Get us in your inbox

Peigi MacKay, lock keeper
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a London lock keeper

Danielle Goldstein

…according to Peigi MacKay, 65.

You’ll never see snow on a London towpath

‘There are fibre-optic cables used for television and computer networks, and some electricity cables running under the towpaths, so it’s warm underneath – even when the canal’s frozen.’

There’s a direct route by water from Camden to Merseyside

‘We have a sign at Camden Lock that says “Liverpool this way”. The canals were originally built for industrial purposes, so you can go quite a long way on them. Then the rail network came along and it changed how businesses operated.’

You can still spot traces of barge horses on the canal bridges

‘You’ll sometimes see that the bricks have been worn away by the ropes that horses used to pull barges along the canal 100 years ago. Because the canal isn’t a straight line, you’ll find bridges that curve inwards, so as the horse went ahead round the bend, the rope wore away the brickwork on the corners.’

You spot some weird things from the water…

‘Between Camden and Regent’s Park somebody has a full-size cow on their balcony. I don’t know the story of it, but it does make people look up, which is a great thing in London. We’re all so busy rushing around down low, but if you look up there are some wonderful sights.’

…and some odd stuff beneath it, too

‘Some people think that knocking down lampposts and throwing them in the canal is fun. Who knows why they do it, there’s no accounting for people. That’s one thing you learn on the lockside.’

Volunteer as a lock keeper at

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a Grenadier Guardsman.

Popular on Time Out

    Latest news

      Read next