Highlighting The Real Work – And Workers – On The Canals

Just behind the Cardinal is the Audlem Flight, fifteen (knackered) locks in a row. Work is proceeding as part of the “Winter works” to replace a couple of gates and repair a by-wash on two of them. I have the utmost respect for these chaps, out in all weathers, doing heavy graft.

The work has the added complication of water and mud – and “procedures” and “organisation” designed by inappropriate folk who wouldn’t know a canal if you put them into a hessian sack with a couple of breezeblocks and threw them into it. Believe me, I’ve seen such works where there have been ten watching and two working, where the (obviously more usually office-bound) “safety” “officer” has fallen over her own expandy orange “safety” “fencing” – while not wearing a safety hat.

Whatever, let’s get back to the work and the workers.

The amount of water that may be held back by some scaffolding poles and a blue tarpaulin is indeed impressive. This arrangement is such because the flow of water down the Audlem Flight has to be maintained if the canal below is not to come to resemble a camel’s crotch in Summertime. The water is being diverted, mostly, down the by-wash. I can testify that where I am moored at the moment the water level is down by but two or three inches. Impressibode.

Less impressive, once the water has been oiked away, is sight of the crap that we blissfully unknowingly cruise over in all canals – rubble, rubbish, you name it.

The lock gates are wood – generally, I think, oak – and last on the order of (we are told) some twenty-five years. This being a system built over two centuries ago, every lock gate is different and must be made specially to fit. For the moment this is done in a workshop in England, but I have little doubt that – should the need for replacements endure, and that is by no means certain – their construction is likely planned to be outsourced to North Korea very soon.

Two of the fifteen locks of the Audlem Flight are receiving attention (although they could all do with gobs of TLC), and they’ll be shut for a month or six weeks or so.

Seriously high-tech measures are in place to prevent joy-riding or ram-raiding by boats from above the locks…

Photographing the work and workers is fraught with misunderstanding, a majority of humans not quite being able to grasp the chasm that is the dichotomy betwixt workers on the one side and those metropolitan hickdeads that are, in the main although not exclusively, the “directorship” and “trusteeship” on the other. The workers are natually suspicious, not being convinced that they fall almost entirely outwith the deserved abuse that rains down upon the umbrella organisation.

I doubt that the blasting winds and lashing rain of late has made the real work any more easy or pleasant. The chippy in Audlem is also a good ten, mayhap fifteen minute walk from these works, making a decent lunch a thing of rush.

I very rarely venture up this flight of locks – fifteen in a row plus getting to and getting away from sees me good for nothing at all. There are easier places to patrol.

In the coming week, among other meanderings, I plan to visit the similar works at the bottom of the Hurleston Flight, just to be nebby.

Whatever. I give up with trying to explain myself when so many (online, elsewhere, in the “not here, not you”) can’t conceive of more than one view or thought at a very slow time in their braining-gland. Subtlety and complexity of opinion and conclusion are dead; long live the mono-herd sledgehammer.

A heartfelt thank’ee kindly to the chaps who heft hammer and wotnot, as here, to keep the canals viable. Thank you

Ian H.


  1. You talk of debts in the bottom of the canal well I can agree with you there because we picked up a tyre on our workboats prop on Friday. It actually went over the prop and was banging away like a gud un! What a t**t of a job to get off. Thanks to Matt a CRT operative who did a grand job of removing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gadzooks sir – tyres are incredibly tough things these days, and no more so than when wrapped around a prop. Steel reinforcing wires, stronger than Grandma’s corset stays. Mind you, Grandma’s corsets needed to be hefty.

      The debris under the water is scary indeed. I dread the day when the office wallahs, directors and trustees see a market for “in canal” (at sea style) burials…

      😉 Don’t nobody suggest it to them neither!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I like the look of that dam…..I could use it on the stream in the rainy season and then the lot loose on the pain in the neck who lives downstream.
    I too distinguish between those who do the work and those who sit on their backs on fat salaries inventing ‘systems’ to justify their existence.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Have a good rainy season and that might be spectacularly successful! Load the water with shark and piranha before you let the tsunami loose…

      As you say, it is amazing how many folk simply invent work, while others do it – and the latter are usually the more lowly paid and less respected! It’s difficult to think of an organisation or institution in England these days where the workers aren’t vastly outnumbered by the latte-sippers. I remember Rome being much the same in the late stages – most togas had a shiny ar*se from too much sit-upon and not enough do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It makes a change that you’re photographing the CaRT, rather than the other way around. Pity its just the humble (and as you rightly point out, generally decent) workers, as opposed to the self-serving elite and their minion clockers. I suggest a mass trespass one afternoon, as tradition demands, into the governors’ gardens for a photographic session to see how they like it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wouldn’t it be delicious to have the wherewithal to employ a small army of uniformed wardens to wander around, logging the position of every director and trustee and senior manager on a regular basis wherever they may be, and then keeping a record of their movements in a database accessible by all manner of company oiks for any nefarious reason?

      I’d love to see Mr Parry’s expression the twentieth time he ties up his horse at the rail in front of the saloon, and is logged by some total stranger tapping his details into an iPiddlyPad. I imagine that it would match the rear end of his horse, mid-fart. Mind you, anyone who can utterly ignore centuries of history and monumental infrastructure and instead spend his days promoting angling, cycling, and swan-shaped pedalo hire probably wouldn’t be bothered, but flattered. JMHO. 😉

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  4. I always try to distinguish between the real workers and those who sip latte and receive the higher salaries and benefits. The dam is amazing, isn’t it? It just doesn’t look sturdy enough, but obviously is. That said, I wouldn’t stand below it for long… 😉

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  5. Makes a refreshing change to see credit given where it is due, quite impressed with the load-bearing capacity of the giant, blue, plastic, flexible dams, perhaps they could be put to further use as nations disappear under the encroaching waters.

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