Lock keepers have been part of canal life for hundreds of years, and volunteer lock keepers play a crucial role in keeping that tradition alive.
The Canal & River Trust needs to recruit more volunteers across the length of its network in North and West Yorkshire, as well as Lancashire and Merseyside.
The role of the modern day volunteer lock keeper is to help look after the waterways, including assisting boaters through locks, providing a polite and friendly welcome to visitors and keeping the local canal looking its best.
For Gargrave lock keeper Anthony Jackson it has proved a very rewarding experience.
“I’m now in my third season as volunteer lock keeper, and I consider myself to be very fortunate,” he said.
“I work alongside a great team of people with years of varied life skills and experience. I am given a degree of autonomy and treated respectfully, more importantly the work, which can be very challenging but at the same time rewarding is meaningful.
“Volunteering means I get to meet new people from all walks of life broaden my range of experiences, remain very physically and mentally active whilst doing work that is recognised and important to the heritage of the UK – everything I hoped it would be.”
Additional volunteer lock keepers are currently being sought for Gargrave Bank Newton Locks, which is on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
Elsewhere on the same canal, the trust is also looking for volunteers in
Rufford, , West Lancashire; Wigan ; Stanley Lock in Liverpool; Dobson and Field Lock, Apperley Bridge; Hirst Lock to Bingley Five Rise; Newley Lock, Leeds; Johnsons Hillock Lock, Chorley; Blackburn Locks;
and Barrowford and Greenberfield Locks, Leeds, as well as at Glasson lock flight on the Lancaster Canal
and the Ribble Link in Preston.
Volunteer team leader Lee Cox (39) loves the outdoor life and helping boaters travel through locks. He started volunteering five years ago picking litter but after 12 months became a volunteer lock keeper and has never looked back.
He has even got his stepson Mark McCumsekey involved too. He also enjoys being out on the canal bank, keeping it tidy, removing rubbish, painting locks and clearing weeds.
Mark said: “There are loads of letters from boaters complimenting us and saying how much they appreciate our help. We try to be as helpful as possible. We try and muck in and we’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty.”
Local waterway manager Chantelle Seaborn said: “Volunteer lock keepers do a fantastic job. They really are the friendly face of the Trust and boaters love them. The role involves talking to boaters, helping them through locks, telling them about the local area and the history of the canal.
“The volunteers all receive training before the seasonal role gets underway around Easter time. They play a vital role in keeping customers happy and the canals in good working order. Volunteer lock keepers can help with water management and waterway staff really value their input. Volunteers can be of any age as long as they’re reasonably fit and healthy, enjoy working outdoors and meeting new people.”
Applications for the role (aged 18 or over) are open now, with training and induction beginning in March. For more information visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer-lock-keepers
l The Canal & River Trust cares for 1,583 locks nationwide and there are approximately 3.8 million ‘lockings’ each year (passages through locks). The nation’s canals are now used by over 32,000 boats – more than in the height of the Industrial Revolution.