Bliss­ful child­hood hol­i­days on the cut led to a last­ing link with the wa­ter­ways and War­dle Lock

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PICTURES BY DAVID PIN­NEY

For many peo­ple a long-last­ing love af­fair with the wa­ter­ways starts in child­hood, as it did for a young David Pin­ney

My par­ents bought their first boat, when I ‘was on or­der’, in the sum­mer of 1976 – a 25ft David­son’s Tren­tCraft – af­ter head­ing to­wards the pub at Trent Lock with a friend and ac­ci­den­tally tak­ing a wrong turn.

They ended up at David­son’s yard at Saw­ley Ma­rina where there they saw

Goldfinch, went out for a test cruise and as I un­der­stand it, ended up buy­ing her a short time later. My ar­rival one Oc­to­ber week­end in­ter­rupted their plans for a late sea­son get­away. Through­out my child­hood, we would nor­mally hol­i­day for two to three sep­a­rate weeks each year on her, with many ad­di­tional week­ends spent pot­ter­ing up and down the T& M from Sten­son Ma­rina.

As kids in the Eight­ies, we would spend hours play­ing in the River Dove where it went un­der the T& M aque­duct be­tween Willing­ton and Bur­ton-upon-Trent.

We would al­ways have our first break

of the year over Easter week­end – some years would be re­ally cold, some would be lovely and warm – we had no heat­ing on­board, apart from an in­stant hot wa­ter heater and a ba­sic cooker.

One of the things I re­mem­ber most about this boat (apart from its or­ange cabin colour) was the need to keep check­ing that wa­ter was still com­ing out of the wet ex­haust from the raw wa­ter en­gine cool­ing – the sys­tem had a habit of suck­ing up silt and mud from the canal, clog­ging the fil­ter and over­heat­ing the en­gine.

As soon as I was old enough, I would don my life­jacket, shuf­fle along the gun­wales from the front cock­pit to the stern to check.

As we grew, in the mid- Eight­ies, my par­ents de­cided it was time for a bit more space and up­graded to a 32ft Creighton cruiser, with a cen­tre cock­pit and sun­deck at the stern.

As luck would have it, Muf­fin Too had ex­actly the same in­board diesel en­gine, cooker and gas fridge as Goldfinch, so Dad and Mum both knew all the tricks for how to look af­ter these and get the best from the now age­ing 1970s tech­nol­ogy. The long­est trip we did was one sum­mer, tak­ing nearly three weeks to do the round trip from Sten­son to Read­ing on the River Thames to visit my grand­par­ents at Gor­ing- on-Thames.

As ever, I’m sure dad kept a de­tailed log of what time we started each day, the weather, lock tim­ings and where and when we fin­ished each day, in­clud­ing any pub stops along the way.

He kept these records ac­cu­rate to the minute, and would use them at the end of each ‘sea­son’ to cal­cu­late to­tals for en­gine run hours, dis­tance trav­elled, and the num­ber of locks done, along with the height gained or lost in each one.

Muf­fin Too lasted our fam­ily through­out the rest of my child­hood and into my univer­sity days, how­ever dad found that when I was away, he was spend­ing more and more time on the boat at week­ends alone as my sis­ter was grow­ing up and had a ‘so­cial life’ (and I sus­pect had outgrown boat­ing, pre­fer­ring to be with her friends).

Mum would stay at home, leav­ing dad to go to the boat to ‘tin­ker’ and/or ‘poo­tle’ to the lo­cal pub in the evening.

It was dur­ing my time at univer­sity that my dad worked out at the end of one sea­son, that he wasn’t get­ting value for money from Muf­fin and re­luc­tantly de­cided to sell her on, how­ever, my boat­ing days were far from over.

I met my wife at univer­sity, and quickly dis­cov­ered they had a boat. Quin­tet is a 57ft trad, with a replica boat­man’s cabin and a Rus­ton & Hornsby twin- cylin­der slow revving en­gine. One sum­mer,

Quin­tet also hap­pened to be moored just around the cor­ner from Muf­fin, so dur­ing the hol­i­days, I was able to spend some time with both Dad and Char­lotte.

My in-laws used to moor for a few years at any one ma­rina be­fore mov­ing it to a dif­fer­ent part of the coun­try. Their boat has spent time in mari­nas near Wi­gan, York, Saw­ley, Anderton and is now near Skip­ton where they live.

Char­lotte and I spent many years hol­i­day­ing on Quin­tet, nor­mally tak­ing a week in late spring and early au­tumn

‘We were look­ing at mov­ing closer to my work, and one of the op­tions we se­ri­ously con­sid­ered was to buy a widebeam nar­row­boat and live on it’

from wher­ever the boat hap­pened to be at the time. It wasn’t un­known for the boat to be away from her home moor­ing for sev­eral months over the sum­mer.

A few years ago, we were liv­ing in Sh­effield and I was work­ing in Derby, dur­ing this time, we were look­ing at mov­ing closer to my work, and one of the op­tions we se­ri­ously con­sid­ered was to buy a widebeam and live on that some­where along the T& M be­tween Saw­ley and Bur­ton.

We even got as far as talk­ing to boat builders, sketch­ing in­ter­nal de­signs and view­ing boats for sale. It took well over a year for our house in Sh­effield to sell, and dur­ing that time, I learned I was to be made re­dun­dant.

Around this time, a num­ber of for­tu­itous things hap­pened: some in­her­i­tance came our way; a bro­ker­age tweeted about an old lock cot­tage be­ing up for auc­tion and a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend in which he told us to knock on some doors and see which one opened.

We went to view War­dle Lock Cot­tage in Mid­dlewich, started dream­ing, men­tally knock­ing walls down and a few weeks later, the auc­tion­eer was point­ing at me as he shouted ‘sold’.

We didn’t at that time know much about the his­tory of the cot­tage, or its for­mer res­i­dent (Auntie Maureen Shaw), but that has now sig­nif­i­cantly changed.

We now have our own chil­dren and we still hol­i­day on Quin­tet pootling along the L& L from Skip­ton.

We have spent more than five years ren­o­vat­ing the cot­tage and up­grad­ing it so that it is now suit­able for mod­ern fam­ily liv­ing.

We are now able to call War­dle Lock Cot­tage our home and our kids can of­ten be seen out on the lockside help­ing boats through the fifth busiest lock on the sys­tem (ac­cord­ing to CRT statis­tics).

As with any boat or old build­ing, it is still very much a work-in-progress, it is our cur­rent BOAT**; there is al­ways some­thing to ‘tin­ker’ with and a ‘to- do’ list as long as your arm! ** BOAT = Bring Out An­other Thou­sand

David with daugh­ter Imo­gen

David with sis­ter Wendy

A young David Pin­ney

Ap­proach­ing War­dle Lock

David on board Goldfinch

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