a thorny rose - March 2, 2023To many of the uninitiated, the canals offer a bucolic, romantic way of life that could easily be part of “the darling buds of may”, but in truth there is a brutal edge to it and there are some topics in the canal world that are almost guaranteed to cause verbal (and occasionally physical) fisticuffs, and today reader we’re going to don our tin hat and enter the trenches of roses and castles.
boat horses - December 7, 2022As some people know, I am the owner of 2 ponies. One is a micro heavy horse, the other is an animated sock puppet, and they are currently causing me untold sleepless nights because one of them is very poorly. I’m very fortunate that we have a good vet and modern medicines, and in the long, dark hours of the night sitting up with the patient, I’ve been thinking how it might of gone if we were back in the “golden age” of the canals.
death on the water - September 23, 2022Despite its inevitability, the civilised world of today finds death traumatising and disturbing and uses the technology of modern life to keep its mortality out of thought and mind. This is, really, a completely new phenomenon that our ancestors would not have understood in the slightest.
a trip down the staffs and worcs - June 6, 2022I have just had a very enjoyable little jaunt down to Gloucester and back collecting a dear little boat named Spindrift for Heatherfield Heritage. The journey sent me travelling down my favourite canal, the Staffs and Worcester, and I thought for this piece I would take you on a little tour of the cut.
webbs of the wharf - March 1, 2022Our story starts with the birth of a baby boy on the outskirts of Norton Estate before the Bridgewater canal was even built. The year was 1759, and Samuel Webb would grow up to become a farmer in his own right, moving only a mile or so from his birthplace to the little township of Acton Grange.
celebrations on the wharf - January 19, 2022It was 22nd June 1911 and the country was deep in patriotic frenzy for the coronation of King George V. Preston Brook was no exception. Who suggested the wharf as the location of the party, we don’t yet know, but the Ship Canal Company was prevailed upon to donate “a spacious shed with field adjoining”, which is likely to have been the Dandy Warehouse.
welcome to preston brook wharf - September 1, 2021A boater stopping at Preston Brook could avail themselves of the Floating Chapel tied near the junction, get their horse shod by a farrier and checked by a vet and send their child for an afternoon of schooling. There were also the usual boaters facilities; houses that took in boatmen’s laundry, ropemakers, harness fitters, shops and a pub.
the dark side of the fly - June 1, 2021To talk about a fly boat instantly conjures up images of sleek narrowboats relentlessly gliding through the water night and day. Shropshire Union Canal Company boat “Saturn” is now the only one of this kind left, a beautiful survivor from a bygone age who spends her retirement travelling in state to teach children and adults alike about the Old Days.
a short history of crick wharf - March 1, 2021Crick Wharf is an immaculate example of a regency wharf that was purchased by developers in spring last year. They apparently had every intention of waltzing in and knocking it down, but I got wind of it, alerted the various history gangs and managed to rummage out enough of its story that the developers couldn't use the "not of any historical interest" excuse to whop it with a bulldozer!"
horse versus engine - January 1, 2021The horse and the modern combustion engine are in fact extremely similar. They both come in a variety of sizes and strengths and, while they can both theoretically be used by someone with no idea, they perform best when used by someone with more specialised knowledge.
diary of a victorian horseboat - August 20, 2020In her 'diary of a Victorian horseboat' Kerry Dainty tells the story of her butty, built in Victorian times as a horsedrawn dredger, and now given a new lease of life with a motorized coal boat to tow her.
horse shows - May 31, 2020Kerry Dainty looks back on Horse Shows and how they have changed from 100 years ago to the present. Until the start of WWII working boat horses were strongly represented, but these days the heavy horse category is generally a part of agricultural or horslivestock shows.
the miners of crick - March 2, 2020The little village of Crick is these days best known for the annual Crick Boat Show, thousands of pounds worth of canal related paraphernalia is showcased in an attempt to get visitors to mortgage a kidney and buy some of it. The show is, these days, all about the modern boat, and while the visitors may comment on how picturesque the location is, rarely does the history of it cross their minds.
christmases past - December 1, 2019From almost the moment that the clock strikes midnight on November 30th, Christmas seems to begin. We are bombarded with gaudy decorations and impassioned adverts from shops vying for our money, and the concept thrust at us from all angles is that, in fact, the world is going to come to a halt for everyone to sit and do nothing apart from perhaps roll face-first off the sofa and into a tin of brightly wrapped chocolates.
widcombe lock - June 1, 2019On the 30 October 1880, a 23 year old boatman named Thomas Ames stands calmly in Bristol Assizes. He is accused of murder and if he is found guilty, he will surely hang. In an unusual turn of events, he does not. He is charged with manslaughter and sentenced only to 7 years in prison. He takes this information "stolidly" and leaves walking "firmly". It's like he doesn't care that a child is no longer on this earth because of him, and in all probability, he doesn't.
boathorse - March 1, 2019As long as there has been inland waterway navigation, there has been equine motive power. It makes sense; by water, the weight of the load is significantly reduced. In 1810 someone did the calculations and came to the conclusion that one horse and three men could move as much by water as sixty horses and ten men could by road.