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!