Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Locks the key to happy volunteers
IF you like meeting unusual people, doing a spot of gardening and helping prevent floods, then this could be the job for you.
The Environment Agency (EA), which helps manage Britain’s waterways, is looking to recruit around 200 summer volunteer lock keepers on the Thames.
The successful candidates will spend a minimum of one day a week between Easter and October lending a hand to their local lock keeper, helping guide barges through and keeping the place looking ship shape.
Mike Sinclair, 61, has been a volunteer at Iffley lock since last April.
A retired consultant anaesthetist for the John Radcliffe hospital, he lives just two minutes away in Iffley Village.
“It is very social – you meet all sorts of people working on the boats,” he said.
“People who live on boats are fairly alternative. You meet a fair few hippies – guys like myself, travellers on the water.” Before he was let loose on the 17th-Century lock, Mr Sinclair had to take two one-day courses on water safety run by Spartan Rescue.
Part of the lock keeper’s job is to help alleviate the flood risk, but they also need to make sure there is a sufficient depth for the rowers who regularly train on that stretch of water.
Mr Sinclair’s job also involves making the place look as good as possible and last week he was varnishing the benches.
“Iffley lock has lovely gardens and we lend a hand keeping them looking good, as well as letting boats in and out of the lock,” he said.
“I get fresh air, and it keeps me active.
“I am learning more and more about it, for example how to regulate the height of the water, which is very complicated.”
Mr Sinclair is one of three volunteers who help Ian Westwood, lock keeper at Iffley since 2010. After serving in the armed forces for 30 years, Mr Westwood started his lock keeping career in 2007 as a paid summer assistant.
The next year he was offered a job as a temporary lock and weir keeper and started his full-time role two years later. Permanent lock keepers are paid between £20,100 and £25,391.
“Lock keepers are an eclectic mix,” said Mr Westwood, 54.
“The guy below me used to be in the printing trade, and the guy above me used to act in EastEnders.
“Each person brings something different to us, and we try and give something to each of them.”
Comments are closed on this article.