The Canal & River Trust is inviting people to step down into the drained Foxton Locks for a chance to see what it takes to keep the 200-year-old famous flight of locks working smoothly.
Over the next two months, the Trust is completing works at Foxton, the longest and steepest ‘staircase’ of locks in the UK, including replacing a number of giant oak lock gates. The programme of works will see new lock gates lifted into seven of the site’s ten locks as well as repairs to historic brickwork and other parts of the lock structures.
With support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the charity is opening up the works to the public with free open days taking place later in the month (this weekend’s has been cancelled due to the weather forecast). Giving visitors the rare opportunity to walk on the bottom of a drained lock and get a close-up look at the giant lock gates and historic stonework, the weekends will give people a new perspective on their local canal heritage.
As well as the opportunity to walk down into a lock, each weekend will include an activity giving visitors the chance to take part in photography workshops, guided walks, fishing taster sessions, traditional canal painting, and a Lego big build.
“People may have visited Foxton Locks many times before, but they’ve probably never seen it quite like this – there’s nothing quite like descending down into one of the famous locks,” says Phil Mulligan, Director for the Canal & River Trust in the East Midlands. “It’s fascinating looking up at the giant oak lock gates, and in some places you can even see the mason’s marks in the stonework from when the locks were built over 200 years ago.
“By opening up our work to the public, we want to celebrate the hugely impressive feats of engineering created by previous generations, as well as showcase the care and craftsmanship that goes into maintaining them today.”
The works are part of a six-month-long national programme of repairs to England and Wales’ waterways, where the charity is investing £43.6m repairing and restoring waterways across England and Wales this winter.
Before the locks were drained to allow the work to take place, a specialist ‘fish rescue’ took place to temporarily re-home thousands of fish in the sections of canal either side of Foxton.
Activities are taking place each Saturday and Sunday from 22nd February through to 8th March. All activities are free, however some have limited spaces so booking is advised. Visitors are advised to wear warm clothing and sturdy footwear.