Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Long Hot Summer of '76

In the midst of the longest, coldest winter for many a year I've been taking a trip back to the famously long, hot summer of 1976.
I spent most of that summer driving buses around the not exactly picturesque area of south Lancashire bounded by Salford, Warrington, Bolton and Wigan and I remember it was hot - very hot, especially in the non-air conditioned cab of a double-decker without power steering or synchromesh gears!
One of the advantages of bus driving, however, is the opportunity - if you can afford to pass up the overtime - to have a couple of days off during the working week and can get to see things that don't happen at weekends. So on one such occasion in 1976 I found myself on the banks of the River Soar, just north of Leicester, seeking out the then newly started gravel traffic between Thurmaston and Syston run by Threefellows Carrying using a mixture of narrowboats and Leeds & Liverpool short boats on a run of only three miles or so - plus one lock. This is what I found:
Motor "Buxton" and an unidentified butty waiting for Thurmaston lock on the way to load.

Some idea of the lack of rain that summer can be gleaned from the colour of the fields, whilst the conditions were also obviously suitable for weed growth!

Here a loaded boat waits to enter the lock, heading north

To my rather envious eyes, the boat crews seemed to be having the time of their lives, steering loaded boats - with "genuine" cargo - along a beautiful river in perfect weather. In reality, the short runs, constant loading and unloading, dust and heat they endured would probably have made it easy for me to organise a swap for a bit of bus driving - had that been possible.
A particularly idyllic scene on the River Soar

Loading at the gravel pits that are now Watermead Country Park

Winding after unloading at Syston

Heading back for another load

Leeds & Liverpool short-boat "Wye" heading north with more gravel

...and back for yet more.
I probably spent no more than an hour or so following the boats and photographing them and I'd almost forgotten all about it until rediscovering these old 35mm slides that have festered in a variety of lofts and garages for the last 20 years. I wonder what else will turn up!


An English Shepherd said...

76 was a great summer...

Lovely pictures :-)

Carrie said...

Great photos. Be good to see any more you find in the loft (that's something sadly missing in a narrowboat, isn't it - a loft!)It's also good to be reminded at the moment, that it WILL get warm again ;-)

Halfie said...

I was in Salford too, during that long hot summer, finding it very difficult to revise for my first year university exams when the weather outside my room in the halls of residence was so glorious! (And people who had finished their exams (or who had their revision well under control (or who didn't care) were playing with a frisbee on the grass...)

Halfie said...

Five hours after my posting my previous comment I hear that "the American man credited with inventing the Frisbee, one of the world's most popular toys, has died at the age of ninety." Well, all respect to the man and his family, but the Frisbee wasn't popular with me. Not in 1976.

towpathtreks said...

Great photos!

Alec said...

I was the steerer on WYE!
Fantastic to see these pictures