Monday, 22 November 2010

Winter Boating - 1970s style - Part 1

I have previously posted some of my experiences of winter boating aboard the hire boats of Willow Wren and Union Canal Carriers, but now not only some photos but also some trip notes compiled by one of the other members of the crew have come to light. Together they show how very different things were 35 years ago on the cut. Here are the extracts from Martin's diary, with my own comments in italics. The photos are Martin's.


(Note: These are my logs, not the boat’s, which may have started &/or finished at different points. )
 New Year 1973/74 – Rugby – BCN – Coventry Canal – Atherstone 
(It looks as if Martin missed some of the trip which would, of course, have been a circular run from Willow Wren's base at Rugby via the Oxford, Grand Union, BCN, Birmingham & Fazeley, Coventry and Oxford Canals.
·       Sat 29th Dec – Bus [from Cleckheaton] to Leeds, 0822 to B/ham, Cl 47. InterCity to Coventry, emu to Rugby. Looked round, then found boat “Bittern” 12-berth 70’ X 7’. 3-cylinder air-cooled diesel. Left at 1630 Oxford Canal; to Hillmorton Locks and on to Braunston. Meal. Pub.
Note that Willow Wren obviously had no problem with the boat departing after dark and passing through the three locks at Hillmorton. In fact, at that time of year it was necessary to set off as soon as it got light (if not before) and keep going for at least a couple of hours after dark.  Martin wouldn't have been the only one travelling by public transport. Very few students had cars in 1973. The phrase "meal, pub" appears most nights.

On the boat: Me, Mark Doran, Phil Clarke, David Goatman, Steve Bacon & Heather, Pete & Sally Challis, Mike ? & Gill, Frank ? & Karen (12)
Every berth filled! At least the lack of cars would have kept the amount of luggage down!

·       Sun 30th Dec Oxford Canal to Napton Jct. G Union to Offchurch, Rain at first. Walk into Stockton. Lock pounds dry. Met Duncan Roberts and five others on camping-boat. Waited for locks. On to Offchurch (Nr Leamington). Meal. Pub. Mark poorly.
I was one of the " five others" aboard "Bainton" hired from Union Canal Carriers. I recall that the "waiting for locks" and the dry pounds were connected - The crew of Bainton sat it out in the Boat Inn at the top of the flight, drinking Draught Bass whilst BW staff attended to the matter! 

Here are the two boats at what I think is lock 7 of the Stockton flight. Note the absence of lock ladders, which was how things were in those days. If you needed to get on or off the boat in a lock you had to jump!
  Mon 31st Dec – Clear, bright & frosty, Leamington, Warwick – walk round. Up Hatton Locks (21) to Lapworth for night. Newcastle Uni boat caught up.(Our crews were at Salford University  but a Newcastle connection had developed through friends of friends) Meal. Pub for evening (29 of us). There until 1215 [presumably 0015!]. Well done, the Navigation at Lapworth for putting up with 29 scruffy students on New Year's Eve! Note that being in a pub after midnight was considered worth recording even on New Year's Eve.

"Bittern" ascending Hatton Locks on New Year's Eve 1973. Presumably "Bainton" 
and "the Newcastle boat" are paired up either in front or behind.
No lock ladders here either.
It was at the Navigation that the handover of Starcross by its previous owners was sealed over a pint in November 2004. I knew as soon as I walked in that I'd been therefore before. Martin's note confirms when that was.

More tomorrow (when the trouble begins. . . .)


Halfie said...

The (Stockton flight) lock is evidently emptying (top pic) - but what's happened to the tell-tales which normally poke out of the top of the paddle gear housing?

Old cruising logs are fascinating. Great stuff.

Starcross said...

That's the best thing about posting old photos. Somebody always notices things that you didn't!
I hope you find the rest interesting.