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Abingdon Lock given a new lease of life
WORK is almost complete on a £650,000 facelift of Abingdon Lock.
Since November, more than 40 engineers, divers and fish experts have helped restore the Victorian lock chamber.
The lock – which welcomes about 8,000 boats a year – was closed while work was carried out, though the public footpath stayed open.
It is hoped the work – halted twice because of flooding and also delayed by snow – will improve the reliability of the lock.
Environment Agency (EA) engineers have blasted wall cavities with cement and replaced the wooden rubbing, which buffers boats, with a tropical hardwood.
Agency west Thames waterways engineer Paul Power said: “The river environment is quite hostile to engineering.
“When they are first built, lock chambers usually last 60 years before they need work done. After that they are refurbished every 25 years.”
The team first installed steel dams at either end of the 36-metre chamber.
Then a specialist fisheries team rescued around 400 fish and eels from the chamber.
The water was then electrocuted to stun the rest so they could be removed by hand.
Next, engineers “scabbled” back the face of the wall with hammers and filled in voids created by water erosion behind the chamber walls.
They then installed a stainless steel mesh on the wall, and blasted the mesh with concrete.
The wall was then made as smooth as possible by hand to discourage algae growth.
Abingdon lock chamber is six metres wide and five metres deep, although the water normally reaches between two and three metres.
Work is due to finish on March 21 in time for the Easter to autumn boating season.
Abingdon Boat Centre owner Darren Cummins said: “Closing the lock is like closing the M25: that is what the Thames is in Oxfordshire because it links the canals and the main waterways.
“But the Environment Agency is very good at getting them up and running quickly.
“We had a few problems with it at the beginning of last season when the gates started to fail.
“There were emergency closures because there was rubbish coming down the river which gets caught in the gate and needs removing.
“You know a lock needs improving when it keeps closing down and renters can only go one way on the river.”
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