News article created on 17 January 2020

Rescuing fish ahead of repairs at Foxton's famous locks

Thousands of fish have been rescued and rehomed from the famous Foxton Locks to enable us to carry out vital restoration and repairs to the lock gates.

Foxton Locks and the boilerhouse Foxton Locks and the boilerhouse

Over the next two months we are completing important works at Foxton, the longest and steepest ‘staircase’ of locks in the UK, including replacing a number of giant oak lock gates. In order to carry out the works, the whole flight of locks needs to be completely drained of water meaning that the fish have had to be safely rehomed nearby.

Specialist fisheries contractors temporarily stunned the fish using an electric pulse, enabling them to be carefully netted and moved to sections of the canal either side of the locks.

Fish stay safe and sound

Nick Baggaley, fisheries officer for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Every winter we carry out essential maintenance work on the canals and rivers, replacing lock gates and repairing 200-year old locks, bridges and tunnels. At Foxton Locks, where we have so many locks on a relatively short length of canal, this is a major operation and so it’s important that we carefully moved the fish to keep them safe and sound.

“It was quite an extensive operation, but one we are well used to dealing with. Our specialist fish rescue contractors used a low electric pulse which temporarily stunned the fish without hurting them. They were then netted and moved to a safe part of the canal, enabling our teams to get on with the task of replacing the giant oak lock gates. 

Giant oak lock gates

Foxton is such a popular place for boaters and visitors wanting a relaxing day out by the water so it’s important that we carry out these works to keep things working as they should. Once the works are complete and the lock flight refilled with water, the fish will gradually swim back making sure that Foxton remains a special place for people and wildlife.”

The programme of works at Foxton will see new lock gates lifted into six of the site’s twelve locks as well as repairs to historic brickwork and other parts of the lock structures.

A series of special open days is set to take place during the works giving members of the public the rare chance to walk down into the bottom of one of the drained locks. The events will be focussed around four weekends in February and March and will give visitors the opportunity to see first-hand some of the historic features within the lock which are usually hidden several feet under water. Each weekend will also include guided walks along the flight of locks as well as a range of creative activities such as photography and traditional canal painting.