A canal lock in Wigan is being repaired by charity Canal & River Trust. Part of the famous Wigan Flight, the 200-year-old lock needs some complex repairs so boaters can continue to use the canal.

Built in 1816, Wigan Flight is one of the most distinctive features on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The flight of 21 locks raises the canal more than 200ft over two-and-a-half miles. Earlier in June, one of the locks, next to Warrington Road in Wigan, stopped holding water, and the Canal & River Trust’s specialists drained the lock to investigate. They discovered that the huge concrete ‘arrowhead’, which forms part of the cill the lock gate sits on, had lifted, meaning that the gates could not seal shut. During the works, the team found more damage to two large wooden floor planks, which also needed to be replaced.

The Canal & River Trust’s team designed and built ramps down to the canal bed for the machinery to break up the arrowhead and safely remove it from the lock. They then put in the new concrete base, cut and test-fitted timber cills, and poured structure concrete to create a new arrowhead. With the unexpected opportunity of a fully drained lock, the charity enlisted the help of local volunteers to help clear out traffic cones, bikes and other rubbish from the lock.

Once the concrete has dried this week, the team will fit the timber cills and test the lock gates, with navigation anticipated to resume from Saturday 6 July.

The Canal & River Trust has prioritised the work to fix the damage to ensure the lock remains safe and available to boaters. In around three weeks, what started as a ‘simple’ failed cill turned into a much larger project involving tons of materials, machinery and a broad range of engineering and construction skills.

Jeff Smith, reactive response team manager at Canal & River Trust, said: “The Wigan Flight is well known by local boaters – and by those from further afield seeking the challenge of tackling the 21 locks. It’s remarkable that, over 200 years since it was built – marking the completion of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and linking those cities by water – it is still being used by boats today.

“We know how important it is to get the lock open for boaters as quickly as possible and it has been all hands on deck to complete this tricky repair. We’ve taken advantage of having a fully drained lock to do as many other tasks as we can so that the chances of having to disrupt navigation again are reduced.

“We’re proud to look after this amazing part of our heritage and we look forward to seeing boaters navigating the flight again. Caring for our ageing canal network is an expensive task for our charity, and we welcome people’s support.”

To support Canal & River Trust, please visit: Support us | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)