Church Minshull Aqueduct Marina
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Dave Tarpey is a fellow Aqueduct Marina moorer and if he seems more than vaguely familiar to you, then indeed he should!  We hope the photo is a sufficient clue – because, as you depart or return to Aqueduct during your cruising, Dave will almost certainly have helped you through a lock.

It’s because of his dedication to his role as a Volunteer Lock Keeper (VLK) with C&RT that we’ve selected Dave to be the subject of Aqueduct’s inaugural “Meet the Moorer” feature.

Besides his obvious love of all things boat related, Dave acts as a valuable interface between local and passing boaters, towpath users, local businesses and of course C&RT.   Plus, he’s the first to hear all the news – including an escaped snake on the towpath!

Working across two waterways: North Wales and Borders, plus Manchester, Pennines and Potteries.  Dave can be found on duty at:

  • Monday and Thursday               Cholmondeston Lock
  • Tuesday and Wednesday           Middlewich Locks
  • Friday                                         Dave does get a sit down during the season, as he mans the phones for the MP&P Support Team, in the Red Bull office at Kidsgrove, and it is here that he hibernates in winter “it is warm and dry in there”.

Late April 2017 marked 50 years since Dave’s first trip on the waterways, a hire boat trip around the four counties, with the Scouts in a Beeston Chas Harden boat.  This early love of boats stayed with him and is fortunately shared by his wife Wendy.  Together, from 1993 they hired and shared boats until in 2012, they took the plunge and bought n/b Starshine.

Dave describes his thinking whilst he and Wendy were considering boat-buying options “An Aston Martin might do the same job as a Ford Fiesta but, fortunately, we decided upon the Aston Martin”.  Starshine is a Braidbar boat which Dave and Wendy first moored at Heritage on the Macclesfield – close to home and the boat builders.  They discovered Aqueduct when “we hit a substantial under-water object and limped into Aqueduct one Sunday afternoon expecting a long delay.  To our amazement, the boat was out of the water – prop replaced and we were back on our way in less than 24 hours”.

Upon retirement, Dave admits to being, initially “bored witless”, hence his response to an advert in a local paper calling for VLK’s.  Since his first day on duty at Cholmondeston Lock, back in 2015, Dave has notched up some frankly astonishing volunteering stats.

Averaging 30 boats a day he has totalled in excess of 2,800 hours, earning, in two short years, his Silver Volunteering Pin.  Personally he has assisted 5,000 boats – one was probably you!

Amongst these astonishing facts Dave especially recalls two “cream crackered” days.  One day in August 2015, he averaged 8 boats p/h an hour to assist a non-stop flow of 54 boats.  The other was the infamous “Mental Monday” at the Middlewich Folk and Boat in 2015.  It seemed as though every single boater came blinking into the sunshine following the festivities, wanting to set off at exactly the same time!  Dave put 62 craft through Kings Lock and still found time to advise the newly trained SUMBA VLK’s at Wardle – without him it would have been carnage instead of merely a bun fight. But what of that snake? Dave took the call, whilst on duty on the advice line at Red Bull Offices, reporting a deadly 12ft Burmese Python loose on the Caldon Canal.  The Police who called in a “Snake Wrangler” (who knew) later downgraded it to harmless yellow python.  So that’s okay then.

As C&RT are currently seeking to recruit VLK’s in the locale (see C&RT website – Volunteering) we asked Dave about the skills essential for the duty.  The ability to talk to people and maintain concentration is essential, as is an eye for safety and of course a good sense of humour.

A good local knowledge, helps.  Most frequently asked question “Where’s the nearest pub?” Most endearing “Where did all the water come from?”

In Dave’s experience 99.9% people are grateful for lock assistance and he takes immense satisfaction from sending people away with a smile.

In early May, Dave’s experience was called upon when he was chosen by C&RT to meet the Green Flag Award Judges to represent the role of a VLK.  He spent the morning “Brushing the towpath and polishing the grass” in readiness.

Jason Watts – Volunteer Support Team Leader of C&RT (North Wales & Borders) comments “Dave is an integral part of our VLK team.  Knowing he is on duty reassures not only boaters but C&RT staff, who know that they have a reliable and skilled operative on duty”.

So on behalf of moorers and staff at Aqueduct “A sincere thank you Dave for all your hard work and dedication in assisting the Aqueduct and wider boating community, we really appreciate it – now, how far is it to that pub… ?”

All power to your elbow Dave. You’ll need it for that windlass!

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