ME AND MY BOATS
From childhood holidays with relatives beside the Oxford Canal in Thrupp to narrowboat ownership
As a boy many of my holidays were spent at my grandparents cottage in Thrupp, near Kidlington. The cottage was next to the canal. During my stay some narrowboats would be passing by which created a desire in my young heart to one day travel on or even own one of these vessels.
Many years later as family we were working as volunteers at a youth camp on the Isle of Wight and the tea girl who was also a volunteer told me about St Basil’s charity in Birmingham that owned and loaned out an old narrowboat for a small fee. I was intrigued and made further enquiries. The woman who gave me the first lesson on handling a narrowboat dropped her house and car keys in the canal, what a disaster!
This old, smoky, and unfurnished boat which got nicknamed the ‘the green courgette ’ became our catalyst for canal boating. It stank of diesel fumes, had no shower and was very basic – but we loved it. Our children, Adam, Timothy, and Nathan had great fun. It was very satisfying to one day moor in Stratford upon Avon basin, an old crock next to some splendid and opulent boats.
We advanced to hiring a succession of narrowboats and have great memories of losing lock keys, fishing our children out the canal after they had fallen off the boat, and many other laughs together as we explored the waterways.
The next phase was to be a boat share. For a modest payment for the share and a monthly fee we became proud owners, along with eleven other families of Saville Cut, which was part of the ABC group. This boat was about 14 years old, but it was comfortable and extremely enjoyable. What an excellent syndicate
we had joined. We later self-managed as a group and shared the many tasks and responsibilities. We had a genuine friendship together and great social meals.
Greta and I had often discussed the possibility of purchasing a new boat for our retirement. It was a pipe dream for many years. However it was an article in Canal Boat about the Aintree Beetle that caught our attention. Later that year we visited the London boat show to see this small narrowboat. We liked the boat but found it too small for our needs. But we were so impressed that we later ordered a 35ft version which had a wood burner. We ordered in January 2018. It was a very exciting day in May 2019 that our boat Go with the Flow was delivered to Aqueduct marina, near Nantwich. During our six months free mooring (part of the agreement for visiting and ordering from the London boat show) we explored the various canals in the vicinity.
When November came it was time to move our boat to Nuneaton but as I researched our route it became obvious that many closures could jeopardise our plans. The Trent and Mersey had stoppages as well as the closure of Wolverhampton locks. But we were able to navigate the Shropshire Union, then onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, then Stourbridge and Dudley no. 1 and no. 2 through Birmingham and eventually onto the Coventry canal. Home at last, it only took ten days dawn to dusk!
We liked the boat but found it too small for our needs. But we were so impressed that we later ordered a 35ft version which had a wood burner