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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    9

    Question Conditions at locks.

    It is some years since I have been on the Thames but I have been told that things have drastically changed.

    From what I can make out, many locks on the upper Thames are unmanned and no longer cleaned. I have been told that the staircases are especially dangerous as the handrails are covered in slime and so are the foot treads.

    As I am becoming a bit of a fossil in my later life and not as agile as I used to be please may I ask if this is true. You hear so many shaggy dog stories nowadays so I do not know what to believe.

    Thanks in advance for any information.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    Thames & Kennet Marina
    Posts
    140

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    I've been on the Thames since I was 3 years old (albeit only on my own boat for the last 4!) but certainly don't recognise your fear. Yes, some locks do have some slime, but no worse than I remember from when I used to be out holding onto chains & ropes. It's certainly not the case that they're "no longer cleaned.

    Regarding manning, I do believe there are less full time keepers, certainly at the moment with a few recent resignations, but I've not been badly encumbered yet by this. Certainly it can be frustrating when some locks are self service at peak times, but I find if different boat crews talk & work together we can be almost as quick as fully manned. Certainly, no locks are unmanned, unless you're referring to Blakes, on the Kennet.

    I'd make sure you wear suitable shoes, and don't make flying leaps(!). My girlfriend and I, whilst south of 40, often are on stairs (aspiring for a bigger boat to help prevent that!) and regularly use them, as does my Dad, who's less of a spring chicken now. Obviously have a lifejacket on for safety, if in any doubt.

    If a deep lock is unmanned, we often drop of crew before entering on the layby, so they can take a rope from within the lock - that way there's no need to use the stairs.

    In the last 5 weeks we've gone from Caversham to QE2 Bridge and back, and not had any problem. I'd enjoy it, go carefully and have a great time.

    james

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    4,257

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soliton View Post
    It is some years since I have been on the Thames but I have been told that things have drastically changed.

    From what I can make out, many locks on the upper Thames are unmanned and no longer cleaned. I have been told that the staircases are especially dangerous as the handrails are covered in slime and so are the foot treads.

    As I am becoming a bit of a fossil in my later life and not as agile as I used to be please may I ask if this is true. You hear so many shaggy dog stories nowadays so I do not know what to believe.

    Thanks in advance for any information.
    All of the locks are manned most of the time - but invariably not when you pass through... (I jest)
    The lock walls are no longer cleaned - for H&S and environmental reasons.
    For a while the stairways were kept clean to some extent, but I noticed on my trip (Hurley to Inglesham) last week that this was no longer true, it may be H&S rearing its ugly head again or mebe and insufficiency of round to-its.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Limehouse hole
    Posts
    484

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    Its been quite a few years since the keepers cleaned the lock sides with caustic soda.

    Yes the steps and handrails do tend to be a bit slimy. Perhaps a pack of disposable latex gloves might be worth considering.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    4,257

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    OTOH it would help reduce the slime if boaters left an unmanned lock empty /emptying on exit - especially when going upstream as requested.

    I take the jaundiced view that most boaters don't give a 'whatsit'

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Limehouse hole
    Posts
    484

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    £2 per lock to get a little 60mmx35mm self adhesive engraved plaque saying "please leave lock closed with lower gate sluices open" or similar. Stick it beside the control panel.
    I think clearer instructions would be useful.

    Obvs some people would ignore it but it is not entirely obvious that you are supposed to leave all locks empty.

    Makes sense but its not very clear.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    330

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Outinthedinghy View Post
    £2 per lock to get a little 60mmx35mm self adhesive engraved plaque saying "please leave lock closed with lower gate sluices open" or similar. Stick it beside the control panel.
    I think clearer instructions would be useful.

    Obvs some people would ignore it but it is not entirely obvious that you are supposed to leave all locks empty.

    Makes sense but its not very clear.
    EA has been asked repeatedly to replace the missing operating instructions including the message to leave locks empty, tail sluices up.

    However, the EA can't decide on the wording or if pictures would be better. Or much else TBH.
    When I was in the Navy ...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Oxfordshire
    Posts
    1,789

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    Its all well and good making the empty lock rule plain for everyone to see, but as with all rules there are exceptions.
    When there isn’t much water in the system, they will tell us not to empty the chamber for the sake of it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Limehouse hole
    Posts
    484

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    On the river Wey the official guidance is simple. Leave the gates open paddles down whichever way you are going.
    Basic. Indicative of a well maintained navigation however they do not have stairwells like on the Thames.

    On crt waterways the guidance is to close everything up after use but that is partly a scheme to cover up inadequate maintenance problems.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Conditions at locks.

    Many thanks for the interesting replies to my question.

    From what I can glean from this source and others elsware the handrails are not regularly cleaned which must post some health and safety issues.

    Personally I am not bothered too much about the gunge on my hands but the fact that if I need to steady myself on a lock staircase and in the old sailor's terms "one hand for the boat and one hand for yourself" it may not work. Wearing rubber gloves is not something that I am bothered with and may make things worse.

    The rule that a lock, if used by out of hours travellers should be left with gates closed and empty has always been the case in my recollection of past trips and I believe still stands. Next day however, the slime would still be wetted and become dangerous again.

    Whilst I am aware that this may take about ten minutes of a member of staff's time every time they man a lock to give two handrails a quick scrub and often there may be an hour or so in between boats in the early hours I do not perceive any problems encountered.

    It may be more of a problem if they have to fish a dead body out of a lock (hopefully not mine), police investigation, form filling, court appearances, etc. etc. etc. and at the end of the process somebody probably in the higher echelons of the EA being charged with whatever the police can find to fit the situation.

    It makes one think does it not?

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