Canal charity launches appeal for new volunteer lock keepers

Volunteer lock keepers Lee Cox (left) and Mark McCumsekey
Volunteer lock keepers Lee Cox (left) and Mark McCumsekey

The Canal and River Trust charity is seeking to recruit new volunteer lock keepers on the Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge.

Lock keepers have been part of canal life for hundreds of years and volunteer lock keepers play a crucial role in keeping the tradition alive.

The role of the modern day volunteer lock keeper is to help look after the waterways, including assisting boaters through locks, providing a polite and friendly welcome to visitors and keeping the local canal looking its best.

Volunteer team leader Lee Cox, 39, loves the outdoor life and helping boaters travel through locks. He started volunteering five years ago picking litter but after 12 months became a volunteer lock keeper. He has even got his stepson Mark McCumsekey involved too. He also enjoys being out on the canal bank, keeping it tidy, removing rubbish, painting locks and clearing weeds.

Mark said: “There are loads of letters from boaters complimenting us and saying how much they appreciate our help. We try to be as helpful as possible. We try and muck in and we’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty.”

Local waterway manager David Baldacchino said: “Volunteer lock keepers do a fantastic job. They really are the friendly face of the Trust and boaters love them. The role involves talking to boaters, helping them through locks, telling them about the local area and the history of the canal.

“The volunteers all receive training before the seasonal role gets underway around Easter time. They play a vital role in keeping customers happy and the canals in good working order. Volunteer lock keepers can help with water management and waterway staff really value their input. Volunteers can be of any age as long as they’re reasonably fit and healthy, enjoy working outdoors and meeting new people.”

Applications for the role, must be aged 18 or over, are open now, with training and induction beginning in March. For details visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk