Appalled at the state of Hatton paddle gear

Published: Wednesday, 16 August 2017

WE USE the Hatton flight of 21 locks every couple of years and have watched its condition decline and rise and fall again over the last 30 years, writes Roger Fox.

We came down Hatton last week and were appalled at the state of the paddle gear. Strong men were having problems operating the towpath side paddles and women stood little chance at all. It certainly appears that no maintenance is being carried out and grease is a word that doesn’t appear in the CaRT dictionary. Contrary to the manufacturer’s design intent, notices are posted telling boaters to not drop the paddles.

hatton locks hLack of lubrication

This same lack of lubrication is evident as well on the Lapworth flight of the North Stratford. Bearings on some paddle gear have been renewed but no grease has been applied. This makes for unnecessary hard work.

The Hatton Flight is heading for a gate crisis in the next year or so. Many of the gates were renewed about 20 years ago in a mass operation and a similar programme will be required very soon. Just look at the leaks, the vegetation, and the date plates to confirm that a lot of money is going to be needed very soon.

Spares disappeared overnight

A few days after we had transited the locks I happened to meet a retired Grand Union Canal lock keeper who told me that in British Waterways days one man was responsible for looking after the Ham Baker paddles on the whole northern GU. He had a set of spare parts and was fully conversant with the inner workings of the unique gear. Apparently things began to go wrong when the northern GU was split between two British Waterways areas and most of the spares disappeared overnight. Is there a stock of rubber buffers and bronze parts lurking in a CaRT cupboard where they are not recognised for what they are? Let us hope so.