Monday, 9 December 2013

Atherstone Locks Open Day– Sunday 8th December

Today we took Jimmy, our new Guide Dog pup, for his first look at a lock. C & RT were holding an open days over the weekend at the Atherstone flight of locks whilst they were carrying out repairs to Locks 4 and 6.
1 From the Bridge
In order to ensure that visitors were safe and to comply with H & S requirements they had drained the Top lock and installed scaffolding and steps so that we could go down into the lock. The site was entered via the old boat yard on the off side and we were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers promoting the Trust and its activities and then we signed in and donned a Hard Hat before we were taken down into the lock in small groups. Jimmy was obviously not allowed to go down so watched what was going on from the bridge above whilst keeping the volunteers and visitors entertained.
1 Jimmy Visits Lock
The top lock had been sealed off with Stop-planks which although only 3” thick were holding back the water from the 38 miles of canal behind them. (Back to Coventry Basin and all the way up the Ashby Canal). Ash from fires is then fed down behind the planks to seal any leaks between them and grass turves are lowered down to the bottom of the planks to seal any leaks between the bottom plank and the base of the lock where an odd stone may have lodged creating a space and potential leak. It is amazing that these original methods are still the best solution today.
We were able to stand on the bottom brickwork of the lock which has remained in excellent condition since it was laid there in the late 1700’s and look at the top paddles which are now made from composite plastic sliding in metal guides. These have progressively replaced the original wooden ones and provide for smoother operation and a longer life. The white marks around the paddle and its chamber are rudimentary sponges.2 Topgate and Paddle
Down in the deep chamber of the lock we could see the fresh water mussels which were growing on the lock sides below the natural water level so the water quality can’t be that bad. We could also identify the areas of wall repairs which had been made with modern cements, nowadays  they are repaired using more sympathetic methods which ensure that they do not adversely affect the remainder of the walls by being too hard.
3 Into Top Lock
The bottom of the lock was strewn with rubble, bottles, plastic pipes, grills, as well as bicycles and the like. Volunteers were planned to come in later and clear the dross from the lock chambers as after testing it had been identified as non toxic. Had it shown any toxicity it would have had to have been cleared by specialist contractors at enormous cost to C& RT. 
4 Bottom Gate and Pound
Whilst draining the lock C&RT had found these fish, mussels and Crayfish which were on display for visitors prior to being returned to the canal.
5 Wildlife in lock
Later we walked down to Lock 4 to see the C&RT men busy replacing the bottom gate and its paddle gear. We met and had an interesting chat to Volunteer Lock Keeper, James, who helps boaters navigate the locks on a Wednesday.
6 Replacing Gate on Lock 4
Whilst the flight was built with water saving side ponds the paddle gear has been removed and sealed, with the exception of Lock 6 where the pond is used as an aid to help prevent flooding of the adjacent property when vandals decide to drain the higher pounds.
I would like to thank Mark and his C&RT Team as well as the Volunteers for a very well organised and interesting visit.