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 Love the river? Become a volunteer Lock Keeper on the Thames

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David Harvey

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PostSubject: Love the river? Become a volunteer Lock Keeper on the Thames   Thu May 09, 2013 4:28 pm

09-May-2013

There are few places more delightful than the River Thames on a sunny day; as it winds its way through pretty rural villages making its way slowly into London.

The Environment Agency has opportunites for all those who love the river to join its successful volunteer scheme helping to man one of its 45 locks along the Thames.

In its third year, the River Thames volunteer scheme offers people the chance to gain real hands-on experience in operating the locks along this iconic river. Working alongside professional lock and weir keepers, volunteers have the opportunity to spend their days outdoors, working with the public and helping to keep the river running smoothly.

There are volunteer vacancies throughout Berkshire and on the upper rural reaches of the Thames.

Every one of our volunteers has gained something unique to them from their time spent working at the locks; from the chance to work in one of the pretty lock-side gardens to preparing a lock for a royal visit.
John Massey, 76, who volunteers at Teddingon lock two days a week, said: “I started volunteering by accident; I was on the lock island one day, started chatting to them and got roped in. I was there for the jubilee and watched the royal yacht pass through; that was really enjoyable.
“I love it when it’s busy with boats; that’s real fun. But when it’s quiet I enjoy that too, then we clean up and paint. There’s always something to do.”
Lock volunteers need to be relatively fit as the role involves lots of walking and physical activity. A keen interest in river life and the environment is also a must and candidates need to be able to offer at least one day per week between May and October.
It’s important to remember that volunteering on the River Thames is for everyone; some of the volunteer lock-keepers also have full-time jobs in other industries. One such volunteer, Michael Cragg, who volunteers at Benson Lock in Oxfordshire, is a Purser on Long Haul flights and can spend extended periods of time working in confined spaces. He says he loves being outside at the lock in such a pleasant environment because it offers a completely different experience to flying.
More than 45 new applicants have already been assessed to volunteer at locks during 2013, and they are joined by many returning from previous years. But the Environment Agency would like to see more signing up, and with the sun now shining, is making a renewed appeal for volunteers.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from our existing volunteers signing up to help out again this year,” said Andrew Graham, Waterways Volunteer Manager. “But with the spring weather taking its time to appear this year, I think new volunteers have been somewhat put off. Now the sun is shining and the boaters are back out we’d encourage people to sign up for this worthwhile activity.
“We had more than 160 volunteers helping us out along the river during the boating season last year, and we’d like to see this grow above 200. We are particularly looking for people to help out on the upper reaches of the Thames; these have a special appeal and are idyllic spots to spend the day.”

People don’t have to live right next to the River Thames to volunteer; the Environment Agency want people who live in the wider community to get more involved too. As well as helping boats to pass through the lock, volunteers can use what they know about the Thames and its surroundings to help inform visitors about everything it has to offer.

On-the-job training will be provided for all successful candidates, as well as some branded uniform. The Environment Agency will also provide the best opportunities for volunteers to increase their knowledge of the River Thames while building on their passion for the environment.

Lock volunteers need to be relatively fit as the role involves lots of walking and physical activity. A keen interest in river life and the environment is also a must and with candidates need to be able to offer at least one day per week between May and October.
The River Thames is a destination for boating enthusiasts throughout the year, but during the summer it becomes the focus of activity for boaters, walkers, festivals and events especially at weekends.

For more information or an application pack please email thames.volunteers@environment-agency.gov.uk or call 01491 828360.
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