Jan 24 2013 By Natasha Gorbert-Hopkins
Heads up anyone who likes canals (and who doesn’t, am I right?)
One beautiful, if slightly aged, Cowley lock WLTM an enthusiastic local who enjoys short walks, pub dinners and chatting to boaters. That’s right, Cowley needs a new volunteer lock keeper!
By the time I came into the world, my parents had been on the waterways for a few years and knew their way around a lock. However, things were not always that way.
Picture a young couple, in their mid-20s: the lady with short, dark hair and a pair of purple Doc Martens boots, the man with a sailor's cap and an expression of unwavering self-belief. They had just bought themselves a secondhand narrowboat, which was very exciting as it would allow them to live out their alternative lifestyle in a way that involved emptying their own toilet.
It was the 1980s and times were tough, but they had found a way to fight against the system.
What they hadn’t yet learnt, however, was how to work a lock. Oh, they knew the basics: they had the windlass (the weird metal right-angled stick that you use to winch up the lock paddles), they knew that they had to fill up the lock with water before they could steer into it.
What they didn’t realise was that halfway down the lock, just inside the upstream lock gates, there is something called a “cill”. This is essentially a big concrete platform that juts out into the lock.
There are markings on the side to show you how far out it sticks, but these are easily missed. I’m not actually sure why cills exist, perhaps their only purpose is to ensure new boaters have something to get stuck on.
So, my poor parents, in their naive enthusiasm, got stuck on the cill. This meant that the back half of the boat was left resting on the concrete block as the water drained away underneath it, whilst the front half of the boat sunk lower and lower into the lock.
Thankfully, a helpful postman was walking past! He shouted at my dad to close the lower paddles, whilst my mum ran up and down like a headless chicken before rushing over to let the water back in and float the boat back up.
To avoid such misadventures as this occurring in the future, why not sign up to be a CRT volunteer lock keeper?
Future generations of young, alternative couples will thank you for years to come! (Not to mention people who have a little more common sense)