The programme of essential maintenance will include the replacement of worn-out lock gates, brick work repairs, relining of channels and repair of aqueducts, reservoirs and other important structures. This winter, thanks to the support of May Gurney, a dozen projects will be opened up for members of the public to meet canal engineers and walk through the bottom of lock chambers.
Showcasing the repair works
Vince Moran, the Canal & River Trust's operations director, explains: “The Canal & River Trust cares for a remarkable network of historic waterways which are still working just as they were designed to 200 years ago. Keeping them open and safe requires a huge amount of planning, investment and craftsmanship and involves a wide range of experts, from civil engineers and hydrologists to heritage experts and ecologists.
“Many of these projects provide a fascinating insight into how our canals were built and how we care for them and this year we have picked out 12 of the best projects which members of the public can visit free. We hope that by showcasing the repair works this winter, we can give people a chance to see the scale of the work we do to ensure that the waterways, which are at the heart of many communities, are preserved for today's visitors and future generations.”
Over 100 new lock gates
Over 100 lock gates will be replaced this winter, with new lock gates made in the Trust's specialist workshops at Bradley in the West Midlands and Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire. Each lock gate is hand-crafted by a skilled team of carpenters and made from sustainably-sourced British oak. A single lock gate weighs on average 3.6 tonnes, can take up to 20 days to make and has a working life of 25-30 years.
To commemorate the launch of the Canal & River Trust this year, four of the replacement lock gates will feature lines of poetry carved into them by artist Peter Coates. The initiative, which is supported by the Arts Council England, is part of a programme to encourage people to take a fresh look at their local canal or river.
Traditional materials and methods
Eddie Quinn, framework manager for the Canal & River Trust at May Gurney stated: “We are incredibly proud to play our part in the Trust's essential work to preserve the canals and rivers of England and Wales. Few people realise that many canal locks, buildings and structures are listed monuments and that the waterway network is one of the finest living references to Britain's industrial revolution.
“Repairing and maintaining these waterways is a painstaking task, which requires traditional materials and methods to be used to preserve this vital part of our heritage. However, they've become more than just a historical monument; they're now wildly recognised for being crucial for wildlife and are a well-loved leisure resource for millions of people every year.”