LOCK gates weighing several tonnes were carefully lifted up from the Leeds Liverpool canal yesterday as part of a £60,000 maintenance scheme.

A crane hoisted the 25-year-old gates into the air during the operation yesterday at Barrowford Locks and replaced with new ones.

Part of the canal between Higherford and the M65 has been closed for the past three weeks to allow work to be carried out by skilled teams.

It is due to be completed this week.

The work, carried out by the Canal & River Trust, required water drained out of lock 49 by Higherford to lock 50 by the M65.

Stephen Hardy, communications officers from the trust, described the operation to replace the gates, which are made from English Oak.

He said: “Firstly the water was drained slowly to allow the fish to be rescued and moved elsewhere, which took around taken around seven hours.

“Then the old lock gate was removed and repairs undertaken to the area. The new gate, which was handmade took three weeks to make.

“After the new gate is fitted it will be checked to see if the seal is watertight. The waterway should then be reopened.

“Lock gate making and fitting is an extremely skilled and trad-itional trade and one that remains essential to the waterways.

“ Lock gates are constructed with tremendous strength as they have to control huge water pressures, take the hard usage they get from the thousands of boats which use them each year and survive for a long time underwater and at the mercy of the elements.

“In order to be waterproof they also need to be built very precisely, fitting tightly to the masonry of the lock walls and to each other.”

Vince Moran, the Canal & River Trust operations director, said: “The winter stoppage programme is essential to enable the canal and river network to be used by boaters, canoeists, cyclists, anglers and walkers.

"We hope that by showcasing the repair works this winter, we can give people a chance to see the scale of the work we do to ensure that the waterways are preserved for today’s visitors and future generations.”