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Brian Blessed fronts Canal & River Trust volunteer appeal

The forthcoming Canal & River Trust launched its appeal today for volunteer lock keepers around the waterways network as it takes over from British Waterways this year. And to get the message across, they brought out Brian Blessed, larger-than-life actor, adventurer and 'commanding presence', for a photocall at Aldermaston Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal.  

If the waterways ever needed a 'town crier', few would be better suited to the role than Blessed, who is lending his own image to the campaign for free. The Trust estimates that one-fifth of Britons use the waterways each year, and wants people to volunteer as lock keepers to ensure a polite and friendly welcome to all waterway visitors – and particularly in assisting novice boaters through the locks and helping to maintain local stretches of waterway.

The volunteer scheme was started last year along the Grand Union and Kennet & Avon canals and the River Trent. It is now being rolled out across the rest of the network, particularly at prominent locations such as Bingley Five Rise (Leeds & Liverpool Canal), Tuel Lane - the deepest lock in the country (Rochdale Canal), and the Hertford Union.  This latter location will briefly become the most important and visited on the waterways this summer, as it borders the Olympic Games site. 

Brian Blessed said that the UK waterways helped to create his love of the outdoors and wildlife: "When I was a child I loved our canals and rivers, going off exploring on my bike and looking for wildlife. They’re unique places so I would urge people with a real passion for their local waterway to get involved as a volunteer lock keeper or take advantage of one of the many opportunities to support the Canal & River Trust. 

"[The waterways] meant so much to me as a child so I think it’s important we all do what we can to help protect them for our next generations to enjoy."

The outgoing British Waterways said that in the year ending March 2011 volunteers contributed more than 24,000 days, and in the lock keeper trials last summer, over 50 people successfully became volunteer lock keepers.

"Being a lock keeper is arguably the most symbolic job on the waterways", said Ed Moss, national volunteering manager for British Waterways and the forthcoming Trust. "It will be a perfect opportunity for those who enjoy working in the outdoors and are perhaps looking for something different to do and help support the Canal & River Trust in what will be its first year."

"The key qualities we’re looking for are enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Whether it’s helping a boat through the lock, talking to customers, litter picking or vegetation work, it can really make a great difference."

Volunteering will be essential to the success of the Canal & River Trust, which will immediately become one of the biggest charities in the UK. It will also give local communities a bigger say in the running of their local canal or river.

A full list of volunteer lock keeping locations are available at www.waterscape.com/things-to-do/volunteering or by emailing volunteer@britishwaterways.co.uk or phoning 01827 252097. Willing volunteers can start quickly and no prior experience is necessary as a full induction, training and a uniform will be provided.



Monday 16 January  | Andrew Denny  | 11.45am, Monday 16 January 2012

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