Taking a screen break

Whenever he can, volunteer lock keeper Paul Harry leaves behind his life as a computer programmer in Bristol to help boaters through the six locks in Bath.

Paul Harry - volunteer lock keeper Paul Harry - volunteer lock keeper

I’ve been doing it for about five years now. I love to be out and about and the locals and boaters are very friendly.

Inexperienced boaters are always grateful for our help. As Deep Lock is the country’s second deepest lock it can be a bit overwhelming for new boaters. Often lock 13 is the first lock they reach on the Kennet & Avon Canal when taking charge of their hired boat. We keep an eye one them to make sure they are moving safely.

Paul Harry on the Bath Locks

Some boaters like to finish their journey in Bath, so we advise them where they can moor; or where they can turn the boat around if there aren’t any spaces and they don’t want to tackle the River Avon.

I work in a pair, so it’s nicely companionable. In the summer, I even cycle from Bristol to Bath, which takes me one hour and 20 minutes, so volunteering provides me with exercise too.

I first got interested in canals at university when I joined the Canal Society. Mostly we were clearing towpath vegetation on the Cotswold Canals, and in the summer hiring boats for trips.

I lost touch with canals for a while and lock keeping has been a fabulous way for me to reconnect with them. It makes a fantastic change from staring at screens as a programmer.

I like hanging around boats – I find it therapeutic. I enjoy helping boaters and other visitors to get the most out of their time on the canal.

We are looking for volunteers to join our Bath towpath taskforce, which meets on Thursdays. If you are interested you can find out more at on our volunteering opportunities page.

Last date edited: 19 March 2018