Page published 28 February 2021
This page originally appeared as a blog post published 15 February 2012 and has been edited to remove references to being able to make your own "comments" at the bottom of a post!
Although these ramblings don't generate a large number of "comments", I do seem to get quite a number of emails from those that have read various entries on this blog. Colin gave me permission to quote his comments and questions that were part of this (slightly edited and now illustrated) reply to him.
On 14 Feb 12 17:12 Colin Grant said:
We have corresponded before but last time it was re the now resolved mooring fiasco at the Pleasure Boat.
Ah yes! I recall those days well: the boats, some barely water tight, that arrived at the dyke after the bailffs moved in and the pub was boarded up, the new strong-arm owner that threatened that boats not removed would be cleared from the dyke. The split in the partnership of the new owners and reconciliation with those boat owners that had held out. Technically, the mail list I started then still exists, but I feel I ought to close it and start a replacement that would have a rather different purpose.
The Newspaper story about the Pleasure Boat that appeared in the Eastern Daily Press on 4 July 2009, using the photograph that I had taken. The term "Action Group" was one dreamed up by the newspaper!
Read with interest about your canal day at Banbury - never realised you had an interest in that direction, always believing you a "rag & stick" fellow.
I think of myself as a boater! :-) Almost the only type of boat that I'm not keen on are those that seem to me to be excuses to display the owner's excessive wealth. Silly boats, like those they build for the Americas Cup, built for a single race and then forgotten by their owners, or those that require a full time staff to crew or maintain. For me boating's more about getting away from it all and self reliance. That generally means something fairly small and utilitarian. What is the point of twin engined plastic cruisers with planing hulls that never see salt water? That's not to say I don't enjoy seeing other people aboard old wooden nautical money pits, but I like them to be used and preferably maintained, as far as possible, by the the owner himself.
I moved off the canals to the Broads about 5 years ago and now own a 33ft Broads motor cruiser. For my part I am now having second thoughts, I love the "new" boat but do miss the canals, their breadth of history and the cruising miles available.
There is indeed something wonderful about our canals. They cover so many bases. Not only is there the business about being out on the water, there's the wealth of industrial archaeology, the old factories and warehouses, the sudden change from derelict buildings to open country, the splendour of (some!) urban renewal, the unnatural business of being high up a hillside yet still afloat, moving within yards from tunnel to aqueduct, the hard work in involved in locking up a hill, the freedom of being able to stop overnight virtually anywhere, a facility long since lost by campers and caravanners. Yet not only is there plenty of social and industrial history about, there is more than enough wildlife to keep people happy too. As I say, there is something wonderful about the canal network.
On our way to meet Hannah at The Boat at Penkridge, we turned off the M6 at Junction 12. We saw what I suspected was a canal feeder reservoir. Sure enough, it turned out to be Calf Heath Reservoir.
I'm still to be found hovering around canals from time to time, as every other weekend these days I'm to be found in the Midlands. For example, last weekend I was at Penkridge, on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, having lunch at "The Boat". The venue had been picked by Diana's daughter, as it was half way between her home in Warrington and Kenilworth, where my good lady, Diana, lives.
© 2010 Eirian Evans
Until I saw it I hadn't realised that we'd be driving past the famous Round House at Gailey Lock, a landmark I remember from a fortnight aboard nb Stolen Time in 2002, doing the Four Counties Ring.
© 2009 nb Epiphany
I first saw Gailey Lock from the water, in 2002. This much more typical view, showing the Round House and Lock from the canal, is the view I recall.
The beer was fine, and the pace had a good old fashioned working man's feel about it - by which I mean the bare floorboards in the bar. However, what spoiled it for me, was the giant TV screens dotted about all over the place, showing some football match. Mind you, the locals appeared to be enjoying things as there were always loud cheers when the goals were scored, never groans!
The Boat, where Diana and I had lunch with Hannah. Good beer but too much loud footballing TV for my taste!
As Diana and I had got to the place a little before Hannah, the first thing I did, on getting out of the car, was walk through the small towpath tunnel that passes under the road to the lock. I didn't have my camera with me so the photos that I have were taken with my phone. You'll remember it was still icy at the weekend, and there was nothing moving on the canal - strangely different from the last time I passed through Penkridge Lock.
That was back in 2002, aboard Stolen Time, the boat in which I had a share for a season. I really must get some information on the site about those days. Unfortunately, there are no photos from that trip around the Four Counties Ring. I managed to forget to pack my camera on that trip! However, I do have photographs from the two solo trips I took aboard her, and there's a mass of photos from my trip aboard nb Earnest in 2003. (Neil Arlidge's had a long series of articles published in "Canal Boat" about the exploits of the "Tuesday Night Club". nb Earnest was his boat.) I was involved in his trip down the Lancaster Canal and Ribble Link and across the Leeds and Liverpool to the Bingley Five Rise.
Somehow the canals seem to have more of a community feel to them than the Broads but maybe that is because I have not really looked!
I think that may be right. On the Broads the only contact you have with other boaters is at moorings. That's not always true for us "rag and stick" types, of course, but that's my fault. I shouldn't venture through Potter Bridge in the middle of the Saturday turn-round period at Herbert Woods. Having said that, it's often the short term hirers on day boats that are worst, seeming to believe that launches are the marine equivalent of fairground Dodgems. That really isn't the kind of contact you want!
Emerging from the tunnel the ice stretches across to Tom's Moorings, the boatyard just above Penkridge Lock.
On the canals you are almost always waiting for or working with others through locks or assisting each other in some way. That's what makes it so very different. There is far more opportunity to make contact and discuss life, the world and everything.
Penkridge Lock and the distinctive towpath tunnel that is a feature of a number of locks on this canal. It is the window of the lean to extension of the lock keepers cottage that is seen in the foreground of the photo of the pub.
As a solo sailor, my Broads boating was moderately isolating until I was able to become more of "a local". We have been lucky at the Pleasure Boat. The current landlord is my kind of guy. That said, he is probably most people's kind of guy. It's what makes him a good landlord. In my case it's the music. I play in the house band, "The Proper Jobbies" of which he's also a member and there's free beer for the band whenever we play. Then there's Sunday nights when a different set of musicians get together to play Blues, under the name "The Muddy Broad Blues Band". We're soon to have what is billed as "their first public performance", though, in truth people who have been in the bar since just before Christmas will have been forced to hear us practising at top volume! I also maintain the pub's web site these days, something which offsets the mooring fees. Yes, I consider myself very lucky as a new local.
The Broads are lovely, of that there is no doubt, and offer a completely different experience to the canals. Somehow though there is a connection with the "thin" waterways that I cannot put behind me...maybe I should return thereto.
Certainly, the Broads are very different. Perhaps the trouble is that while the area is every bit as man made as the canals, such industrial archaeology as there is, seems limited to windpumps and water mills. There's so much more variety found on or near the canals. And while there is a profusion of wildlife, the eco-freaks seem to have such a domination over the management of the area that the Broad's navigation heritage is in very severe danger of becoming completely subjugated to the needs of obscure invertebrates, mammals and birds. What other navigation authority do you know that has a rare creature as its logo rather than something representing a boat or water?
Since my first sailing holiday on the Broads, in 1966, I cannot imagine wanting to return to motoring on the Broads. Sailing seems the right thing to do. Motor boats have their place, but if I want motoring, that's when I would turn to the canals. You might think that as I prefer the old fashioned way on the Broads, that I might go for Bollinders, and similarly ancient mechanised propulsion on the canals, but, no! While the wonderful T-pucka, T-pucka of an ancient engine has appeal on other people's boats, the expense puts me off. I'm happy with the well-silenced purr of a modern narrowboat.
As a matter of interest how do you view the canals now?
I love them as much as ever. My first boating holiday was taken in 1963 pre-dating my first Broads holiday by two years, so canals were my first love and still have a special place in my heart. I came very close to becoming a residential boater on the network in the late 90s. These days Diana and I have talked of the idea of quitting her rented flat in Kenilworth and buying a narrowboat for her to use as a base. The idea was that we could use it for longer term cruising when she eventually stops working as hard as she does. Indeed, if I was to sell my house and get somewhere big enough to hold her clothes then there would be little reason not to. Typically, she only spends two nights a week there, as she spends three days a week on the Isle of Man and every other weekend is with me in Norfolk. The savings made on having no rent to play for the flat would more than offset any exorbitant midland marina fees.