National waterways charity, the Canal and River Trust is urgently seeking volunteers to take on the iconic role of lock keeper at Britain’s deepest lock.
Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal in Sowerby Bridge, is one of the Trust’s most remarkable locks, lowering and raising boats almost 20ft (6m) as they make their journeys over the Pennines. For comparison, a typical double-decker bus is 4.4m.
Members of the public are not permitted to operate the lock mechanism themselves, due to the depth and proximity to a canal tunnel. Instead, a Canal & River Trust lock keeper helps crews to negotiate the gates.
Becca Dent, volunteer coordinator at Canal & River Trust is leading the appeal.
She explained: “We’re looking for over a dozen volunteer lock keepers to help bring Britain’s deepest lock to life for everyone who visits.
"Often referred to as the ‘face of the canals’, volunteer lock keepers are a vital and iconic role within our charity – it’s a great opportunity for anyone who likes spending time outside and talking to people.”
“We value each of our volunteers and appreciate everything they do to help look after our 2,000 miles of historic waterways. I
"n return we do all we can to ensure they have opportunities to learn new skills and meet new people in a friendly and supportive environment. If this sounds of interest we’d love to hear from you.”
The Tuel Lane 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.
Ian Kelshaw is one of two Canal & River Trust volunteer lock keepers at Tuel Lane Lock. He explained: “I didn’t have any connection to canals before I started volunteering at the lock five years ago - but it’s a really interesting role, where no two days are the same. I’ve learned so much and love being outdoors, it’s great for my wellbeing. Because it’s Britain’s deepest lock, it captures your imagination and attracts lots of boats and visitors just coming to have a look and see what it’s all about – it’s great!”
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 beautiful waterways, assist boaters on their journeys, welcome visitors, provide information and advice to visitors on the towpath and maintain historic locks.
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.”
To volunteer on the lock or to find out more about the position click here