Despite bitterly cold weather this winter, the Canal & River Trust has completed major works to around 100 locks across the country, replacing 144 lock gates, as part of its £45 million programme of work to repair and restore hundreds of historic waterway structures across England and Wales.
With the weather finally beginning to warm up, the successful winter works period means the canals are ready in time for the start of the popular summer boating season.
The cold winter weather did not deter visitors from venturing into the bottom of drained lock chambers at 16 open days which gave visitors a behind-the-scenes, close-up view of some of the finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world. Thanks to the help and support of nearly 160 Canal & River Trust volunteers, the events were enjoyed by 10,000 people of all ages and backgrounds. Even former England footballer David Seaman came along to walk in the drained lock chamber at Aldermaston Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Berkshire.
The programme also highlighted the number of weird and wonderful objects lost or discarded in the waterways, from phones and cameras to weapons and safes. At City Road Lock on the Regent’s Canal in London, six Boris bikes were found when the lock was drained and at Tinsely Lock on the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal in South Yorkshire, 24 shopping trollies were pulled out.
When the Trust drained a 1km stretch of the Regent’s Canal, volunteers found countless cans, bottles, plastic bags, guns, a machete, safes, mattresses, traffic cones, car bonnets, baths, sinks, over 120 tyres and even an unexploded WWII hand grenade. Overall it took 160 volunteers 739 hours and 10 trips to remove over 10 tonnes, or 38,000 cubic feet of rubbish.
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, says: “It has been fantastic to see how closely our staff, volunteers and contractors have worked together this winter to repair and clean up the waterways. Everyone has gone over and above to make sure the works, such as lock gate replacements, brickwork and timberwork repairs, and repointing were finished in time. The response from the thousands of visitors who turned out in all weathers to meet our experts and find out what we were doing was so encouraging that we’re now planning to run more open days this summer.”
To find out more about the work of the Canal & River Trust and forthcoming summer open days, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk