How times change. This month's Waterways World has a feature on the photographs of Tom Manning taken in 1958 on Shropshire Union and Trent & Mersey Canals. The lead photo is one of Norbury Junction taken from the same standpoint as this one I took 50 years later.The inclusion of a working narrowboat in my photo is appropriate in that Tom's shot focuses on a pair of Clayton oil boats heading south. The motor "Spey" is seen opposite the junction with the Newport Arm with butty "Ohio" emerging from the bridge on which both us of stood to take our respective photos.
Although the scene is instantly recognisable so much has changed. In 1958, apart from Spey and Ohio and some maintenance craft outside the British Waterways yard on the left there is just one craft visible - a pleasure cruiser that appears to be a converted lifeboat or similar. Apart from these there are no other boats in sight!
Also absent in 1958 were the willow trees at the junction and the sanitary station behind them, whilst the line of telegraph poles that once ran the whole length of the Shroppie were still strung out along the towpath.
I don't remember the cut in 1958. My first memories are from the late sixties, by which time narrowboat carrying was almost over and the pleasure boating boom yet to begin. The cut had a melancholic air in those days and seemed a place of decline, dreaming of past glories. I must admit that it was this atmosphere that attracted me in the first place, but it was never sustainable and had development and rebirth not followed I don't think there would have been much of the network left today. All the same, if I was now discovering the waterways for the first time I wonder if they would still entrance me as they then did.