The canoe trip that saved a canal
TWO CANOEISTS paddling a lonely course along a near-derelict southern Stratford Canal in 1957 were enough to save it from the threat of official abandonment – and to mark the 60th anniversary, a flotilla of 60 canoeists recreated that historic trip.
In the 1950s the southern length of the canal had seen no traffic for years, had been neglected by its owners and was falling deeper into dereliction – but it had never been legally abandoned. When Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Society founder members John Pinder and Michael Fox paddled from Wootton Wawen via Edstone Aqueduct to Wilmcote they needed to pay a toll – and when the authorities proposed to abandon the canal on grounds that it was no longer navigated, their toll ticket provided the necessary proof that this was not the case. Cancellation of the closure plans led to restoration proposals and ultimately to the canal’s reopening in 1964.
The commemorative trip saw the same journey travelled by paddlers from the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association, British Canoeing and the Canal & River Trust – including the late Michael Fox’s daughter Geraldine Dahlke, who had joined part of the 1957 journey as an eight-year-old.
They were watched from the bank by John Pinder, who said he had “no idea that our original trip would have such a positive impact”, and that it was “a marvel”.