The beautiful and fascinating waterways of England and Wales offer a wonderful way to escape the busyness of everyday life. This winter, The Canal & River Trust, custodians of over 2,000 miles of waterways across the country, are holding open days to enable adults and children to experience the open spaces and hidden histories of Britain’s much-loved waterways.
The ten, free open days are countrywide and will take place between November 2017 and March 2018. Each open day is unique and provides the opportunity for visitors to learn about the history and heritage of their area from the charity’s skilled apprentices, heritage team, conservationists, ecologists and engineers. The charity’s army of passionate volunteers will also be on hand to share with visitors their unique knowledge of the waterways and surrounding area.
The open days are part of the Trust’s yearly restoration and repair programme; in 2017/2018, £38 million will be spent restoring tunnels, bridges, channels and 250 lock gates across the country. Lock gate making and fitting is a skilled and traditional trade and one that remains essential to the waterways. Lock gates are constructed with tremendous strength to control huge water pressure and survive for a long time underwater. Each lock gate is hand-crafted by a skilled team of carpenters and made from British oak. A single lock gate can take up to 20 days to make and has a working life of 25-30 years.
The open days offer a range of experiences, including the chance to venture to the bottom of a drained lock chamber, discover how 3 tonne lock gates are lifted out by huge cranes, learn how skilled construction teams replace and reinforce tunnels brick by brick and how canals are re-flooded in order for boat use to continue.
On your own, with friends or as a family day out, the fresh air of the waterways and the intrigue of their histories offer something for everyone.
Open days are free and will take place across England throughout the winter. For more details about your nearest open day and to check dates and times visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/open-days.