Saturday, 16 November 2013

Thanks Adam!

After a fairly late night last night this morning seemed to disappear before we knew it.  However, our friend Adam texted to say that Hampstead Road lock at Camden has been drained for maintenance work and gate replacement and is “open” to the public.  So, apologies for a very technical blog this time but off we trotted, eager to see the bottom of a lock (sad perhaps, we know!).


The bus took us quickly from Paddington to busy old Camden – it was a pity we weren’t on one of the super duper new Route Masters – they really are fantastic.  Comfortable, quiet, great design and you can get on and off when you want.  So good to see so many are being brought on line.


We booked ourselves into the first ‘slot’ available for trip down into the lock – it was very busy and, with 16 people per trip, the slots became full very quickly.


A view of the construction site from the footbridge.  At present the canal is still technically open by using the second lock although there’s very little traffic at the moment.


Wow! Looking towards the top gates, you can see where the lower water line is normally.  There was nearly a meter of silt and debris to be cleared to uncover the original two hundred year old floor of the lock.  The brick floor was in great condition, the sides of the lock were refaced about a hundred years ago.


The bottom cill with the new gates in place.  Each gate weighs two and a half tons and replace the previous twenty year old ones.  They are made from sustainable English oak and cost (if we can remember what we were told) more than £30,000 the pair. 


The maintenance crew found quite a lot of “treasure” during the clearing of the silt.


The bottom gates are fitted with new plastic paddles with PTFE slides to make them much easier to open.  We were reminded that they can still come detached if they’re dropped! 


It was marvellous to be able to see how and where the water comes in at the top end of the lock.  There’s a brick culvert on either side over two feet in diameter so “us boaters” can now understand why our boats can be thrown around by the huge force of water when the top paddles are opened.  During this maintenance period the seepage water is continually taken away by the sump pump so that the public keep their feet dry.


We were well looked after by the C&RT staff and volunteers and they spared no expense getting us safely in and out of the lock.


The temporary dam of wooden beams works very well at keeping the water out at the bottom end.


A view from the lock edge of the lovely new gates.

It was a real treat to go down into the lock and see the full structure and workings and we complement C&RT on their efforts at giving the public a chance to do something so special – and we have to thank Adam for his timely information which allowed us this special treat.

We had lunch on the hoof in Camden Market, where there’s more food choice than you shake a stick at, and then we walked over to Kings Cross for a lunchtime drink in a nice little pub we discovered a while back, close to the canal museum. Tonight we hope to enjoy some London Saturday nightlife in Soho.


  1. Wow, what a fantastic experience guys! Thanks for the info and photo tour for the rest of us. What an interesting blog post.
    Cheers, Elly

    1. Thanks Elly and Mick, it was a great experience. Hope you enjoy your winter this year, James and Doug x

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! Fascinating to see the bottom cill -- it's easy to understand how they can get damaged and leak. Wish I hadn't been so knackered and could have come with you.

  3. Snap! We had a similar outing yesterday to Foxton locks where the whole flight is drained, and open for visitors over the weekend. Good to see something of the 200 year old engineering that is usually underwater.

  4. Is "culvert" the word you're looking for?

  5. Jill, Matilda Rose18 November 2013 at 23:49

    Hi guys, just caught up with your last few blogs and am now vicariously exhausted. Brilliant blogs - you guys should be London tour guys. Were my sun glasses still in the bottom of that lock or has someone pocketed them?