Work surrounding a multimillion-pound revamp of many of the UK’s locks, bridges and aqueducts will be put on public show, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the country’s canal network, British Waterways has announced.
One feature of the winter restoration drive will see around 100 hand-crafted oak lock gates being hung – said to be an important working example of the UK’s industrial heritage.
Open-day visitors will be allowed to watch refurbishments carried out across the network at sites such as the Anderton boat lift in Cheshire, the Caen Hill lock flight in Wiltshire and the Lune aqueduct in Lancashire.
British Waterways, which is set to become a “national trust for waterways” after a Government decision to move it into the charity sector, looks after the third-largest collection of listed structures in the UK.
The organisation said the open days will give people the opportunity to see the hidden workings of the canal structures as the water is drained away, and to find out more about the history and maintenance of waterways.
The public is also being given the opportunity to visit British Waterways’ specialist lock gate workshops at Bradley in West Midlands and Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire, where around 100 bespoke lock gates have been handmade for this winter’s restoration programme.
Each lock gate weighs 3.6t on average and takes up to 20 days to be created.
Vince Moran, British Waterways’ operations director, said: “The recent announcement that England and Wales’ canals and rivers are to become part of a new ‘national trust’ for the waterways will give the public a much greater role in looking after this important part of the nation’s heritage.
“I hope opening up some of our lock gate replacements and other repairs will give people a chance to see the scale of the work we do to ensure that the waterways are preserved for today’s users and future generations, as well as gain an appreciation for the magnificent industrial heritage in our care.”
British Waterways spends around £100M each year to maintain its 3540km inland waterway network.