Volunteers: Can you help keep the canal moving?

British Waterways is looking for volunteer lock keepers in Marsworth, Napton, Stoke Bruerne, Braunston, Buckby, Hillmorton and The Three Locks at Soulbury to help care for the historic locks and get involved with other interesting tasks out on the canals.

The role of the lock keeper is steeped in history, but they are just as crucial today as they were 200 years ago when the waterways were first formed.

In the past lock keepers had to defend themselves against river pirates and had to fight off toll thieves.

Today’s volunteers will not have as difficult a time as their predecessors. Instead, the role of the modern-day volunteer is to provide a friendly service to the many waterway visitors, to assist the boaters through the locks and to maintain the lock area.

Bill Smith, British Waterways’ waterway team leader, said: “Earlier this year we recruited a number of volunteer lock keepers who have already completed their training and are out on the canal network helping to look after the locks, as well as welcoming visitors to some of the waterways most picturesque spots.

“The first group of volunteer lock keepers are working very well, and we’d like to encourage more people to come forward and volunteer with British Waterways at more sites and help care for their local, historic waterway.”

This opportunity offers the potential for waterway lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to get involved in something they care about and to make a real difference to their local community. Volunteers would have the chance meet new people, gain interesting skills and work in a beautiful natural environment.

Ben Bray, a British Waterways’ volunteer lock keeper, said: “I find the historic canal network fascinating and really enjoy being outside in the fresh air, so volunteering to be a lock keeper was an obvious step.

“Giving something back to the local community is really rewarding and it’s a great excuse to escape the house.

“Meeting new people is probably the best thing about volunteering; not to mention all the new skills that you pick up along the way. I’d encourage other people to get involved at their local canal that might need volunteer lock keepers.”

Volunteering is central to British Waterway’s plans in England and Wales to move the canals and rivers out of state control and into a new waterways charity by April 2012.

This move will attract new investment and give local people a greater role in how their waterways are run – including the opportunity to get involved in a growing number of volunteering prospects.

“Lock keepers are the face of the waterways,” said Caroline Killeavy, head of community engagement for British Waterways.

“It is a great opportunity for volunteers wishing to get more involved in their local waterways, meet lots of people and spend time outdoors in some beautiful surroundings.

“With the new waterways charity launching in April 2012, this is an exciting time for volunteering at British Waterways.”

Volunteer lock keeper opportunities are flexible, and British Waterways is looking for people to give their time during the week and at weekends. Full training will be given and all volunteers will also be given a uniform.

For more information please contact Ed Moss on 01926 626171 or email volunteer@britishwaterways.co.uk . For further information about other volunteering opportunities, please visit the dedicated volunteering pages at http://www.waterscape.com/ volunteering