HAVING first-hand knowledge of the problems of the Trent & Mersey Canal, contributor Ralph Freeman offers suggestions how they can be fixed to make life easier for boaters.
During the last few weeks I have been cruising on my old stomping ground; the Trent & Mersey Canal from Great Haywood down to Willington. This article is not a whinge, but a constructive suggestion as how to fix several long standing problems on this stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal.
No change lock wise
I have to say not much has changed, especially the operation of Colwich Lock. The bottom gates are still far too heavy for petite women to close and to add insult to injury, refuse to stay closed after all the effort of closing them.
Strangers and hire boat crew alike are often unfamiliar with this problem and do not partially lift a ground paddle before attempting to close the bottom gates. This results in delays, confusion and a fair amount of cursing! It's not a great advert for CART?
The old problem
This problem has been with us since these gates were replaced many years back. There have been several stoppages and other attempts to rectify the problem(s) at Colwich Lock but I'm afraid to say the end result is a big fat zero. One (failed) solution was to add weights to the balance beams (see photo).
These gates are just as bad as they were when the weights were installed. To make matters worse Woodend, Shadehouse, Junction and Bagnall Locks all exhibit the same problem to a greater or lesser degree. Do we conclude then that the art of hanging lock gates was lost during British Waterways 'watch'?
A job well done
The answer is not entirely. Not long ago the tail gates of Filance Lock on the Staffs & Worcs were replaced. Despite being considerably bigger than the problem gates mentioned above, they are light to operate, well balanced, water tight and a pleasure to use. They are the 'dog's what nots' of lock gates, in other words. So someone knows how it should be done.
Is this a solution?
My suggestion is find the person (or team) responsible for the work on Filance Lock and transfer them to the Major Projects Group. How about a nice fancy title such as 'The Lock Fettlers Team'? Their first task would be to inspect the problem locks, and then formulate a plan for their modification to ensure they operate correctly i.e the tail gates are easy to close and stay closed. After all these CART staff know how to hang a set of lock gates, There is proof of that at Penkridge!
Such a move (the repair of these locks after all this time) would be a good PR move for CART I would suggest, and counter much of the 'towpath and wildlife only' criticism levelled at CART as of late.