I've lived in the lock house for thirteen years, and when we first arrived here I started running the trip boat 'Maunsel Lady' along the Bridgwater & Taunton.
How I became a canal man is a story of coincidences really. I used to be a bench joiner making bespoke furniture out of old cider vats from local Taunton cider companies. My wife used to say I came home cidered up! The old oak was 15ft high, and that's a lot of timber! The wood was probably over 100 years old and the acids in the cider had reacted with the tannin to create a black appearance. So, until you cleaned it all off you didn’t know what amazing colours there were in the wood. Sadly the firm I worked for collapsed and, as I was made redundant, I had to find a new plan for my life.
My wife and I had been on holiday on the Mon & Brec Canal in Wales the year before, so strangely that gave us the idea to start planning to move here. The lock house used to run tea rooms but we weren’t sure we’d get permission to continue to run them. We did the deal on buying a trip boat first, because we thought if we didn’t get the ‘ok’ for the tea rooms, we could run the trip boat anyway.
Today our tea shop is in a building opposite the lock house and we’ve been running both the tea shop and the boat for 13 years. Sadly we’ve recently had to take the boat off use because of rising costs but the tea shop is doing really well.
The majority of people on the canal here are walking or cycling rather than boating. We’ve had 18,600 people since April just in the tea shop! I suppose we’re a very important place for the canal. We’re open all year and a group of canal volunteers use it as their base too. We have leaflets about the canal in here and there’s talk of a new Canal & River Trust welcome station so we might have that in here as well.
The footfall is fairly accurate and may be double for the canal itself as not all visitors come in for tea and cake!
Chris, Maunsel Lock, Bridgwater & Taunton Canal