Thursday, 18 March 2010

My First Time

My first boating holiday - or, at least the first one I still have a record of - was over the Christmas and New Year period in 1972/3. With a group of friends from the Salford University Inland Waterways Society we hired the narrowboat "Oak" from what was then "Willow Wren Kearns" at Middlewich (now Middlewich Narrowboats). Not many hire firms operated over the winter in those days, but the main attraction of Willow Wren Kearns to us was that it hired "full-length" 70ft boats.
On the Cheshire Locks ("Heartbreak Hill") The  lock gates would be in better condition nowadays

Our route seems to have been eastwards along the Trent and Mersey Canal, up "Heartbreak Hill" to Kidsgrove through Harecastle Tunnel and on towards Fradley.
Passing under Poole Aqueduct at Kidsgrove that carries the Hall Green branch of the Trent and Mersey to join the Macclesfield Canal
The cheap camera I had in those days and the poor quality colour slide film available meant that on gloomy winter days it just wasn't worth attempting any photography so my record of the week is rather sketchy. I remember at Kidsgrove that we had a walk along part of the Macclesfield Canal where we came across this burnt-out hire-boat, also from the Willow Wren Kearns fleet.
Burnt-out hire-boat near Kidsgrove
Strangely, I have no memory - or photographs - of passing through Harecastle Tunnel, although we must have done so twice, as at some point we turned round to return to Middlewich. Somewhere "near Fradley" (or so my note made at the time says) we came across this BW gang fitting a new lock gate and had to wait for them to complete what was presumably an unplanned job.
Not a hard-hat, hi-viz jacket or life preserver in sight!
As if Middlewich to Fradley and back wasn't enough for a winter week's trip I also seem to have a couple of shots taken in Preston Brook (several miles to the west of Middlewich!) of which this is one
Working boat at Preston Brook
Its possible  - and even likely - that I've actually got slides from two separate trips mixed up and I've always believed that there was a similar trip twelve months' previously, although I have no record of it. The  University Inland Waterways Society's annual trips continued long after all the participants had left university and went through various incarnations until well into the 1980s. Most of my visiting crew who help out on Starcross date from this era and the bonds of friendship forged during these trips have stood the test of time. Even "Oak" is still around - in private ownership these days - and I've seen it a couple of times in the Nantwich area in recent years.
I'm slowly rediscovering these old colour slides now that I've invested in a scanner and I'm wondering what else from these happy days will now come to light!


Halfie said...

Jim, if I'd been aware of the Inland Waterways Society during my time at Salford University I might have got involved. As it was, MASSAC attracted me. I blame it for my failing my first year exams! (I was at Salford 1975 - 1980. I can't remember whether I've already said.)

Starcross said...

I left in 1972 so I don't know whether the society carried on or not. It was moribund when I arrived in '69.