Friday, 25 February 2011

Volunteers called to unlock key canal role

British Waterways is inviting people to apply for a unique opportunity that will see them carry out an iconic and colourful role on their local canal.

For the first time British Waterways is recruiting local people to be Volunteer Lock Keepers, and will be holding guided walks at various locations along the historic Kennet and Avon Canal where potential volunteers can come along and find out more about this wonderful opportunity.

Volunteers could be working at a selection of historic locks on the Kennet and Avon canal including such sites as the popular Caen Hill Lock Flight and the Bath Flight, or the Grade II Listed locks at Bradford on Avon, Crofton, Seend and Kintbury.

The guided walks are taking place on:

Friday 4th March 10am at Bradford and 2pm at Bath

Friday 11th March 10am at Crofton and 2pm at Kintbury

Friday 18th March 10am at Devizes and 2pm at Seend

The ideal Volunteer Lock Keeper will have an interest in the waterways, enjoy meeting people and like the sound of spending time outdoors in beautiful surroundings. They will be working from March until October and will ideally be able to offer at least one day a week, though this is flexible. No prior experience is necessary – successful applicants will receive full induction, training and a uniform to equip them for their new role as ‘the face of the waterway’. The key attributes are enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Lock Keepers have been a fixture on the canal for hundreds of years. While some of the duties remain the same, today’s lock keepers will not have as difficult a time as their early predecessors. Lock Keepers in the past had to haul the heavy lock gates open by hand, defend themselves against river pirates and fight off toll thieves. Today the role of the modern-day Volunteer Lock Keeper is to provide a polite and friendly service to waterway visitors, assisting boaters through the locks and maintaining the lock area. It’s a chance for people who are passionate about their local community to make a real difference to the experience of waterway visitors, from boaters and ramblers to families feeding the ducks.

Volunteering is an important aspect of British Waterways’ plans in England and Wales to move management of the nation’s canals and rivers out of state control and into a new ‘national trust’ for the waterways. This exciting new charity, which is targeted to be up and running by April 2012, will attract new investment and give local people a greater role in how their waterways are run – including the opportunity to get involved in a growing number of volunteer opportunities.

BW’s Waterway Manager for the Kennet and Avon Canal, Mark Stephens, said: “This is an exciting opportunity and we are expecting there to be a lot of interest. The role of a lock keeper is arguably the most iconic and colourful role on the waterway and by opening it out to volunteers we’re hoping to tap into the great wealth of knowledge and passion that we know local people have for their canal.”

For more information and to apply to become a volunteer lock keeper please contact Sarah French in British Waterways’ volunteering team on 01827 252097or e-mail Further information on all volunteering opportunities within British Waterways can be found on

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