautiful Yorkshire side of the Rochdale Canal offers some of the best scenery in the North and with spring around the corner we're busy preparing to welcome boaters and holiday makers. We attract visitors from all over the world and they love meeting the Canal & River Trust's team of volunteers. We much appreciate their support and would love to see even more people helping out in the area.”

Find out more about our volunteer lock keeper roles.

Volunteers walking in Leighton Buzzard

Join our Towpath Taskforce teams

Join our super volunteer teams who meet up regularly to care for their local canal


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Our newsletter is packed full of exciting updates and stories of how our charity keeps canals alive.

Last Edited: 22 March 2019

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