Guardians of the UK's deepest lock which is in Calderdale win prestigious prize

The Canal & River Trust has announced that a team of its lock keepers from Calderdale have won the British Marine Lock Keeper of the Year Award.

By Ian Hirst
Thursday, 19th August 2021, 1:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 1:22 pm

The team of 10 that work and volunteer for waterways and wellbeing charity were presented with the prestigious award at Britain’s deepest lock (Tuel Lane Lock) on the Rochdale Canal in Sowerby Bridge.

Ian Kelshaw Lead Volunteer at Canal & River Trust, part of the winning team, said: “I didn’t have any connection to canals before I started volunteering at the Trust over five years ago and now I’m part of a brilliant team of Lock Keepers doing something I thoroughly enjoy.

"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. Helping look after 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!”

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The winning team from Tuel Lane Lock, Sowerby Bridge.Images courtesy Canal & River Trust / Stephen Garnett

The annual award is open not only to lock keepers, but to all waterways staff who have offered outstanding assistance to waterways users and is voted for by members of leisure marine trade association, British Marine Inland Boating.

Shire Cruisers operates 20 holiday hire boats across Yorkshire’s waterways and presented the award to the team. Susan and Nigel Stevens, members of British Marine Inland Boating, presented the award.

Nigel Stevens, director, said: “With more people than ever choosing staycations this year, we’re having a bumper season. The Canal & River Trust team has been a great support, going that extra mile to welcome lots of newcomers and novice boaters to the region’s waterways and help them have a great experience.”

“Boating is such a fantastic way to see Yorkshire - not only all the different places, but also from a different angle. It’s such a contrast to normal life – boating forces you to slow down, it really relaxing and takes your mind of the everyday worries.”

Tuel Lane Lock on the Rochdale Canal in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, 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.

Unusually, because of the depth of the Tuel Lane Lock and its proximity to a canal tunnel, members of the public are not permitted to operate the lock mechanisms themselves. Instead, the award winning lock keepers helps crews to negotiate the gates.

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.

Sean McGinley, regional director Yorkshire & North East at Canal & River Trust, said: “Lock keepers, many of whom are volunteers, are the ‘face of the canals’ and play a vital and iconic role within our charity. Lock keepers have been a presence 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, provide information and advice to visitors on the towpath and maintain historic locks. We are hugely proud of the team and to be able to bring this award home to Yorkshire is even better!”