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Open day will 'un-lock' canal secrets

The Canal & River Trust is inviting members of the public to a special lock gate replacement open day on the Trent & Mersey Canal. Visitors will have the opportunity to see first-hand what it takes to keep the 250-year old network of waterways working.

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This is a great opportunity for us to give people a chance to get a behind the scenes look at the work we do
Graham Lea, maintenance manager

This one-off summer event at Lock 42 on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Kidsgrove will provide a unique glimpse into the working life of the waterway. Visitors will have the chance to descend into the empty lock chamber, which stands 25 metres long, two metres wide and five metres deep and talk to the skilled waterway team.

The open day will be held on Sunday 19 August between 10am and 4pm at the lock, known as Limekiln Lock, which is located between Kidsgrove and Church Lawton. This lock was constructed around 1830 and previous engineers working on this lock include James Brindley, Hugh Henshall and Thomas Telford.

Behind the scenes

The current 37 year old steel gates are being replaced with traditional oak gates. The lock floor has been cleaned out and the paddle mechanisms, which control the water coming in and out of the lock chamber, are to be changed or serviced during this £50,000 project.

Graham Lea, maintenance manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to give people a chance to get a behind the scenes look at the work we do. Normally these types of construction projects are not open to the public and are carried out during our quieter winter months to minimise disruption to our customers, but this is a great opportunity to continue to show what it takes to keep our waterways working.

“To get a completely different perspective to walking or cycling by the canal, visitors will be able to go down into the bottom of the lock chamber and speak to my team about how we carry out these lock gate replacements.”

Traditional trade

Lock gate making and fitting is an extremely skilled and traditional trade and one that remains essential to the waterways. Lock gates have to control huge water pressures and bear heavy use from the thousands of boats passing through them each year. In order to be waterproof they also need to be built very precisely, fitting tightly to the masonry of the lock walls and to each other.

Graham continues: “We care for one of the oldest and finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world – including the third largest collection of listed structures in the UK. These lock gates generally have a lifespan of around 25 years so an event like this doesn't come round too often so I'd encourage all local residents and those in the surrounding areas, as well as anyone who walks, runs and cycles along the canal to come and pay us a visit.”

Bring wellies

Visitors are asked to wear suitable sturdy footwear or wellies if wanting to go into the lock as there may be some water still present.

Parking is available at the Canal & River Trust's offices at Red Bull Wharf (ST7 3AP) and at Piper's Yard on the Macclesfield Canal behind the Red Bull public house on the A34. Both car parks are signed from the A34 and visitors are asked to follow the signs to the signing building at Piper's Yard before going directly to the lock site.

Last Edited: 13 August 2012

photo of a location on the canals
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