Volunteer blog: Sunshine and skippers on the Forth & Clyde Canal


Lock-keeping and canal adoption volunteer, Lesley, regularly helps care for the Forth & Clyde Canal in North Glasgow. This Volunteers’ Week, she tells us all about her most recent trip along the historic waterway, from sunshine and skippers to bridges and buckled boat engines! 


My names Lesley and I am one of the volunteers this year with the Love Your Canal team along at the Maryhill Locks. It’s been about 7 weeks now that I have been participating with Scottish Waterways Trust. Together we’ve done litter picks, painting, pointing of masonry, cycling along the canal and of course lock-keeping! I’m most definitely having a great time with the guys and I must say that the previous weekend has been one of the best so far!

Turned up at The White House 8am for the usual lock-keeping shenanigans it was already scorching and the day was looking an absolute belter! We began preping the locks for the Blue Spindrift that was due. The boat arrived 10 minutes late nothing new there for us and the auld skipper on board was a lone rider. At lock 21 he did his own mooring and was quite capable holding the two ropes by himself, he could do with some help and it was a long road ahead. To my surprise Alan asked if I wanted to join Popeye on his boat all the way to Bowling! I was a tad overexcited about joining the skipper along the canal thinking about getting a heavy tan; of course my answer was yes!


From Maryhill to Clydebank the sun was beaming on us, the water was calm, with a few technical hitches an impeller change and botching up some sort of pipe I saw the Nolly from a different angle. The skipper was a professional at this boat malarkey; I definitely had a good mentor. Six and a half hours of mooring, supporting the skipper with the stress of buckled engine and being at hand as he fixed it. Enjoying this mini voyage in the ‘taps aff’ weather, though due to mechanism fault on the Sylvania Foot-bridge the journey came to an unfortunate halt at Clydebank.

Saturday morning I was back motivated and excited the weather was just as good as yesterday part two of operation Maryhill Locks to Bowling! Got a bunch of bananas and bottles of Lucozade to keep me and the captain going for the mornings journey. Clydebank to Bowling another brilliant day of foot-bridges, swing bridges, the Dalmuir drop-lock, bascule bridges and even under the Erskine Bridge! A slow steady pace along the canal, Celine Dion’n it at the bow and conversing with the odd Glaswegian on the toe-path and having to translate for the skipper. It was a great day for first mate Wilson I was riding a little ship of dreams, keeping a look out for icebergs.


We were just round the corner from Bowling, the clouds were covering the sky, a storm was forecast that afternoon and i didn’t pack my rain coat. Our day was nearing to an end, i was hoping there was a cuppa tea at the end of this for me. It was just after 2pm, we were at the last lock which took us into Bowling Basin, then right into Bowling Harbour, felt a great success! A two day boat marathon like completing all levels of a PlayStaion game! A total of eleven and a half hours it took us to reach our destination. That was my first time going along the canal on a boat and I didn’t even get that tan I wanted but was happier than ever…

The weather was changing and I began to feel the rain come on…. we made it just in time!

If you’d like to volunteer on the canals across Scotland, or join in on our project in North Glasgow, find an opportunity near you