Keeping the forgotten art of lock keeping alive in Notts

Video: Watch volunteers running Gunthorpe lock 

Nottinghamshire is famous for its waterways – from the Trent winding its way through the city to the Grantham Canal preserving county wildlife.

But the small army of volunteers keeping the banks clear and the water running are perhaps less well-known.

Behind the scenes dozens of people are giving up their time – some of them to preserve traditional river jobs which have been around for hundreds of years.

The role of lock keeper is among the oldest on our waterways and volunteers do six weeks of training and exams before being given the responsibility. Their help is organised by the Canal and River Trust.

Without them, miles of the River Trent would be impassable to canal barges and the locks would fall into disrepair.

One of the county’s volunteer lock keepers, Nick Bingham, said: “The locks are mechanically operated by the volunteers all the way down from Newark locks to the Pierrepont locks.

“We do lock side checks to make sure everything is running properly, our main duty is to have safe passes for boats.”

Lock keeper key jobs

  • keeping the canal and towpath clean, smart and clear of obstructions
  • recording and improving wildlife habitats
  • promoting the waterway to other local people
  • running events and guided walks

The checks are done before the boats arrive to make sure everything goes smoothly, and sometimes the volunteers can even help save lives.

Nick added, “A few years ago one of the boat fenders got caught on the ladder at the side of the lock, my wife was on the boat and as she went to release the fender, the boat trapped her between the side of the boat and the lock side which fractured her pelvis.

“Fortunately there was a flight of locks and there was a locks volunteer who called the emergency services.”

The trust is a charity and are encouraging more people to volunteer as part of National Volunteers Week.

The week is an annual event every June with the aim of celebrating the hard work that millions of volunteers do all over the UK.

If you are interested in volunteering to help maintain the locks, contact The Canal and River Trust.

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