Tuesday 3 August 1971

1968, A Year to Remember

That first boating holiday aboard Yorkanaught
January 2010

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.

Captain Ahab aged eight and a quarter!

The passage of time is a mixed blessing. Sure the BCN is much cleaner, and there are even fish in it's once polluted waters, but what I would give for just one weekend cruising round it as it used to be. Not that we appreciated it at the time. Then the BCN was a worrying and forbidding place, one to be crossed with all haste rushing from the rural safety of Autherley to the other side at Minworth in one long marathon day.

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.


Halfie said...

How marvellous to have such memories and the photos to go with them! I wonder if my parents took any photos of my own induction to the waterways back in 1975? I will find out.

Andy Tidy said...

When I received the USB stick full of old family photos it felt like my birthday and christmas rolled into one.