British Waterways' electricity bill on the Kennet & Avon Canal has been reduced thanks to a donation of coal ash which is being used to seal up leaks on the lock gates and reduce the need to back-pump water on the Caen Hill Flight in Devizes .
Pictures by Henrietta Ross, BW
Lock keepers are using coal ash donated by the Avon Valley Railway in Bitton, near Bristol, on the Caen Hill Flight to maintain water levels during maintenance work which has already saved British Waterways thousands of pounds.
The traditional method of 'ashing-up' gates’ was used every night in the canal’s industrial hey-day when water on the flight was constantly in short supply.
The technique involves pouring the ash into the canal just above a lock. The flow of water then sucks the ash into the small gaps in the gates allowing them to form a totally watertight seal.
The method has been revived by lock keepers to help achieve and maintain the exact water levels needed while repairs were being carried out and they are now 'ashing-up' to help to maintain and preserve water during the summer months when water is in shorter supply.
The Avon Valley Railway has donated about eight tonnes of the ash produced by their steam engines to to BW, some of which will be held in reserve for future use.
"Working with the Avon Valley Railway has made all the difference to our works on the Kennet and Avon Canal," said Lock keeper, Trevor Skoyles. "It is great to see traditional techniques, which celebrate the heritage and history of our waterways, brought back to life with the support of local organisations and enthusiasts.”
David Cole from Avon Valley Railway said: “It is great to be able to make use of the coal ash from our locomotives — so when British Waterways approached us we were delighted that it could be put to use on the canals."