The Lock Island Project is a collaboration between Avon Navigation Trust and Evesham Town Council.
The Project is to rescue and renovate the iconic Lock Island building, and to increase its function, along with the attached large island, into a nature and wildlife haven and an activity and training centre for young people, delivering new activities for the wider community.
Evesham Lock is situated right in the heart of the town, with the end of the Lock Island adjacent to, and visible from, Workmans Bridge. On the island next to the lock and the weir, is the very striking and iconic triangle shaped building. Constructed in the 1970’s as a Toll Station and lock keeper’s cottage, it is one of Evesham’s most recognizable landmarks. As well as being identifiable by local residents, inland waterway enthusiast from around the UK would instantly recognise it as being on the River Avon, whether from photographs or from visiting Evesham.
The building supports are rotten and it needs to be repaired/replaced. This is not a simple repair, as the building was purposely designed to sit over the old sluice, where there are no conventional foundations. But the repair is possible and this is the perfect opportunity to save this most iconic Evesham Landmark, whilst also repurposing this building and the surrounding lock island to set up a new Activity Centre for local community and in particular young people. The new facilities will be able to offer indoor and outdoor training facilities for a wide range of activities including kayaking, paddleboarding and other activities on the water, training for volunteers to help on and around the river and running a youth volunteering programme. There are two surrounding islands, and the larger one can be established into an environmental and ecological haven, giving wildlife a home or ‘corridor’ close to the town centre and open to groups to visit for environmental study type outdoor education in the riverside environment.
Activities and outcomes this will enable
After the iconic building has been saved it can then move into its delivery stage – a genuine multi-use community facility. Whilst it will evolve and develop to match demand, the core delivery will include:
- ANT SQUAD – a pioneering Youth volunteering programme based on and around the river environment. This project was launched in 2018 using ANTs mobile activity centre onboard the 50’ double width barge ‘Neptune’. Neptune can take 12 passengers, and the demand is now for many more – ready to expend into this new site. 4 of the teenagers became qualified instructors in the autumn 2018 – as well as the facilitating the individuals to gain National Vocational certificates, this will also enable genuine youth led sessions at the new Centre. The favourite activities have been paddleboarding and litter picking.
- Multi use building. The iconic triangle building it set over 2 levels. Downstairs will become an open plan room. This can be used as a classroom / meeting room for all the proposed activities. It can also be a training Centre for activities on the river. Upstairs are kitchen, changing and toilet facilities. These facilities are needed to offer a professional site, whether that is for training or outdoor activities.
- Interpretation, education and history about the river. The river is Evesham’s greatest asset (and Wychavon’s and Worcestershire’s), and one that is often overlooked. Its history as a waterway is unique, and its course and shape is why Evesham is how it is today. By setting up information panels, interpretation and offering education visits, this story can be told to school groups, families, tourists, boaters and anyone interested in visiting the site.
- Training site. ANT aim to offer National Governing body Certificates, such as the inland waterways Helms certificate and NGB paddlesport courses. The new site will be perfect as a recognized Centre for offering these – the first and only in the area. The Lock, right next to the Centre, is also the perfect place to train or ‘have a go’ at operating a lock. ANT have over 100 of their own volunteers and this wil be the perfect place to entice more people to come and see how it all works, and train people on inland waterways best practice.
- Nature Island. This is a great new addition not only for the project, but for the environment of the town itself. Britain’s inland waterways provide a previously overlooked natural corridor linking habits and enabling nature to travel through the countryside into the towns. This is particularly true for this project, where the island is adjacent to the busy Workmans Bridge. The island will be enhanced to increase habitats. A big feature will be the interpretation, so young people will come away having learnt names of trees, what wildlife is around them and an overall holistic outdoor education experience.
- ‘Club’ environment – perfect addition to Evesham’s portfolio. Evesham as many great facilities including a Rowing club that is one of the best in the UK and world renowned fishing. It does however need more access to the river for general ‘recreational users’. The new activity provision will enable just this. Perfect access to healthy outdoor activities right in the centre of town.
- Health and well being – both physical and mental. It has been deomnstrated by organisations like the Canals and Rivers Trust and British Canoeing how simply spending time by the river environment can help and in some cases dramatically affect people’s health and wellbeing. This Centre can enable this on multiple levels.
- Family Activities. Families have specific requirements for their ‘days out’ and their leisure time. This project is looking to help with all of these. Sport England’s ‘Getting Active Outdoors’ 2015 2 lists the needs of families to be: Activities close to home, easy to access, good cup of tea and clean facilities, good equipment, all family members to take part together, cost effective, and to end up with a great photo for social media. This project wil tick all these boxes for families to ‘play together’ in Evesham.
The lock is accessed from Mill Bank in the heart of Evesham, only a few minutes’ walk from the town centre and Abbey Park. Public parking is available nearby in Chapel Street car park. Limited parking is available on site for a minibus or disabled visitors.
ANT own the land freehold. This includes the two islands, the building and all access rights. This is also one of the main reasons that the project is so cost effective, as the charity already own this prized piece of river frontage real estate in the heart of town.
As the Local Waterways Authority, ANT are continuously running engineering projects. ANT is governed by a board of trustees representing the best possible group of local professionals who are all passionate about the river.
This project will be led by the Chief Executive, Clive Matthews, who has been in post since 2010 with previous experience of running projects in the manufacturing industry. Clive has had a lifelong involvement with the River Avon as a volunteer.
For the activity side, management and delivery, ANT’s Recreation Development Manager is Alex Mellor. Alex has a strong local record of setting up activity Centres and projects (starting with setting up Aztec Watersports from scratch in 1993). Alex holds many certificates including RYA inland waterways instructor, RYA powerboat instructor, BA (hons) Recreation Management and Post Grad Certificate in Outdoor Education.
ANT’s ecologist is Dr Fiona Sharpe, from Sharpe Ecology, who has provided the environmental advice on the nature and outdoor education habitats.
Funding for the project is expected to come from three main sources:
- ANT’s own commitment, already allocated to this project
- Grant funding from relevant organisations such as Sport England
- Grant funding from Wychavon District Council’s Community Legacy Fund
The application process for the Community Legacy Grant is being managed by Evesham Town Council, with support from ANT. The town council is responsible for ensuring that the project meets the criteria for a grant, for carrying out a public consultation and for carrying out the necessary administration. As the elected representatives of the local community, the town council’s support for the project is fundamental to the grant process.
Ongoing Maintanance and Sustainability
After the completion of the renovation project, ongoing maintenance will include maintaining the eqipment, looking after activity equipment, managing the nature island, security and overall mangement and tidying of the site.
ANT already employs a member of staff to manage the lock and moorings. This role includes general maintenance and security, and the salary costs are included in ANT’s existing operations budget.
The ANT Squad youth volunteering project will be a core part of the ongoing maintenance of the site. This will include looking after the nature island, litter picking and helping to maintain activity equipment.
As ANT already owns the freehold of the site, there will be no additional rental costs.
The purchase costs of activity equipment, and the costs of any maintenance which cannot be carried out by volunteers or existing staff, will be covered by hire fees charged to users.
In the long term, therefore, the project will be cost-neutral to ANT.
Once funding is secured, work can start almost immediately on the project. As it’s primarily outdoor work, it’s unlikely to be significantly affected by any further Covid restrictions during 2021.
Our target for the delivery of activities is, therefore, the beginning of the summer season in 2022. This is a realistic and achieveable goal.