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Canal and River Trust seeks help for full-time lock-keeper Barry Whitelock
People who like keeping fit and working outdoors are being invited to volunteer for a unique role as a lock-keeper.
The Canal and River Trust wants to hear from anyone who might be interested in helping look after the waterways and assisting at locks – including the iconic Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
Barry Whitelock is employed to look after Five Rise locks full-time, but the trust wants extra volunteers to help him because of the number of gates at the site.
The charity already has three volunteers working on the historic locks, but is looking for more.
National campaign manager for the trust Simon Henry said: “Some people might give the odd day, or some people might give two. Really we can cater for any time people can give.
“We need volunteers during the main operating hours of 8am until 4pm, but if someone wanted to do half a day, then that can be agreed.”
Mr Henry said anyone could volunteer, although operating the locks could be quite tiring.
National volunteering manager for the trust Edd Moss said the charity, which took over the running of 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales last summer, was overwhelmed by the support it received in 2012 when more than 250 volunteers came forward.
He added: “This is one of the oldest and most iconic roles on the waterways so we’re asking the millions of people who visit the nation’s canals and rivers each year to get active and become a volunteer lock-keeper.”
The volunteering campaign was welcomed by Bingley councillor John Pennington (Con) who thinks the Five Rise Locks are under-sold as a tourist attraction and hopes the scheme might also help promote them.
He said: “The locks are really tremendous and there’s a visitors centre there where you can get a cup of tea and cake.
“If this encourages people who want to come and volunteer, then I will welcome them with open arms – I just hope there’s not too much red tape.”
The trust said it wanted friendly volunteers who always had a smile for people.
Coun Pennington said: “The thing about the life of the towpath is everybody speaks to everybody, you get the odd cyclist who zooms through fast, but people are typically British and always say good morning. It’s part of the community.”
A survey found that nationally, 99 per cent of the volunteers planned to return this year.
Mr Moss said: “It’s extremely important to us that we offer volunteers something appealing where they feel like they’re making a difference, which this role certainly does.”
The Grade I-listed locks are the steepest in the UK and have ten gates – each half-gate is a little over 7ft wide.
Last January visitors could see parts of the engineering masterpiece which are usually underwater as the Bingley Five Rise Locks were drained as part of maintenance work. Later this month, on Sunday, January 27, people can walk along a 50-metre drained section of Dowley Gap Aqueduct, near Bingley.
To register as a volunteer, visit canal rivertrust.org.uk/volunteer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0303 040 4040.