A TEAM of volunteers have been cutting back undergrowth to reveal an old lock on the Liskeard and Looe Union Canal.

For the last five years, local men, Brian Oldham and Peter Murnaghan have gathered a team of friends to preserve lock number 21 on the old canal, which can be found on a country lane, just below Lodge Hill, south of Liskeard.

Volunteers recently helped clear weeds on the edge of the overgrown Lock 21, beside the Looe branch line.

Peter said: “The canal was opened in 1828 to carry lime, sand and coal up from boats arriving in Looe to farmers and customers in Liskeard district. When copper and granite began to be extracted in large quantities on Bodmin Moor, the canal was used to transport these wares in the opposite direction down to Looe for export.

“By the 1850s the quantities had become so great that the canal company built a railway alongside the canal to link with the Liskeard and Caradon Railway at Moorswater. The trains were able to carry the freight more efficiently and quickly, without the need to rely on a good source of water for the canal. As a result, the canal closed in 1860, but the railway continues to the present day, as the Looe branch line.

“The canal had 25 locks from its link with the Looe River at Terras bridge, where the remains of Lock no.1 can still be seen today. Most of the locks along the route to Moorswater canal basin have now been lost. But Lock 21 was a lucky survivor. When the railway link line between Liskeard station and the railway in the Looe valley at Coombe Junction was opened in 1901, some heavy engineering was necessary. The new line cut through rock just below Lodge Hill and the waste stone was dumped into the chamber of lock 21, cutting off its supply of water. As a result, this lock was saved from the gradual deterioration that many of the other locks suffered with a constant flow of water.”

Lock 21 now finds itself on land owned by Network Rail, alongside today’s railway and the team of volunteers has obtained a community licence from the company to gain access and conserve the old structure. Each year the volunteers tend to the lock and keep the wild flowers free from invasive weeds and shrubs.

The lock can be seen from the road, south of Coombe Junction, but access is only available to volunteers working on the structure.

Peter added: “If readers would like to assist with the maintenance, occasional working parties are organised during the summer months.”

Further information is available from Peter by email at [email protected]