Sunday, 22 February 2015

At the bottom of a lock

Normally, being in the bottom of a lock is not somewhere you want to find yourself. However, when it is a drained lock that is undergoing repair and lock gate replacement, then it is a very interesting place to be indeed. And so that is where we find ourselves on Saturday 21st February for the Canal and River Trust Open Day at Lock 77 on the Wigan Flight of 21 locks on the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

CRT have an ongoing programme of works with winter closures for the major repairs and they hold these open days to invite the public and boaters to see how their money is being spent on keeping the network open. They do seem to get a bit of stick on some boating forums for not doing enough to maintain the canals and services but this winter we have seen lots of work scheduled and carried out in our neck of the woods, not just replacing lock gates but cutting back overhanging trees on a long stretch near our winter mooring. It is also worth noting that lots of the 'staff' are actually volunteers who give up their time regularly to fundraise or work the locks or stand in the freezing cold on a Saturday morning to enthuse about the work that is being done by the trust. In fact while we were queueing to go onto the viewing platform inside the lock we had a chat to one of the volunteers who has helped us through the locks on the Rufford Branch several times and remembered that we 
were in the process of selling our previous boat 'Alternative Therapy' when we last saw him. 

Richard Parry, Chief Executive of The Canal and River Trust puts in an appearance.

We also bumped into a couple of Wigan Flight Facebook Group Crew who I met up with in a pub in Wigan last year. This group has been set up so that folk local to or travelling up and down the Wigan flight of locks can keep in touch, share information and help boats through the locks. It's a great group as quite a few of the members have actually (not just virtually) met and the more crew is definitely the merrier when you have twenty one locks to get through. We have only in fact done the Wigan Flight once, coming down, when we brought our first boat over from Silsden where we bought it. It was a beautiful sunny day in what had been a particularly wet fortnight three years ago. We met no other boat even though it was a the middle of July and all the locks were set against us. It was pretty hard work but we were helped at the latter end by a boater friend and it was amazing how much quicker just one pair of hands can make it. We will certainly enlist their help should we venture up in the future!

Looking into the lock from the bridge, there wasn't as much rubbish as we expected           considering the location and reputation!

It was great to stand on the platform with stop planks holding back the water of the pound above and to see the craftsmanship both old and new up close

Looking out from the platform, the lock gates at the other end haven't been fitted yet, they have discovered a leak below the level of the lock and water is filling back into the lock from the pound in front so this will need to be fixed first

 The beautiful new oak lock gates have replaced metal gates

It was a great experience to see and find out more about the work being done and all the staff were very knowledgeable and happy to explain the process, for example how the gates are fitted and then a joiner makes a template for the piece that fits against the cill so that it seals when the gates are shut.

An enjoyable morning with plenty photo opportunities and a beer festival in Chinley to round off the afternoon. It's tough at the top.......

Mrs F

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