Thursday, 12 September 2013

Pick a Lock

One of the river features mentioned in The Wind in the Willows is the weir.  It is a very common man-made feature in the rivers here in England, but unless one know what it is, it is unlikely that one will know why it is even mentioned in the book.

It's one thing to learn about weirs at home, it's another to go and see one for ourselves.


It's easier to understand the functions of the weir and to marvel at the Victorian engineering when we saw it with our own eyes.  Besides, the environment is beautifully sculptured by the presence of the weir.

When there is a weir on a river, there is almost inevitably going to be a lock somewhere not too far along.  We took a look at the old Victorian versions:

before heading further along to see a more modern version:

When we were by the lock, there were a few boats waiting to cross the lock so we stood there and watched them go by, all the while observing and learning about the workings of a river lock.

Before any boat enters the lock, both ends of the locks.
  • We were at the "front end" or entry point of the lock, which was shut (photo 1 above).
  • This is to equalise the water level both outside and inside the lock. (photo 2).
  • You can see the difference in water levels in photo 3.  It takes about five minutes for the water level to equalise on both sides.

Once the water level equalises on both sides,
  • someone from the boat will jump out (usually the boats are moored a short distance away just before the entry lock to wait for water equalisation) and open the lock (photo 1 above).
  • Some locks are mechanised.  The one that we were at is manual so the man from the boat had to use his body to push open the entry lock (photo 2).  The lock will not open when the water is not leveled on both sides of the lock because the water pressure on one side will provide too much resistance.
  • The waiting boat sails slowly into the lock (photos 3 and 4).
  • Usually the boats are parked right up to the exit lock for easy exit (photo 5).
  • Someone from the boat will close the entry lock (photo 6).  This is to maintain the water level within the lock while waiting for the water level at the other end to equalised.

  • This is the view at the exit lock (photo 1 above).
  • The exit lock is loosened slightly after the entry lock has been shut.  This is to allow for water inside the lock to flow out gently to the other side, to bring the water on both sides to the same level (photo 2).
  • Once the water level is equalised, the exit lock is again loosened fully (photo 3).
  • The exit lock is then opened manually (photo 4).
  • This is to let the boat out on the other side smoothly, with the water level being the same in the main river as it is inside the lock (photo 5).
  • The boat leaves the lock and goes on its way (photo 6).

You might make more sense of how a canal lock works by looking here, or from watching the clip below:

Usually, when there is a river, there would be a mill nearby to make use of the river's power.  We did not find any working mills along the section of the River Stort where we walked so we read a book about the workings of a mill instead:

A visual look at how the mill works always helps:

We also found the history of mills in Europe to be quite interesting, and unsurprisingly similar to how mills were used in the past in England:

Tiger tried to make a weir on his patch in the garden using mud, sand, and stones.

As shown in the clip below, his idea didn't quite work out because the sand was washed away by the water so it didn't create the cascading effort that he was looking for:

This post is linked up to:
  1. History and Geography Meme #90
  2. TGIF Linky Party #94
  3. Collage Friday - Latin and Fire Pits
  4. Entertaining and Educational - September 13
  5. Weekly Wrap-up: The One with the Curriculum Update
  6. Country Kids: Blackberry Picking
  7. The Homeschool Mother's Journal {September 14, 2013}
  8. Look What We Did   
  9. Weekly Homeschool Review and Resource Link up: September 13
  10. Hip Homeschool Hop - 9/17/13


  1. I've definitely seen weirs before, but knew nothing about them. Thanks for teaching me something new, and I'm going to check out the David Macaulay book about Mills too.

  2. So interesting! I shall be stealing all of this when we do rivers again. We done them before but not in so much depth. This is great!!

  3. Glad you both find the information useful! :-)

  4. Very interesting! One day I will come to England and visit you :-)

  5. What a wonderful field trip. I never knew exactly what a weir was, even though I sort of had the idea. How great to be able to see one so close-up. We do have mills, here, but not a weir that I know of.

  6. You sure know how to make learning fun. Popping over from Entertaining and Educational and would love you to join me for Country Kids too.

  7. Thanks for stopping by, ladies. I look forward to having you stop by (physically or virtually). :-) I'll link up with Country Kids when it's open later, Fiona. :-)

  8. Thanks for linking up to Country Kids and sharing your educational fun.

  9. I've always lived near weirs (freudian typo there - I put "weird"). They're mesmerising. We often walk our dogs near the locks round here. I enjoyed learning about them here - thank you!

  10. Aren't weirs just beautiful? I never thought to learn more about them until now. It's interesting to know how much there is to learn around us. :-)

  11. That is so cool. I find locks and now weirs absolutely fascinating. All the engineering involved amazes me.


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