Water, gas, oil, etc.

Lock keeper

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

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours


What's it all about?

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

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.



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.

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

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You’ll need:

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