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'London's Lost Route to the Sea'

Winter Facelift for Canal Lock

It brings it home to canal restorers when the next structure appearing on their restoration and maintenance programme is one they rebuilt some years earlier.

Such was the case recently at Baldwin's Knob Lock, on the navigable section of the Wey & Arun Canal near Loxwood in West Sussex. Nevertheless, the volunteer restorers felt encouraged and optimistic - the reason for the repairs was not because the lock was falling again into disrepair, but rather that it had enjoyed nearly 18 years of successful, often intensive use, with the fleet of trip boats passing through several times per day during the boating season - a level of traffic that Baldwin's Knob never enjoyed during its previous operational phase in the 19th century.

The lock had originally been restored by Wey & Arun Canal Trust (WACT) volunteers between 1991 and 1993. Since then, although the frames of the gates were in good condition, the planking looked in need of repair, the paddles (the sluices which let the water into and out of the lock chamber) needed attention, and there were numerous other smaller tasks which needed to be attended to.

Being a volunteer project, work was carried out over some eight weekends, which meant the lock chamber had to be pumped out each time before work could start. The cold and wet weather did not help either - work had to take place between Christmas and Spring so as not to interrupt the public and charter boat trips.

With the lock drained, work involved stripping and re-planking the lock gates; the gates were made from very hard wood, so this was quite a task for the team's battery-powered drills. The paddles were removed, dismantled and repaired. A large amount of silt was cleared from the lock chamber, and the walls were pressure grouted and re-pointed below the water line. Finally, the new gate planks received a coat of paint.

Baldwin's Knob Lock should now be ready for several more years of trouble-free operation - but the considerable amount of work undertaken by a small volunteer band will mostly be unseen by the passengers on the boats passing through.

WACT Maintenance Coordinator Kevin Baker paid tribute to his team: "As ever, I thank all that attended and worked so well in the face of some early problems. Those that came and gave a few hours you were just as important as those that stayed all day, even a couple of hours helps. We look forward to welcoming all our friends, old, and, I hope, new, on future volunteer work parties."

For further details about the Wey & Arun Canal Trust please call the WACT office on 01403 752403, email to office@weyandarun.co.uk or write to Wey & Arun Canal Trust, The Granary, Flitchfold Farm, Loxwood, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 0RH.

Notes for Editors

Information (and a selection of pictures of the work under way) is available from Bill Thomson, bill_thomson@weyandarun.co.uk, 01296 423033 / 07777 668928

The Wey & Arun Canal Trust

The Wey & Arun Canal, "London's lost route to the sea" was originally opened in 1816 between the River Wey at Shalford, near Guildford, and Pallingham, near Pulborough, the head of navigation of the River Arun. It closed in 1871, due to railway competition. Since the 1970s the 23-mile waterway has been the subject of a campaign by volunteers led by the Wey & Arun Canal Trust to restore the route to navigation. Work has been undertaken in a number of locations, most notably the stretch near the Sussex/Surrey border at Loxwood. Over two miles in length, this includes five working locks, two public road crossings, an aqueduct, two farm bridges, and numerous minor works, all built or rebuilt through voluntary effort. Boat trips are available on this stretch, onboard several craft, including the 50-seater electrically-powered Wiggonholt.

Last updated  Wednesday, 23 March, 2011
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