A BIG society-inspired push to recruit volunteer lock keepers kicked off last week with a launch at the Hanwell Flight lock.
British Waterways hopes to attract local people to take up the ancient craft and commit to one day a week between March and October, though arrangements are flexible.
No experience is necessary, and a recruitment notice from British Waterways said the role has moved on from the days when lock keepers 'had to haul the heavy lock gates open by hand, defend themselves against river pirates and fight off toll thieves'.
Modern-day lock keepers are asked to provide a polite and friendly service to waterway visitors, help boaters through the locks and maintain the lock area.
Ideal candidates will have an interest in the waterways, enjoy meeting people and like the sound of spending time outdoors, and key attributes are said to be enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Successful applicants will receive a full induction, training and a uniform.
The recruitment drive is necessary because British Waterways has drawn up plans to move the waterways out of state control and into the the hands of a new national trust, which is expected to be up and running by April next year.
It will aim to give local people greater involvement in how the canals and rivers are run, with more opportunities for volunteering.
Launching the project at the Grand Union Canal in Hanwell last Friday, London waterway manager Jon Guest said: "This is an exciting opportunity and we are expecting there to be a lot of interest.
"The role of a lock keeper is arguably the most iconic and colourful role on the waterway and by opening it out to volunteers we're hoping to tap into the great wealth of knowledge and passion that we know local people have for their canal."
For more information, or to apply, call Sarah French on the British Waterways volunteering team on 01827 252 097, visit www.british waterways.co.uk/volunteer or e-mail email@example.com