Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

Abby, lock keeper

Abby, one of our volunteer lock keepers, tells us how she came across the Trust and how she got started as a volunteer.

Meet Abby

I’m 22 and I moved to Stratford-upon-Avon when I was 10, and I studied geography at the University of Liverpool. When I’m not at work I love to spend time outside. I am lucky enough to live right next to the towpath, so I really enjoy walking or cycling along the canal, especially in the summer.

What made you volunteer and how did you find the right opportunity?

I came across the chance to volunteer as a lock keeper while trying to find something productive to do, on my days off from work. I found the opportunity online, I was just searching for places to volunteer doing something outdoors in Stratford and ended up on the Canal & River Trust website.

I also really enjoy talking to people, so this volunteering opportunity seemed like a great chance to do something I'd enjoy, and gain some experience too.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering has boosted my enthusiasm for spending time outside and working with lovely people. I've learned lots of new things about the canals and the people that use them, as well as learning new skills.

I've learned how to operate the locks and help boaters down the flight, as well as practical maintenance on the towpath and learning how to use machines such as strimmers and hedge trimmers.

Through volunteering with the Trust, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with individuals who have shared with me their experience and advice, about working in the kind of job I would like to do.

Placeholder for quotes
I hope that my presence in this role inspires other women to pursue their passions and break into non-traditional fields.

What have you learned?

In my time as a volunteer, I have learned a lot about the canals, its history and how important they are. I've met lots of new people and have worked in an environment that I hadn’t before. I love having the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people.

I have a much better understanding of the importance of the canal systems and the ecosystems surrounding them.

Being a lock keeper has developed my skills in communication and teamwork, and has taught me new things such as water management, safety protocols and environmental conservation. I think these skills will be useful to me when it comes to achieving my goals, as I’d love to work or spend more time volunteering for places like the Trust or other trusts.

Why are volunteers so important?

Volunteers are important because of all the valuable work they do, in maintaining the canals, locks, environment and ecosystems. They're helping the communities around them to enjoy and use the canals.

What is the best part?

All of the parts of being a lock keeper are the best! I really love it.

I think the other volunteers I meet up with are really cool and lovely to spend time with, it's a lovely community to be involved with.

How does it feel to know you are inspiring the next generation?

I'm representing women in a traditionally male-dominated role, which makes me feel really proud. I hope that my presence in this role inspires other women to pursue their passions and break into non-traditional fields. It's a privilege to be a part of this change.

Knowing that young girls can be inspired by my journey as a volunteer, especially in a field where women aren't always represented, makes me really happy. It's amazing to think that what I do could encourage the next generation of girls to get involved in looking after our canals and rivers.

Breaking stereotypes and showing that girls can do anything they want is really important. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help show girls that they belong in any field they're passionate about and that their voices matter.

What's next for you?

I would really love to get a job or maybe do an apprenticeship in something to do with conservation. Maybe become a ranger.

I didn’t finish my degree, and I've struggled to know if/what kind of qualifications or experience I would need. This is where some people I have met through volunteering have been really helpful as they have been able to suggest where to look for different opportunities, and what I can do to help myself to get there.

Last Edited: 07 March 2024

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration