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The charity making life better by water

Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?

With Britain’s canals booming, we're searching for a new generation to take on perhaps the most recognised waterway role of all – the lock keeper.

We're seeking volunteers to join a nationwide team to keep the canals of England and Wales flowing. They will ensure that an age-old waterway tradition is kept alive whilst also keeping fit, meeting new people and sharing their passion for their local waterways.

There are more boats on the canal network than at the height of the Industrial Revolution and the volunteers will be invaluable in looking after the waterways, including helping boaters through locks, providing a friendly welcome to visitors and keeping their stretch neat and tidy.

Last year over 480 people regularly volunteered for this rewarding outdoor position. This year, there are over 80 locations where people can volunteer their help, including 33 sites which are brand new for 2015.

The opportunities are at some of the most picturesque canal locations, including:

  • Fradley on the Trent & Mersey Canal – a really busy location for boats in a picture-postcard setting
  • Caen Hill Lock Flight – a Scheduled Monument and one of the ‘wonders of the waterways' which carries the Kennet & Avon Canal up a flight of 16 locks outside Devizes in Wiltshire
  • Camden Lock in London – one of the most popular canal locations in London, adjacent to the bustling Camden Market with its stalls, bars and tourists
  • Grindley Brook on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire – a stunning canal and one of the most popular canals for people on boating holidays
  • Huddersfield Broad Canal – leading to the famous Standedge Tunnel, the longest canal tunnel in Britain.

Phil Arm, aged 63, from Cannock has been a volunteer lock keeper for the past two and a half years and looks forward to every day that he is out on the canal.

He retired after 32 years as a teacher and being a volunteer lock keeper gets him out in the fresh air, keeping fit, meeting people and helping others.

A father of two, with one grandchild, Phil said: “I would recommend the role to anyone, it can be hard physical exercise at times opening and closing the lock gates, but that's what I like about it. It's great to chat with people and give advice on the best places to go and talk about the history of the local area and how the locks work.

“The summer is the busy time helping boaters to operate locks, but I love what I am doing so much that I still volunteer during the winter by helping to maintain the canal.”

Edd Moss, national volunteering manager at the Canal & River Trust, adds: “The volunteers play a vital role in keeping customers happy and also help to keep local waterways in good working order so their efforts really are invaluable. Anyone can get involved, the role's open to people of all ages as long as they are reasonably fit and healthy and enjoy meeting new people."

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer lock keeper and enjoy being outside and meeting new people, find out more at

Last Edited: 12 January 2015

photo of a location on the canals
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