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The home of friendly and professional inland water training in the North West.

The training centre is based at Marple, on the edge of the Peak District adjacent to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals. Boat training is carried out on a dedicated 48ft narrowboat and the shore-based elements in our fully equipped training room. Our courses are supported by personalised work folders, which are a useful document for future reference. Training can be undertaken on client’s vessels & premises provided that appropriate facilities are available.


Top Lock Training was established in 1998 by Malcolm and Alison Allcard as part of their canal-based marina operation at the junction of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals at Marple, a business they started in 1976. Over the years they have been involved in boat maintenance, boat building, passenger boat operation and general marina services.


Top Lock Trainingis dedicated to friendly and professional inland waters training; Malcolm is the Principal with Alison keeping the operation on track with her administrative skills; their colleague, Bob Woodgate, assists with the training.

Malcolm and Bob, between them, have over 100 years of boating experience; they both come from a mechanical & electrical engineering background and are qualified RYA Inland Waters Helmsman Instructors. Bob holds a NCBA Certificate in Community Boat Management and has had a long career in the Royal Navy. Malcolm is also qualified to deliver the National Community Boat Association training, and is approved by the MCA to deliver Fire & Water safety training, he also holds a Tier 1 Level 1 Boatmaster Licence.

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These are the sort of questions that potential students almost always ask when they make their initial enquiry. The RYA has developed its inland waters course, on the lines of all its other well proven boating courses, and the course workbook was written by a well established canal based trainer. The course is very much 'hands-on' with students handling the boat throughout, giving students plenty of opportunity to develop skills from their own starting point, allowing the novice to gain confidence and the more experienced to fine tune their abilities. All aspects of inland boating are covered, from fire extinguishers to knots and locking, to care for the environment, not to mention the technical bits like pivot points and prop wash It is our view that a competent crew will obtain the best value from their investment of time and money in their boating, a view now shared by many of our past students.


Anne Kelly spends a wet day with Top Lock Training on the Macclesfield Canal

The Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Certificate may sound a bit of a mouthful, but these one or two day courses are both useful and fun, with the whole accent on teaching you practical boat-handling and waterway techniques. We tried out a narrowboat course, then one on a river cruiser, necessary if you intend cruising European waterways boat may wish to acquire some prior experience. Top Lock Training offer narrowboat courses, either from their base at Marple in Cheshire, at the junction of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals, or on your own boat if based locally. approved instructor for three years. Although the course assumes that student has no experience, it can also be beneficial for more experienced boaters. They have two boats they can use, a purpose-built 55ft narrowboat, or a 33ft boat, and will offer you either, depending on your wishes. It is important to be warm, dry and comfortable, as you are going to be spending many hours at the helm.


Our MCA Boatmaster Course prepares skippers for the MCA Boatmaster Grade 3 Examination. This course is designed to prepare those wishing to acquire a Maritime and Coastguard Agency Top Lock Training will give tuition to candidates on the subjects contained in part ‘B’ (knowledge) of the MCA syllabus in the ‘classroom’, Three days, consisting of two days preparation and one day MCA examination; these days can be run either consecutively or individually, by arrangement. Boatmaster courses can be held anytime during the normal canal cruising season of April to October and at other times subject to the availability of the canal system for navigation Top Lock Training will prepare you for the MCA examination which is carried out by an MCA examiner and is divided into two main sections: Part A – a practical test and Part B – an oral examination of your knowledge.

Sailing in England

Sailing is an excellent way to spend fun times alone or with loved ones. No matter the age, background or abilities, take your boat and find some of the best breathing spaces in Britain. Surrounded by impressive scenery, spend your days sailing on lakes, rivers and coastlines, perfect for this kind of water sport. If you want to learn how to sail, or you just look to improve your sailor skills, England is an ideal place for that.

Venture on a sailing trip to see new areas of the country. As you become a better sailor, you will have more courage and confidence to discover amazing destinations all over the world. When you are on water, you experience an unrestrained sense of freedom and a strong connection with nature. Imagine the salty air, quiet landscapes, evenings gazing at the sun set, new lands, beautiful wildlife and sunbathing on a holiday journey.

Leave the stress and noise of your everyday life for a few hours, days or weeks and appreciate the United Kingdom’s special attractions by boat. Drift along the Thames River to witness historic sites like the Tower of London, Big Ben or the St. Paul’s Cathedral and more recent landmarks such as Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern. Take a boating tour with your family or with a stylish french companion and combine your passion for boats with the never-ending pursuit for the next adventure.

Famous for the gentle waters, parks like The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, The Broads, The Grimwith reservoir or Lake District are areas that seem to have been created for navigation. Lake District is great due to the reliable winds, amazing mountain views and fresh water lakes. Other naturally areas worth considering are dynamic rivers like River Dart in Dartmoor. River boats are good choices to get close to a genuine natural environment and animal species.

In case you prefer waves in your water, Solent in Hampshire is probably the most notable. If you wish to head to the coast on a holiday trip with your family or perhaps, you want to participate in the Cowes Week sailing event, let the road of waterways take you to miles of stunning landscapes such as New Forest National Park or the Isle of Wight and see the sea birds and seals.

If your to-do list includes sailing, there are some tips you should regard. For beginners, one of the most important things is to practice in calm and uncrowned waters with light winds. Choose a more responsive and easy to handle boat like a small dinghy. Remember to check the weather forecast and adjust the sail settings to take advantage of wind and water circumstances. Sailing can be easy to learn, especially if you invest in training, books and receive advice from experienced friends.

This kind of activity involves much more that knowing how a boat works, as it requires a specific environmental perception. For example sailing on Seine river could differ lots from deep ocean sailing. Take your time to explore the natural English beauties you pass by. Play entertaining games with your kids and teach them about the water land. Whether you crave a cruise with a couple of friends, or you want to surprise your children on a sunny summer day, go sailing and have fun!