A team of highly skilled, experienced craftsmen and women from the the Trust, will be re-lining the massive lock gates, and repairing brick work in lock chambers that date back to the early 1800s.
A wonder of the waterways
The Caen Hill Flight, at Devizes in Wiltshire, is described as the one of the wonders of the waterways. Its sixteen locks form a giant watery staircase allowing boats to travel up, and down, the steep hillside. Being amongst the busiest locks on the canal network, they require constant attention and this year we are focussing on the pinnacle of the flight (locks 37 to 40).
It's a massive challenge that involves draining the adjacent side reservoir ponds (used to store water to operate the locks) down to around 0.5m deep. This allows the engineering team to descend the 5.5m (18 feet) into the locks to repair the brick work. In keeping with the locks' heritage, the team will use traditional lime mortar, as was used when the locks were built in 1810.
Caen Hill's hard-working lock gates also bear the evidence of the thousands of boats that travel through the flight each year (it hosts an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 boat movements annually). So, the lock gates, scarred by the bumps and scrapes of thousands of fenders, will be relined using traditional green oak.
A massive feat of engineering
The works at Caen Hill are part of the our national programme of repairs being carried out across England and Wales under coronavirus restrictions this winter. The £45.1 million programme of repairs will include lock gate replacements, dredging to ensure the water is deep enough for boats, and a host of tasks to keep the 200-year old network open and help ensure its resilience to climate change.