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Lock keeper Canal lock keeper, river lock keeper

Lock keepers open and close lock gates on canals and rivers to allow leisure and commercial boats to pass through.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements, but you'll need to be friendly and approachable. 

Working as a volunteer lock keeper during the busier summer months is a good way to start, and you’ll be trained on the job in lock operations and safety.

The Canal & River Trust has more information about work and volunteering opportunities.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • good people skills
  • communication skills
  • to be reliable and a good timekeeper

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties may include: 

  • managing lock bookings from waterway users approaching the locks
  • opening and closing lock gates safely by hand or using a computer
  • carrying out general maintenance on lock mechanisms
  • opening relief sluices in bad weather or flooding 
  • clearing rubbish and weeds from the lock
  • giving advice to waterway users in person or by radio
  • reporting incidents like fly-tipping, poaching and damage to wildlife
  • talking to community groups and schools about your work

4. Salary

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your shifts may be linked to tidal patterns if you work on a tidal river. They’ll also depend on the season. In summer, you’ll work longer hours, usually from early morning until dusk. You may be on an emergency call-out rota on busier waterways.

The job can be physically demanding and you'll work in all weathers.

You’ll be supplied with tools and safety equipment like a lock winding handle, VHF radio and life-jacket.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you may be able to move into coordinating volunteer training or deal with fundraising for waterway conservation projects.

Last updated: 20 March 2017