Because it was so long ago, and I was so young, I can't provide a chronological record of our trip to Llangollen. Andrew Denny recently observed that one remembers things in flashes or snippets and it is very true, especially the experiences gleaned from ones childhood.
Captain Ahab dreaming watery dreams 1968
I think we hired from a company called Dolphin Marine in Nuneaton, but I can't be sure. We certainly travelled to Hurleston Junction via the Staffs and Worcester and the Shropshire Union canals. The plan had been to make the outward journey via the Trent and Mersey, but Yorkonought had a fixed windscreen which was too high to allow it to pass through the much subsided Harecastle Tunnel. Instead, it was an out and back trip along the Shroppie, with images of it's endless cuttings seared into my memory. As a teenager I found getting to sleep difficult and my routine was to imagine myself on a canal boat creeping so slowly towards a bridge at the far end of a tree lined canyon, my slowing heart beat matching the pace of the single cylendered Bolinder installed in my fantasy craft. It was ony a few years ago that I realised the image was real and was actually Tyrely Cutting.
Shropshire Union 1968
Beyond that I made little boats out of shaped wood before we set off, and these were trailed behind the boat on string, sliding up and down the wake with a young boy dreaming that, one day, he too would have a real canal boat. Maybe he would even live in the Midlands and explore this watery wonderland to it's full extent. It's little wonder that I am drawn back to the Shropshire Union cuttings for my solo trip each autumn!
Chillington Wharf 1968
The final section of this memorable trip was the journey through the BCN. Whereas today it is quiet and green, the late 1960's presented a very different picture. Factories and founderies lined the route, hissing and spitting foul smelling vapours out of mysterious pipes in walls. And the water was no better. The cut was a stew of noxious filth and the Ashted Locks were a sea of vile oily slime.
All in all a great trip which seduced us all back to the inland waterways time and time again - and calls me still. Yorkanaught may have been a very basic boat but it's passage in the summer of 68 led to the accumulation of a huge body of memories, and a handful of faded photos.