Volunteers needed at Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal at Sowerby Bridge.
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:02 11 April 2019
You could be the key to helping people from all over the world navigate Britain’s deepest lock.
National waterways and wellbeing charity the Canal & River Trust is urgently seeking a dozen volunteers to become lock keepers at Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal at Sowerby Bridge.
It lowers and raises boats almost six metres (20ft) as they make their way over the Pennines. For those of you who like this sort of thing, that’s the equivalent height of a double-decker bus with a single-decker perched precariously on top.
The lock is so deep because it does the work of two. Built in 1996 during restoration of the Rochdale Canal, it replaced a pair of earlier locks to enable the canal to tunnel under a road built on its original level and provide a more efficient route. Members of the public are not allowed to operate the lock mechanism themselves, because of the depth and proximity to a canal tunnel. Instead, a Canal & River Trust lock keeper helps crews to negotiate the gates.
Britain’s canals are more popular than ever before, with more boats using them than at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Last year over 1,000 people volunteered to be lock keepers with the Canal & River Trust, but now the network’s deepest lock is on the lookout for people to help out.
Lock keepers have been working on Britain’s canals for hundreds of years, although the role has changed over time. Today, they help to look after the nation’s waterways, assist boaters on their journeys, welcome visitors, provide information and advice to visitors on the towpath and maintain historic locks.
Volunteer coordinator Rebecca Dent explained: ‘Often referred to as the “face of the canals”, volunteer lock keepers are vital and play an iconic role within our charity. We appreciate everything our volunteers do to help look after our 2,000 miles of historic waterways.’
Ian Kelshaw has been a volunteer lock keeper at Tule Lane for five years. ‘I didn’t have any connection with canals before I started volunteering, but it’s a really interesting role, where no two days are the same,’ he said.
‘I’ve learned so much and love being outdoors because it’s great for my wellbeing. And because this is Britain’s deepest lock, it captures your imagination and attracts lots of boats and visitors who come along to have a look and see what it’s all about. It’s great!’
Peter Burton started as a volunteer lock keeper in July 2015 with the Canal & River Trust and now helps operate Tule Lane Lock. He said: ‘Having taken early retirement after nearly 40 years in local government I started volunteering with the Trust as part of my plan to keep active and contribute to the local community.
‘I began helping out at Salterhebble Locks before I joined the team at Tuel Lane lock in April 2017. I really enjoy working outdoors, assisting boaters - be they first time holiday makers or more experienced canal users - and meeting the many locals and visitors who come to see the deepest canal lock in the UK in action.’
If you fancy giving lock keeping a whirl, visit canalrivertrust.org.uk